Winning team from UC Berkeley develops "smart" grocery cart using recycled smartphones

April 27, 2015
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Sprint names UC Berkeley students "TouchCart" concept as winner of Smartphone Encore Challenge - a "smart" grocery cart that aims to transform traditional shopping carts into multi-purpose shopping assistants using upcycled cellphones. (Graphic: Business Wire)

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (BUSINESS WIRE), April 27, 2015 - Sprint [NYSE: S], 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 senior vice president 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.

“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.

Two teams were selected as runners-up in the challenge. The first, a team of two MBA students led by Sreekanth Krishnakumar from Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, converts old smartphones into onboard monitoring devices for vehicles. The StreetSmart device calculates automobile insurance premiums based on individual driving behaviors, provides feedback and financial incentives for users to adopt better driving practices, and serves as a black box recorder that can be reviewed in case of accidents.

The second runner-up is 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.

The competition was open to 25 teams. 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. See the Contest Official Rules for more details. Each team was challenged to develop a product concept, business pitch and an optional brief video.

To narrow down the submissions and determine the winner and two runners-up, the entries were evaluated by a variety of judges, including Andrew Morlet, CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation; Beth Comstock, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of General Electric; Alisha Templeton, Sprint Accelerator program manager for TechStars; and Barbara Kyle, national coordinator of the Electronics Takeback Coalition. Ultimately, the TouchCart solution proved to be the winning concept.

Sustainable Innovation at Sprint

The Smartphone Encore Challenge is a continued demonstration of Sprint’s commitment to sustainable innovation and leadership in corporate sustainability. For the fourth straight year, Sprint has been recognized as having the best phone buyback and trade-in program, Sprint Buyback, among all major U.S. carriers by Compass Intelligence. Last year alone, Sprint put more than $250 million back in customers’ pockets and bought back more than 3 million phones. Of those phones collected, more than 80 percent were remanufactured as certified pre-owned devices. To date, Sprint’s phone trade-in programs have helped create more than $1 billion in cost avoidance for the company by reusing most of the devices they collected.

For more information and materials, please visit our Smartphone Encore Challenge Press Kit

About Sprint

Sprint (NYSE: S) is a communications services company that creates more and better ways to connect its customers to the things they care about most. Sprint served nearly 56 million connections as of Dec. 31, 2014, and is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying innovative technologies, including the first wireless 4G service from a national carrier in the United States; leading no-contract brands including Virgin Mobile USA, Boost Mobile, and Assurance Wireless; instant national and international push-to-talk capabilities; and a global Tier 1 Internet backbone. Sprint has been named to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) North America for the past four years. You can learn more and visit Sprint at or and

About Brightstar

Brightstar is the world’s largest specialized wireless distributor and a leading provider of diversified services focused on enhancing the performance and results of the key participants in the wireless device value chain: manufacturers, operators and retailers. For more information, please visit

About HOBI International

HOBI International, Inc. is a leading asset management and electronics recycling company serving Fortune 1000 clients. HOBI’s IT services group focuses on corporate IT, data and telecommunications infrastructure, providing resale and re-marketing, data erasure and data destruction, recycling, environmental and compliance reporting, de-installation services, and logistics management. HOBI’s Mobile Device services group focuses on the resale and recycling of cellular assets. Our client list includes three of the four national wireless operators in the U.S. and four major device OEMs, and many recycling partners that trust us to maximize the value of their cellular assets while protecting sensitive corporate or client data. An R2- and ISO14001-certified firm, HOBI leads the electronics recycling industry in best practices for recycling and commodities recovery. Learn more at



Marci VerBrugge-Rhind, 913-794-6319