Imagine that, Silicon Valley

04 August 2008

A group of UCT information-systems students have so dazzled Microsoft with a business idea that they have won a trip to Silicon Valley, the high-tech technology zone in California, US, for a chance to develop their concept.

The idea devised by Team Smile (Devin de Vries, Christopher King, Nabeel Nazeer and Nadeem Isaacs) was selected as one of the six most feasible business solutions in the Innovation Accelerator category at the Paris finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2008, billed as the world's premier student technology competition, in July.

Originally an honours project designed for use on UCT's Jammie Shuttle service, Team's Smile system allowed students to SMS queries about the arrival and departure times of buses. But the team also saw their idea as a way to lure middle- and high-income groups - who cite lack of security and the absence of bus schedules as their main objections - onto public transport.

Next February comes the trip to California. Over an intensive two-week period, the team will develop their designs and viable business plans, with close guidance from some of the best minds at Microsoft and BT, reports senior lecturer Mike Eccles, who accompanied the team to Paris.

"While many teams had quite innovative ideas on making the world a better place," says Eccles, "few projects matched the South African entry for size and sophistication."

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