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Entrepreneurial alumni release iPhone application

Proactive Sleep, first place and $10,000, Schoofs Prize for Creativity

Proactive Sleep, first place and $10,000, Schoofs Prize for Creativity (large image)

Two recent UW-Madison graduates have released a software application for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch. Called Proactive Sleep, the application serves as a sophisticated alarm clock by detecting how long users sleep and the quality of their sleep. The application strives to ultimately eliminate morning grogginess and help users stay more alert all day.

Developed by electrical and computer engineering alumnus Justin Beck (BS ’09) and psychology and neuroscience alumnus Daniel Gartenberg (BS ’09), Proactive Sleep was originally created for the 2009 Innovation Day, a UW-Madison invention competition that rewards innovative ideas and prototypes. The pair won first place and $10,000 in the Schoofs Prize for Creativity, one of the two competitions that make up Innovation Day. In addition to the Schoofs Prize and the Tong Prototype Prize, which provides a top prize of $2,500 to the best competition prototype, participants can win money for the best design notebook or for delivering the best presentation.

Richard Schoofs (BSChE ’53), the founder and sponsor of the Schoofs Prize, thinks Proactive Sleep is an interesting idea. “The price they’ve designed is low and the number of people who don’t sleep well happens to be high,” he says. “We’ll have couple of millionaires assuming it’s approved by Apple for sale in the application store.”

Based on an algorithm designed by Beck and Gartenberg, Proactive Sleep calculates the number of sleep cycles a user will go through during the night. The user tells the application what time they will go to bed, and Proactive Sleep uses the algorithm to figure out when the user will be in a light sleep stage. The application then offers a list of optimal wake-up times, and the user picks the time they want.

In the morning, the alarm goes off and the user plays a simple game of moving a colored dot onto another colored dot. This game, which is a validated vigilance task, tests the user’s alertness and then recalibrates the algorithm for the next night. “It’s not one of those things that is immediate gratification, like eating candy,” says Beck. “It’s more like eating vegetables—it will pay off over time.”

Beck and Gartenberg have remained committed to Proactive Sleep, though both have moved beyond UW-Madison. Beck has founded his own company, PerBlue Software, and Gartenberg is a PhD student at George Mason University.

Proactive Sleep is available for $4.99 at and comes with a sleep diary to track dreams and thoughts, the ability to customize the alarm with iTunes or ambient music, and the vigilance game.

“We hope everyone finds the application useful,” says Gartenberg. “We worked very hard on it.”

Innovation Day 2010 is currently open for registration and will be held February 11 and 12 if an additional day is needed. Visit to learn more about the competition. Also come to this year’s IdeaFest sessions, which offer information about multiple campus innovation competitions. This year’s sessions will be held at 1610 Engineering Hall on September 10, 4151 Grainger Hall on September 17, and Sellery Hall Main Lounge on September 24 at 5:30 p.m.