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Babu Makes Printing Receipts Obsolete

For those tired of trying to find a receipt or hanging on to stacks and stacks of them, University of Illinois students are making organizing them easy and printing them irrelevant with an receipt reducing app called Babu.

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Consumers can register an account and add any credit/debit card numbers they use through Babu’s secure app. Every time they use those cards, the receipts are automatically sent to their phones and there is no need to print a receipt. Babu will also allow its clients to organize them any way they like.

For developers, CS @ ILLINOIS students Dana Chambourova and Amanda Sopkin, the ultimate goal is for merchants to no longer have to print those receipts. It is estimated that receipts annually use 250 million gallons of oil and 10 million trees while producing 1.5 billion gallons of waste.

“We think that people will be willing to buy in because no one really likes receipts,” said Chambourova, whose parents work in financial security. “The images would be certifiable which means when you show it to a merchant, there are ways to prove the image wasn’t photo-shopped. The device will also have a signature that makes it secure.”

Babu developers Dana Chambourova (left) and Amanda Sopkin share their idea at a poster presentation.
Babu developers Dana Chambourova (left) and Amanda Sopkin share their idea at a poster presentation.

“The technology to implement it is already there, but so far no one has taken the extra steps to make it possible,” Sopkin added. “For instance, there are now applications that help you keep track of business cards.”

Chambourova also notes that about a year ago Master Card and Visa, the certification authorities in the United States, decided that receipts sent to customers via phone or e-mail, no longer needed to be printed out as well to be certifiable, but many of those customers don’t feel comfortable giving out phone and email information to the merchants every time they make a purchase. With Babu, that step would no longer be necessary.

“All information would be stored with us as a third party,” Chambourova said.

Sopkin and Chambourova began the Babu project last December, advancing in the nationwide student start-up madness competition in January and recently claiming $1,000 as the best undergraduate team in the Cozad New Venture Competition on campus.

The developers see Babu as not only a way to store receipts, but also as a budget resource to track what you’re spending.

“There are a lot of financial applications out there to input your purchases and track how much money you’re spending,” Sopkin said. “We want Babu to also be a financial tracker, but it’s unique because of its receipt reducing aspect.”

The vision down the road is that Babu’s services could also be used in cash transactions by simply putting a Babu account number into the keypad at the checkout.

“Many keypads have an extra screen like the ones that ask if you’d like to donate $1 to charity,” Chambouva said. “An extra screen could also ask if you had a Babu account.”

In addition to the Cozad money, they are seeking funding that would go toward advertising, paying for a domain name, implementing the actual software, and for the certification process. They have applied for an E-team grant from the Technology Entrepreneur Center. Once the application is ready to roll, they plan to run a trial program through a non-profit, which can send a donation receipt to the donor electronically.

A big incentive for both Babu’s developers and eventual users is the ability to make life simpler while helping take care of planet Earth at the same time.

“On a day-to-day basis you hear how much our consumer society is taking a toll on the environment,” Sopkin said. “This is something concrete we can do about it and an easy way for people to make a difference.”