Sometimes the most powerful ideas are also the simplest. Roger Pincombe had such an idea. Using DailyBurn‘s database of nutrition facts for over 475,000 food items, Roger built a simple SMS interface that allows you to check just how bad that burger is for you while you’re standing in line at the fast food joint.
To use the app, send a text message to 415-729-3599, and include the name of some food you’d like to get information about (e.g. “McDonalds Cheeseburger” or “Chipotle Burrito”). It’s very handy, and so simple to use. The application is seamlessly integrated with DailyBurn, a TechStars company which was acquired by IAC in 2010.
Roger entered this “Quick SMS Nutrition Information” app into the Twilio and TechStars “Two for One” contest. For his creative integration of Twilio and DailyBurn, Roger has been selected as the winner by our panel of esteemed judges. Roger will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Boston to meet with some great TechStars mentors, an Amazon Kindle 3G, $100 in Twilio credit and a copy of Do More Faster. Congratulations Roger!
How Roger’s App Won
David Cohen, CEO of TechStars and one third of the judging panel, talks about how the winner was selected:
Wow! We were blown away by the diversity and quality of the applications in the “Two for One” TechStars+Twilio contest. The judges narrowed the entries down to four finalists to be reviewed in-depth. Of the finalists, the voting was very close! In the end, the judging criteria originally posted on the TechStars blog was the difference. We had many submissions that were very complete and interesting applications with great potential, but in the end Roger’s creative integration was the decisive factor that pushed his app over the top.
We also wanted to give a shout out to Soakoptics (uses Twilio and SendGrid), Cognotix Feedback Engine (uses Twilio and SendGrid), and LeadHancer (uses Twilio and StatsMix). All were impressive applications in their own right and were very close in the final voting. Thanks to everyone who submitted an entry!
We asked Roger about how he came up with the idea and what it took to build his entry.
What’s the story behind Quick SMS Nutrition Information?
RP: I’ve been using DailyBurn and I really like it, especially how I can look up and track calories, fat, cholesterol, etc. I’m in the habit of eating out a lot, but restaurant food can be a lot worse for your health that it appears, and I wanted get in the habit of looking up the nutrition info on DailyBurn before I order a meal. I don’t have an iPhone (I actually work on a competing phone operating system), so their mobile app was no good for me, and it was too much of a hassle to try and use the site on my phone, so I found myself not keeping with my new habit.
After seeing that DailyBurn is an eligible company for this competition, I decided to solve my own problem and write the app. I wanted to keep it simple: no tracking, fitness, diet, etc, just dead-easy nutrition info lookup. Just as I didn’t happen to have an iPhone, many users don’t have any kind of smartphone. I wanted this to be fully accessible to any and all users, hence using SMS rather than some fancy mobile web solution.
I think I have achieved my goal of making a simple yet genuinely useful service. It’s so easy and quick that I actually use it myself before ordering that double cheeseburger, salmon caesar salad, or whatever indulgence I happen to be considering.
What technologies are you using?
RP: I wrote a simple web application in C# to interface with the DailyBurn web service. After parsing the XML returned from DailyBurn’s REST API, I do some logic to catch multiple matches and present them in a menu, and then format the data for the returned text message. It’s elegantly simple at around 100 lines of code. That’s really all there is to it! Sometimes the simpler solution is the better solution.
The integration with Twilio was also simple, I just had to return an XML document, which is easy with an ASP.NET custom HTTP handler.
How did you get started developing with Twilio?
RP: I’ve been doing VoIP development with various solutions for years. I’ve hosted my own Asterisk server with AGI integration, I’ve worked with hosted IVR systems, and I have experimented with Twilio briefly over a year ago. It’s not hard at all to get started with Twilio.
Thanks to everyone who entered! You have another chance to win a Kindle 3G in this week’s “Organizing People” Twilio developer contest which runs now through Sunday January 30th at 11:59pm PT.