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April 14, 2020 | Tom Ballard

Knoxvillian launches Social Distancing Perks, a new app to reinforce and reward good behavior

Why can’t commitment by individuals to social distancing in this era of COVID-19 also be rewarding? The answer is it can be in a very novel way that can reinforce good behavior on the part of individuals while also extending an important lifeline to retail businesses when so many stores are closed.

And now, thanks to the ingenuity of a Knoxville company, there is now a way to do just that. Social Distancing Perks, a just launched mobile app that allows individuals to earn points for socially responsible behaviors, is the brainchild of Knoxvillian Ben Farmer, Chief Executive Officer at ResultStack.

The idea for the app, currently only available in the Apple App Store but expected to be available very soon in Google Play, resulted from some thinking that Farmer was doing just a few weekends ago.

“We don’t know enough about who has the coronavirus and who doesn’t,” he thought. That timing was before Google and Apple went public with their plans to develop a contact tracing app.

As Farmer further thought about social distancing, he concluded that “there’s no silver bullet, but we can all do something to help.” And, as he further thought about COVID-19 impact on retail businesses, he came-up with the idea for Social Distancing Perks.

Simply stated, individuals who comply with the local or statewide directives to keep proper distance from others and do not veer too far from home base now have a way to be rewarded for their good behavior by participating retailers who, in turn, have a new way to generate revenues.

Farmer is in the process of lining-up major retailers who will offer discounts for compliant behavior by individuals. Rewards will be available for online shopping, food delivery and other goods and services that can be fulfilled with contactless delivery. The app also includes weekly raffles that can be entered by all active users.

“We want to reward users for doing the right thing and sheltering in place,” Farmer said. “At the same time, the mobile platform gives retail businesses that are struggling with decreased foot traffic the opportunity to continue to engage with consumers virtually.”

Seems simple enough, but you are probably asking, “How does a person show compliance?” It’s all in the app and as simple as 1, 2, 3 and 4.

  • You download the app on a mobile device and create an account.
  • You set your “geofence” where you are isolating, and the app uses the GPS in your mobile device to identify that location.
  • Then, you earn a point for every minute you do not leave the “geofence” area which is currently set at one-eighth of a mile.
  • When you accumulate sufficient points, you can redeem them with the retailer of your choice, something that could particularly benefit local, independent stores. Among those perks already available are an Amazon gift card raffle, a Postmates coupon, and a Nike discount. More are being negotiated.

The app went live the day after Easter, and Farmer said there were already hundreds of users.

“We’re coming together by staying apart,” he says. “Let’s spread a little joy through positive reinforcement for doing the right thing.”

Knoxville Entrepreneur Brandon Bruce introduced us to Farmer and joined the Zoom interview. At the end, he noted, “This is what happens when entrepreneurial developers hack for good.”

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