Alumni Create App to Help Parents
Nadia M. Whitehead | April 26, 2013 | UTEP COMMUNICATIONS
About half a year ago three tech-savvy, soon-to-be dads had an epiphany.
While on the hunt for safe baby products, they noticed a major flaw in smartphone applications designed for recalled products.
"A lot of the current apps for recalled products just return information that's already out there on government websites," said Humberto Mendoza, a University of Texas at El Paso computer sciencealumnus. "Which made us ask, 'Why are we getting updates on recalls for stuff we don't own or care about?'"
And so, the three – who all happen to be UTEP computer science alumni – decided to fix the problem by developing an entirely new app – Recalls Pro.
Created by Mendoza, Jose Luis Lopez, and Luis Garcia, Recalls Pro will allow users to generate and customize their own watch list of products they own or are interested in. Users will be able to scan either an item's barcode or UPC code, and receive an instant update on any hazards, and where to seek more information – which could be very handy for shoppers, especially if they're purchasing infant products.
For example, at one point one of the alums was interested in purchasing a popular seat that is designed for young babies who can't sit up on their own yet.
"I was looking at some of the seats at the store, took some notes, and then came home to research the product more," said Lopez, who is the father of 8-month-old girl. "The one I was shooting for had been recalled because of a falling hazard. If I had had the app at the time, I would have been able to realize that at the store."
Although the team thinks parents are their biggest target audience – because as Garcia put it, "Once you have a baby, you start worrying about stuff you never had before," – they believe Recalls Pro will be useful to most anybody with a smartphone who shops in-store and wants a reliable product.
The three former Miners, who have been friends for more than 10 years, originally met at UTEP while working on their undergraduate degrees. Since completing their masters' together in 2005, they'd planned to join forces for some sort of venture project.
Emelgy Labs, LLC – a company dedicated to providing business-to-business and consumer software solutions – was finally formed in January to kick off Recalls Pro, which is just the start of more innovations to come, they say.
"We have a couple of other ideas for apps," Lopez said. "Whenever we get together, we start talking about experiences we've had, what can be done, and then we ask, 'Is there an app out for that? If so, can we make it better?'"
And all three are confident that Recalls Pro is better than anything out there.
"In my opinion, the computer science master's program at UTEP was very focused on the quality of software. Does it scale well? Is it functional? Does it address requirements?" said Garcia, who worked on most of the app's technical aspects. "That really helped when I was working on how to make the app more reliable, have better features, and how to implement everything in the end."
The three alumni are grateful to professors Steve Roach, Ph.D., and Ann Gates, Ph.D., who advised them while attending UTEP.
Mendoza said, "I'd have to say that Dr. Roach and Dr. Gates were the starting point of where we are now. We received a lot of the guidance and help from them – not just in the technical aspects – but we learned from them how to be professional and produce good products."
Roach, who no longer works at UTEP, but still remembers the three students, said, "I spent time in my classes asking students questions, and what many of my students have said is that forced them to start thinking. By the time they graduated, they didn't depend on me to tell them whether one technology was better than another, or if a design was good. By the time they graduated, I believe that they learned how to reason independently."
Recalls Pro is expected to launch in May, and will be available in the iTunes app store.