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‘Smart’ Grocery Cart Wins Sprint’s First Upcycled Smartphone Contest

Sprint, in conjunction with Brightstar Corp. and HOBI International, announced today the winner of its inaugural Smartphone Encore Challenge, a contest for Net Impact college students to find profitable and innovative ways to repurpose old smartphones or their components.

The winning team, from the University of California Berkeley, created TouchCart, a ”smart” grocery cart that aims to transform traditional shopping carts into multi-purpose shopping assistants, providing savings for grocery stores and an improved shopping experience for customers.

“We were impressed with the caliber of entries and the innovative solutions these students put forth,” said Doug Michelman, Sprint’s SVP of Corporate Relations. “We envisioned the contest as a way to address the growing environmental issue of electronic waste. The students were encouraged to use their creativity and propose market-based solutions to extend the life of mobile phones. These winning ideas bring exciting possibilities to the table.”

Offering a cost-effective and creative solution for both grocery stores’ bottom line and customers’ in-store experience, TouchCart would provide shopping lists, a store catalog, a customer service phone line, and scanning capabilities right from the shopping cart so that customers can bypass long check-out lines. The system would enable the store to track spending, overall customer experience and use of coupons. It also would provide insight for store inventory and sales forecasting.

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“We are honored to have won the Sprint Smartphone Encore Challenge,” said team leader Ken Chew, who is majoring in economics and computer science at UC Berkeley. “Our six-person team wanted to develop a concept that promotes environmental protection and recycling. We’re excited about the opportunities for our TouchCart system through this contest and where it might go from here.”

The winning team receives $5,000, which can be used toward attending a Startup Weekend to help take their idea to the next level. They also have the opportunity to strengthen their business model through strategic guidance from Sprint, Brightstar or HOBI executives.

The competition was open to 25 teams. Each team was challenged to develop a product concept, business pitch and an optional brief video, and submissions were judged on how well teams defined the problem, market, solution, innovation, value proposition and financial feasibility associated with their business idea and on the delivery of their submission.

The panel of judges included Andrew Morlet, CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation; Beth Comstock, SVP and CMO of General Electric; Alisha Templeton, Sprint Accelerator program manager for TechStars; and Barbara Kyle, national coordinator of the Electronics Takeback Coalition.

Two teams were selected as runners-up in the challenge:

  • First runner-up: A team of two MBA students, led by Sreekanth Krishnakumar from Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, converted old smartphones into onboard monitoring devices for vehicles. The StreetSmart device calculates automobile insurance premiums based on individual driving behaviors, provides feedback and financial incentivizes for users to adopt better driving practices, and serves as a black box recorder that can be reviewed in case of accidents.
  • Second runner-up: A team of three led by Biplab Deka, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Their entry, Neo, transforms pre-owned smartphones into affordable computers for budding programmers. The device would help address the “digital divide” by providing computer access to school-aged children who otherwise would not be able to take advantage of programming tools.

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