Boys' iDeal shopping solution

12th June 2009 at 01:00
Four schoolboys devise a computing tool to help shoppers find cheapest supplier in their location

A group of schoolboys have come up with an application that could be the next big thing on Apple's iPhone.

The four S3 pupils from Edinburgh's Portobello High - Angus Ireland (described by teachers as "the next Bill Gates"), Andrew Flowers, Mikal Jedrzejczak and Rory Harper - combined two concepts to come up with a tool that every shopper in quest of a good deal would cherish.

The idea, which emerged at a university conference to promote computing studies to pupils, brings together price comparison websites, such as Kelkoo, and the GPS locator in the iPhone. It would allow bargain-hunters in the midst of a shopping spree to find the cheapest supplier of the product they want, based on their location.

The boys also envisage that the iPhone camera could be used to scan bar codes so that, before shoppers make a purchase, they can check they are getting the best deal.

The group has christened the concept "iDeal".

Angus explains: "We were trying to think of ways to save people money, what with the credit crunch and everything. We thought: `What if you are on Princes Street and want to know the best place to buy a CD? This would tell you the shop to head for and also give you a map showing you how to get there'."

The IT company Adventi, which was running the workshop where Angus's idea came to light, now plans to link up with a software developer in a bid to make the application a reality.

"The pupils will take a royalty on whatever sales come through from it," said Adventi chief executive Edward Chance.

Angus's teachers were not surprised he was a member of the group that came up with such an interesting idea. Brian Clark, principal teacher of computing, describes him as "the next Bill Gates" and "an absolute genius".

"Since starting S3 computing, Angus has been programming and doing work above Higher level," said Mr Clark. "We are considering presenting him for Higher at the end of S4."

iPhone users buy applications that interest them from the Apps Store, an online provider of applications for iPods and iPhones.

American Steve Demeter used to work for a large bank designing ATM software before he came up with the iPhone puzzle game Trism. In the first two months the product was available in the Apps Store, he made $250,000 (pound;155,000) and in less than a year it had made him a millionaire.

Angus's idea emerged at one of the workshops at the IT4U event, held recently at Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University.

The day was organised by the city's three universities to stimulate interest in computing, which has been on the wane since the collapse of the dot-com boom.

This year, however, Philippe De Wilde, head of the school of mathematical and computer sciences at Heriot-Watt University, reported that things were "on the up", with an increase of 23 per cent in the number of students opting to study computing science, compared to last year. Other universities, he said, were reporting a similar upward trend.

"Sadly, we think it's because of the economic crisis and not because of interest in the subject," said Professor De Wilde.

"People are looking for something practical which will give them a job. They are no longer happy to go to university for four years and not know what they are going to do afterwards."

Pupils with a genuine interest in computing, however, were in abundance at the event. Attended by youngsters from 16 schools, the conference offered a number of workshops that included robot wars and ethical hacking.

In one workshop, based on the TV programme Dragon's Den, they met Edinburgh-based Chris Muktar who created job web-site WikiJob.

The site carries descriptions of companies which are posted by members of the public and it is starting to make money by also carrying job adverts. The pupils had to get to grips with the idea behind the site and then convince the "dragons" to back them.

They also had to try and secure financial backing for two Edinburgh University innovations - a working system that can purify water and produce electricity at the same time, and a new technique for creating instant animation that captures people's movements and turns them into graphics.

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