Waterloo Graduate Wins Big on Google Android

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The Globe and Mail writes about University of Waterloo graduate Jeff Kao, who’s plans to go to law school have been put on hold thanks to a $275,000 prize from Google’s Android Developer Challenge. Android is Google’s Mobile OS that will appear in shipping phones later this year. The challenge offered $5 million to the best applications developed for the mobile platform.

Kao’s application, Ecorio (RIO = reduce, inspire, offset) is a carbon footprint calculator with social networking features. It was written with the help of four friends from the Universities of Waterloo and Toronto. Users can share carbon reduction tips and learn about carbon offset projects. Using Android’s GPS capability to log trips, the app calculates the carbon emissions and compares to alternative modes of transport. It further calculates the offset cost and allows the user to purchase carbon credits directly from the phone.

Google’s investment in encouraging Android app growth underscores the importance of third party apps on these emerging mobile platforms. They have posed their “Android Market” as less restrictive than the iTunes App Store. Only time will tell which strategy courts the best developers.