Inspiration

As college students more accustomed to having meals prepared by someone else than doing so ourselves, we are not the best at keeping track of ingredients’ expiration dates. As a consequence, money is wasted and food waste is produced, thereby discounting the financially advantageous aspect of cooking and increasing the amount of food that is wasted. With this problem in mind, we built an iOS app that easily allows anyone to record and track expiration dates for groceries.

What it does

The app, iPerish, allows users to either take a photo of a receipt or load a pre-saved picture of the receipt from their photo library. The app uses Tesseract OCR to identify and parse through the text scanned from the receipt, generating an estimated expiration date for each food item listed. It then sorts the items by their expiration dates and displays the items with their corresponding expiration dates in a tabular view, such that the user can easily keep track of food that needs to be consumed soon. Once the user has consumed or disposed of the food, they could then remove the corresponding item from the list. Furthermore, as the expiration date for an item approaches, the text is highlighted in red.

How we built it

We used Swift, Xcode, and the Tesseract OCR API. To generate expiration dates for grocery items, we made a local database with standard expiration dates for common grocery goods.

Challenges we ran into

We found out that one of our initial ideas had already been implemented by one of CalHacks' sponsors. After discovering this, we had to scrap the idea and restart our ideation stage.

Choosing the right API for OCR on an iOS app also required time. We tried many available APIs, including the Microsoft Cognitive Services and Google Computer Vision APIs, but they do not have iOS support (the former has a third-party SDK that unfortunately does not work, at least for OCR). We eventually decided to use Tesseract for our app.

Our team met at Cubstart; this hackathon is our first hackathon ever! So, while we had some challenges setting things up initially, this made the process all the more rewarding!

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We successfully managed to learn the Tesseract OCR API and made a final, beautiful product - iPerish. Our app has a very intuitive, user-friendly UI and an elegant app icon and launch screen. We have a functional MVP, and we are proud that our idea has been successfully implemented. On top of that, we have a promising market in no small part due to the ubiquitous functionality of our app.

What we learned

During the hackathon, we learned both hard and soft skills. We learned how to incorporate the Tesseract API and make an iOS mobile app. We also learned team building skills such as cooperating, communicating, and dividing labor to efficiently use each and every team member's assets and skill sets.

What's next for iPerish

Machine learning can optimize iPerish greatly. For instance, it can be used to expand our current database of common expiration dates by extrapolating expiration dates for similar products (e.g. milk-based items). Machine learning can also serve to increase the accuracy of the estimates by learning the nuances in shelf life of similarly-worded products. Additionally, ML can help users identify their most frequently bought products using data from scanned receipts. The app could recommend future grocery items to users, streamlining their grocery list planning experience.

Aside from machine learning, another useful update would be a notification feature that alerts users about items that will expire soon, so that they can consume the items in question before the expiration date.

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