Toronto students improve retail marketing, email encryption with cloud computing

A mobile app that tracks your exercise goals and rewards you with discount coupons from a local sports stores, a map-tool that presents a visual representation of trending topics on Twitter for a specified location, and applications that encrypt emails.

There were some of the cloud computing and mobile technology products developed by students at Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone. The DMZ’s 2012 projects by 11 teams made up of 40 students were highlighted Tuesday night at the Cloud Computing Showcase event at the university. The DMZ was launched in 2010 as a workplace and startup incubator for young entrepreneurs and to help students and alumni innovate, collaborate, and market their products and services.

“These are just prototypes still undergoing development. But they provide a glimpse of how businesses are and will be using cloud and mobile technology in the very near future,” said Hossein Rahnama, research director of DMZ.

“In fact some of the projects are already being sponsored by companies such as OpenText, Canadian Tire and Sportcheck,” he said.

Exercise and win a prize

One of teams presented at the event is exploring mobile technology and gamification to help sports apparel store SportChek find a way to gauge the effectiveness of their digital campaigns.

V3 (for the Latin mottoVeni Vidi Vici), is developing Inspire. The mobile app is designed to increase brand loyalty and sales for SportChek in a way that enables customers to use their mobile devices in a fun and “inspiring way,” said Abinmanyu Chand, one of the members of the four-man team.

Basically, the application enables users to set personalized workout routines such as running, cycling, or swimming on their mobile phone. The app then provides the user with milestones such as achieving certain hours of workout or running a set distance in a given week. The user turns on the app while exercising and the app keeps track of the user’s progress. The user receives a reward on their phone when a milestone is achieved. The prize can be a discount coupon that can be redeemed at a SportChek store. The user can accumulate milestone prizes to get an even bigger discount.

“Inspire helps the customer focus on their health goals and provides them a reward for keeping on track,” said Goran Sarenkapa. However, the store also ends up a winner because the app provides the store with demographic data such as age of users, location, and product preference.

V3 said the data in generalized and can not be traced to a certain individual. However the data provides SportCheck with statistical information regarding the effectiveness of the store’s sales alerts and personalized advertisements.

Tracking tweets

With no less than 140 million users worldwide sending out more than 340 million tweets per day on virtually every topic under sun, Twitter is potentially a marketer’s dream come true. That is, if they could find a way to wade through the tons of data the microblogging site generates each day and segregate the pertinent information from the background noise.

3 tools to mine Twitter for valuable data

The Elevated Software team comprised of Carlos Riveros, Jared Rakoff, Raza Farooq and Matrica Joshi, are working on Twitter 360. The group describes Twitter 360 as “the ultimate Twitter-Google Earth mashup.”

Using Twitter and Google’s APIs, the application visualizes in 3D what topics are trending in a certain location. The topics appear as colour-coded columns super-imposed over a Google Earth map of the selected location. Users can also retrieve Tweets related to these visualizations.

The app is still under development and the team is adding other functionalities. “A filter that enables users to specify what topics to track would make this a valuable tool for marketers and survey firms,” said Peter Kramaric, a former DMZ member who is currently assisting Rahnama with the student-entrepreneurs.

Tracking documents

The IDC-Mobile team is developing an Android application called IDC-Secure that provides four levels of authentication for emails and documents sent over to mobile devices.

IDC-Secure uses location, device ID, time and aurgmented reality markers to authenticate the recipient of a specific message, said Joseph Moscatiello, one of the team members.

The message sender logs into the app and composes a message. The sender can also add a file as an attachment to the message that is being sent. The sender needs to provide the geographic location of where the file can be opened and at what time frame the recipient can obtain the message.

When the sender is finished composing the message, the app will generate an email with a marker inside it and then send the message to the recipient.

In order to receive and open the message the recipient needs to:

  • Be logged onto the IDC-Secure app
  • Scan the code sent to the recipient via email.
  • Be in the location where the message must be received and must open the message within the stated time frame.
  • Must be using the Android device that is registered under his or her name in the IDC-Secure service.

Other DMZ projects

The DMZ Cloud Computing Showcase, featured several other teams including a document tracking app by team FollowIt, which describes their product as a “Twitter for documents which lets you know how when things are due or done.”

The Project Katana team developed a location-based game for Android devices which lets players located in a specified area play on the same game. Because the creators where all located in the Ryerson campus and were all taking up computer science courses, the game evolved to be one where players could pelt an avatar of their computer science professor with watermelons. The devlopers said there will be other game themes for different locations.

The Sabbat Software team declared that “shopping is broken. We fix it.” Their P&S Shopping Navigation platform allows users to create a shopping cart of products and points of interest in a store and then overlay arrows over the device’s camera to direct users to items in their itenrary.

The team also added a find help functionality which enables customers to indicate on their phones that they need help. Employees of the store using P&S Shopping-enabled tablets can use the device to locate the user seeking help.

(Read about Cloud Spiders’ time and project management app, Clickr, a hands-free traffic and road information app being developed with the help of the Ministry of Transportation Ontario, T9 Labs’ social matchmaking tool that facilitates conversation between “familiar strangers” and others on Ryerson DMZ event highlights cloud, mobile tech – Part 2 coming soon )

Nestor ArellanoNestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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