Young Grad Creates App That Turns a Cell Phone into a Microphone

David Daudelin has created a technology that AT&T is developing into a commercial product.

David Daudelin graduated just two years ago, yet he has already created a technology that his employer --AT&T -- is developing into a commercial product.

David developed what he calls the SmartMic, an application that transforms your cell phone into a wireless microphone -- one that can be heard over a regular sound system in a conference room with no special hardware needed.

The technology will let people attending conferences use their smartphones as microphones. The new app works over Wi-Fi or by way of cellular data connection to a laptop computer. The laptop is simply plugged into the speaker system in the conference room and, voila: Your cell phone is transformed into a SmartMic. The app can be used by corporations, hotels, schools and universities or by any entity that sponsors conferences.   

David, a technical architect in AT&T’s Emerging Markets Group in Plano, Texas, says SmartMic was born from the frustration he and a co-inventor felt while attending conferences where questioners had to wait for microphones to be passed laboriously around the room.

“I think everyone has attended a conference and seen the presenters pass the wireless microphone around the room, which eats up time and is a bit of a hassle,” says David, who received both a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2012 from NJIT. “That’s the problem this app solves.”

David developed SmartMic with another NJIT grad: John Borges (2012, computer science), who works as a specialist applications developer for AT&T. The company has an internal website called TIP through which employees can submit ideas for new technologies. Employees review the ideas and then vote on the submissions they think are best. SmartMic was picked. Then, two months later, the two formed a team that participated in an AT&T Hackathon. Participants had 24 hours to develop working prototypes for new technologies. The team, comprised of David, John, a third employee and an intern, won first place. And that win, and their prototype, got the attention of senior AT&T management.  In the following interview, David explains what happened next and why the SmartMic is targeted to become an AT&T commercialized product.

So what happened after your team won the Hackathon?
Three months later, we worked with an AT&T attorney to file a patent for the idea. Then I pitched the idea to the senior executive VP of technology and network operations as an app that will generate revenue. He approved it to be developed as a commercial product.

How was SmartMic featured in a video and a story in USA Today?
We presented it during AT&T’s Innovation Showcase, which garners national media attention.  Reporters for USA Today were there and asked us to be included in their video and story.

You also presented SmartMic at a major AT&T conference. How did that happen?
SmartMic is one part of a conference planning app currently being developed at AT&T, where users can access agendas as well as live polling and facility information. The beta of a content management website, presenter website and the conference-planning app that contains SmartMic were finished in six months. And it was all used by a group of beta testers at three large internal events, each attended by about 500 directors, executive directors and assistant vice presidents from AT&T. A public release date has not yet been announced by the company.

David DaudelinWhat is your office like?
Earlier this month, I moved down from New Jersey to AT&T's Emerging Business Markets group in Plano, Texas, which is basically like a startup within AT&T. We have the modern, fast-paced environment you would expect in a technology company. The entire business unit - including development, marketing, sales, support, etc. - all sit together in one giant open floor with the executives, leading to a flatter, more collaborative and less bureaucratic environment. It's also a lot of fun - people decorate their pods, dress casual, and shoot hoops on their way to a meeting. The other day I brought my Ripstick skateboard to work.

You did a Hackathon at NJIT. Did that prepare you for the one you won at AT&T?
The first Hackathon I did was sponsored by the ACM student club at NJIT. I entered by myself and came in third. I think the experience of participating in that helped prepare me for AT&T Hackathon and contributed to us successfully finishing it within the 24 hours and winning first place.

You have two degrees from NJIT.
Yes, as part of the accelerated BS/MS program, I got both my bachelor’s and master’s in 2012. My master's degree was a big reason I was selected as one of 65 employees to participate in an accelerated management development program. Normally they require two years of work experience but with the master's degree they chose me for the program after less than a year with the company.

Talk about your siblings and NJIT.
I have four siblings in addition to myself who have come/are coming to the Albert Dorman Honors College at NJIT: Jonathan and I have graduated. Jonathan is a grad student in mechanical engineering at Cornell, where he’s on full scholarship.  I think he’s doing pretty well because his GPA is 4.15.  Isaac graduated in May and won a scholarship to Rutgers New Jersey Medical School that will allow him to simultaneously pursue an M.D. and a Ph.D Timothy is excelling as a second year student majoring in biology. And my sister Elizabeth is entering as a freshman this fall as a math major. She’s not bad in math. She took the SATs in 8th grade and received a 770 on the math section. She later became a National Merit Finalist with a qualifying score of 233, and had a perfect score on the math section of her PSAT. There are 10 children in our family, and all us were home-schooled.

So your family likes NJIT and the Honors College?
We don’t just like it, we love it. The Honors College and NJIT in general have provided a great education and a lot of excellent opportunities for us. The generous scholarships the school provides have also been a great help.

Do you like working at AT&T? Are you happy with your career?
I'm really enjoying it - although it's a big company, I've been able to work in a couple of startup groups and had a lot of opportunities to be innovative. SmartMic is a perfect example of the company's willingness to support new, innovative ideas even from young employees like myself.

By Robert Florida