by Abigail Pickus
For Barry Schwartz, the Internet is his natural habitat.
The 33-year-old father of two who lives near Monsey, New York, started making websites back in high school with his brother, Ronnie.
In the 1990s, the two brothers started RustyBrick, a New York-based web service firm that builds custom web and mobile software for companies.
“I’ve always been computer oriented,” said Schwartz, who since 2003 has been a regular blogger on the subject of search engine optimization, including how Google and Bing work and the best way to utilize them for marketing.
With partner Danny Sullivan, he launched the leading search engine news site, Search Engine Land. He is also the host of the Search Marketing Expo in Israel and a key speaker at many search marketing conferences.
And now Schwartz has his sights on Google Glass, the miniature computer developed by Google that is affixed to eye-glasses.
While currently only a select group of “explorers” have them (having shelled out $1500 before tax for the honor) – Schwartz estimates that in two to five years what seems like futuristic technology will be mainstream.
To that end, he’s created Jewish Guide for Glass.
“What it does is looks at a user’s location and the time and will send them different tips around what they need to do [Jewishly],” said Schwartz.
For example, let’s say the sun will be setting momentarily, Jewish Guide for Glass will alert you to daven mincha. It will give you directions to your closest synagogue or kosher restaurants. If you’re at synagogue you’ll be alerted to whatever it is you need to know, like if you need to say a special prayer that day.
Schwartz has also developed over 30 different Jewish Apps connected to prayer, including something they will be releasing in the near future for iPhones and Androids called, “Minyan Now.”
Let’s say you’re at the airport, awaiting a flight? This app will let you know who else in the area is looking for a minyan.
“For the first time ever, we’re creating technology that will bring people together whereas before there was no way to get together, like where to buy kosher food at a stadium or how to find others at the airport if you’re looking for a minyan,” said Schwartz.
There are a lot of apps with Jewish themes that are available for both Apple mobile products and Android devices. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of good ones, according to Rabbi Jason Miller, a regular columnist on technology and its effect on the Jewish world.
“Anyone can build an app, but there are not a lot of standards. People make apps because they think they will develop the next big thing and make millions and they are not successful,” said Miller, President of Access Computer Technology, a computer tech support and social media marketing company based in Michigan.
The same goes for Jewish apps.
“A lot of app makers who are Jewish create these very kitschy apps that don’t really do anything, but Barry Schwartz and Rustybrick are one of the top mobile app developers in the country and because he’s a serious Jew, he has done a very good job of developing apps that have Jewish utility and fulfill a need,” continued Miller.
Jewish Guide for Glass has found a way to use Google Glass in a very Jewish and very practical way.
“If you’re sitting in a business meeting and you’re wearing Google Glass and the time is getting away from you and in the corner of your eye you see this reminder that it’s time to daven mincha, technically speaking it is the same thing as a reminder to take your kid to basketball practice that your Google calendar will remind you to do, but Google calendar won’t remind you to daven mincha,” said Miller, who owns a pair of Google Glass.
“As our lives become busier and more connected, we need tools to help us stay on top of the important things, be it a reminder that your kid is in the school play tomorrow or that you might forget to daven mincha before sunset. It is a catch-22, we are so busy because we are always connected that we need these devices to remind us to do things we wouldn’t need reminders for if we weren’t so busy,” he said. “But the technology can really help you and make being an observant Jew just a bit easier.”