Frequent moves can make it hard for members of the military and their families to keep in touch, but a new app is making it easier.
Sandboxx, available for download for free from the Apple App Store and the Google Play store, helps military members keep in touch through social channels with members of their current and past units. It also offers a secure setting in which military members can communicate with family and friends.
“We spent a lot of time thinking about how this platform would work from a security and social perspective, alongside the different branches and demographics,” noted Sam Meek, CEO and founder at Sandboxx. “We wanted to be able to cater to the military wife, and also the retiring colonel.”
The app has two main features: Mailboxx and Chatboxx. Here’s an overview of each, as well as how the app can help military members and their families stay organized.
At any point in time 10 to 15 percent of our military members can be found off the grid, noted Sandboxx. “It starts in basic training,” explained Meek. It can periodically happen during deployment.
While off the grid, only physical letters can be used to stay in touch.
“We know mail call is the most important morale booster for our forces off the grid, and that will never change” said Meek. “We wanted friends and family to be able to continue communicating with them through mobile channels during this time.”
Through the app, users can send digital pictures from their mobile devices to service members. They can also add a message to send. At its Connecticut facility, Sandboxx securely and privately prints the pictures and messages, which are automatically folded, sealed and stamped, and sends them via postal mail to the service member.
The cost to mail a letter is currently $1.89 per piece of mail.
Mailboxx includes a pre-stamped and addressed envelope ready for swift return back to the sender.
The Chatboxx feature was developed to provide a way to digitally represent the physical command structure of the military member. After downloading the app, a user can enter an email, password, mailing address, service, and rank. The app then uses the information to automatically set up a profile. The profile coincides with the military member’s branch of service.
The user can also add in family and friends as contacts. “With Chatboxx, there are three feeds,” explained Meek. In the home feed, everyone that is connected to the user can post messages and interact.
“The unit feed is especially designed for the folks you serve with,” he added. The third feed, known as the support feed, is specifically for family and friends.
In these feeds, users can share events, write texts, or post pictures.
Sandboxx includes another feature, known as “check post,” that can help units and families plan ahead.
Through all the feeds in Chatboxx, users can initiate a check post to arrange an upcoming event. A push notification informs all users in a feed that a message has been sent; after reading it, they can respond by touching the check mark. This, in turn, allows the initiator to have a list of people who have acknowledged the check post.
For instance, if a family is arranging an upcoming cookout, a message asking, “Who is coming to the barbecue on Sunday at 3 p.m.?” can be sent out to just the family feed. Users, after seeing the message, can “check” the post if they are planning to attend.
What lies ahead
Plans are underway to allow types of “care packages,” consisting of products from various companies, to be sent to service members.
Sandboxx is working on a future function known as Kin Units in Chatboxx. With this, those currently serving in the military will be able to select their spouse, mother, father, siblings, and children to give them a mirrored unit structure for only the corresponding role. For example, Kin Units will automatically connect a spouse to other spouses of her partner’s platoon.
“The most significant support mechanism are the spouses and family,” noted Meek. “This will give them the ability to connect like never before.”