GroceryIQ 2: Shopping in the Cloud

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I wrote a review of GroceryIQ just over a year ago and I have continued to use it frequently. The new GroceryIQ 2 expands on the original concept by taking advantage of the power of a connected mobile device that can tap into the cloud. These significant improvements have pushed the app from “frequently used” to “indispensable” on my own iPhone. I’ll run down the features for you and then share some comments from the developer on how the cloud and the iPhone have come together to create great software.

What’s New in Version 2

The big update in version 2 is list syncing between multiple iPhones. In practice, this feature is incredibly valuable. Whenever my wife updates the list with something that we need, I get a push notification that something has been added to GroceryIQ. When I get to the store, I open the app and it quickly syncs my lists so that I am sure to not miss something we need. In addition, my wife instantly benefited from the effort I had put in to organize the aisles to match the layout of our store as well as the history and favorite items that I use to quickly build shopping lists.

GroceryIQ 2 also adds some features related to its acquisition by Coupons.com. You can find coupons on your iPhone and print them straight from the phone to a supported HP printer. I have a Canon printer so I use the email option to send the list of coupons I selected on the iPhone and print them from my computer. The list categories show logos for items that have coupons available as another reminder.

The gee-whiz feature in this release is barcode scanning to add items to your shopping list. You take a picture of the barcode using the iPhone camera and it will look up the item and add it to your list.

Frankly, I love this app because it actually makes shopping easier than using pencil and paper.

Jason Boehle from Coupons.com

I spent a little time catching up Jason Boehle from Coupons.com to talk about how the 2.0 release came about and how technology has made the simple task of making a shopping list even better.

Tell me about how you decided on the feature list for Version 2.

List sharing between devices has been a big request by users and was part of the original vision for Grocery iQ 1.0. We’re pleased to finally deliver it to our loyal customers. The new couponing features are another exciting addition to Grocery iQ and allow our customers to easily find coupons and savings directly related to what they’re shopping for. Barcode scanning is an incredibly useful feature for list building that many customers have requested, and we delivered one of the best barcode scanning experiences on the iPhone.

How is list sharing implemented?

List sharing is implemented using secure web services on the proven Coupons.com high-availability infrastructure. Apple’s push notification service is used to get list updates to your phone in real-time, while still taking it easy on device battery life. In addition to sharing a list between multiple devices, single devices can use the service as an online “backup” of their Grocery iQ data. One of the coolest things about doing all of the list sharing in the cloud is that we’re able to leverage this work to implement web-based list editing and sharing to devices as well as sync lists between other versions of Grocery iQ on other mobile platforms like Android, etc.

How does printing direct from the iPhone work?

We worked closely with HP to enable coupon printing directly from the iPhone to HP printers connected to wireless networks. In addition to loading coupons directly to your store savings cards, this is another feature that enables our customers who are away from their PC to still save money using Grocery iQ. The coupon printing feature is another example of highly leveraged work that is available in our Coupons.com iPhone app in addition to Grocery iQ. It also makes use of cloud-based services for all of the imaging and assembly of the retail-ready coupons.

How did the trend towards using cloud services impact the development of GroceryIQ 2?

The “cloud” has helped to enable all these new features in Grocery iQ 2.0. List sharing, coupon display, printing, and even barcode scanning all benefit from the power of a very sophisticated web service infrastructure. For example, we have an incredibly rich on-device product database which we use for barcode scanning and lookup. However, if we don’t find the product you just scanned in our on-device database we have the full power and extensibility of a web service that will search many other online databases to locate the item.

A cloud-connected device enables a whole host of scenarios. For example, your significant other can add items to your shared shopping list, load coupons to your savings card, and then send you to the store on your way home from work—and even make changes while you are there by scanning a snack box because the kids just finished it off. The built-in database enables a detailed shopping list, so you can be sure you’re getting the right items, and when you checkout, and the coupons are automatically applied when you swipe your savings card. Welcome to the digital age of grocery shopping!

Grocery Shopping Made Better

I know some of you may be wondering why I spilled this much digital ink on a grocery list app. Let me tell you, I use this app at least once a week and the list sharing features have really helped my wife and I keep up with the shopping demands of our large family. It really is better than keeping a paper list at home.

I also think that Jason’s comments about the cloud services that are leveraged in the iPhone app are important for the future of the platform. I think the next wave of iPhone development will show a lot of innovation in taking simple concepts that worked great in software and improving them by reexamining what is possible with a mobile device that is always connected to the cloud with push notifications. GroceryIQ is a great example of a cloud-connected app done right.

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