So what is Tokn?

Here's a bland dictionary-like entry for what Tokn actually is:

Tokn [  /ˈtəʊk(ə)n/ , Token]: an iPhone (and soon Android) app. Enables users to leave a textual note with location information and an expected time of return on a remote server. If the server has not received notification from the user that they are safe by the time of return, then a text message (SMS) is sent to the phone of a previously nominated buddy. The text message contains a link to a private webpage which reveals the location and the contents of the note. Users can optionally share their activities on social networks or on the Tokn map.

We were asked this question many times while we were designing and building this app - a process that took several months. It proved difficult to describe in a pithy way, so we gave up trying to answer and decided instead to leave the inquisitor in the dark until we had a website to show them.

We think the website makes sense, but what's difficult to convey without boring the user with too much copy, is the number of potential uses this thing has.

An image speaks a thousand words, and in our case there is one particular type of image that helps explain what we do, and we're soon to use this as a core 'screenshot' on the app store:

The images achieve much with little - everyone understands the idea of leaving a note for one's own safety, and this has some locational information along with it too.

The key differences between using Tokn and leaving a real note with someone is that it's easier to use Tokn, you can leave a note anywhere, and importantly the other person doesn't get the note unless they need to. This is great for many users for many reasons.

Take Aron Ralston for instance. He's cited by my co-founder Richie as the inspiration behind Tokn. Aron Ralston was a confident, cocksure solo adventurist who loved the outdoors. He hated telling anyone where he was going. This was nearly his downfall as he became trapped under a rock in the middle of nowhere for days and only escaped by severing his own arm with a blunt penknife. He lived in an apartment on his own, so leaving a post-it note on the fridge wouldn't have helped. For Aron, letting someone know where he was going would have involved a phonecall to his mum. Clearly not cool.

Tokn would have solved this problem for Aron. Our servers would have told Aron's mum where he was and what he said he was doing only if he didn't make it back by Sunday evening and tell our servers he was back - by de-activating his Tokn. With Tokn, Aron would have maintained the privacy, mystery, solitude and coolness he needed, but safe in the knowledge that if he didn't make it back someone would know where and when to look for him.

Nowadays Aron always leaves a note to say where he has gone. We're told of this, in a slightly "let this be a lesson" tone, at the end of the movie 127 Hours. But what a good lesson it is, and let's hope we see him using Tokn soon.

And how about that example above in the London taxi? If you've been out till late you may not want to wake up your loved one by texting them you've got into a cab. No problem, just let Tokn know. If you don't deactivate your Tokn when you said you would (20 minutes in this example) then we'll send the message.

Another prime example is internet dating. If you're off out to meet that guy you've been chatting to for a while you'd better let someone know who you're seeing and where. But what if you want it to be kept private? Use Tokn. We'll only let someone know if you don't make it back in time.

I could go on and on about the uses for Tokn. Extreme sports are obvious and the prospect of sharing/bragging/mapping your activities and perhaps reporting on conditions (snow, surf) is exciting for us. But there are hundreds of more mundane professions and situations that could use Tokn. Lone workers such as district nurses, healthcare workers, any kind of domestic callers, real estate agents, farmers, even teachers. People simply walking home alone at night. Solo travellers. Drivers embarking on cross-desert journeys. Teenagers staying over at friends' houses. People threatened in their own homes by the prospect of domestic violence. Motorcyclists on a solo Sunday blast.

The list is lengthy, and I'll be mentioning a few in more detail on this blog over the coming months. As Tokn's user base grows we'd love to hear examples of how people are using it, so please do email us at