The most innovative apps from Aston staff and alumni

You’ve been given (or maybe treated yourself to) heaps of gadget goodies for Christmas. A multitude of shiny new tablets and smartphones will have been unwrapped and used for Snapchatting, ‘directing’ Vine videos, scrolling through festive party pictures on Facebook and browsing the best of the Boxing Day sales. So now what? How best to utilise your technological toys? 

A variety of Aston University graduates and academics think they have the answer. 

Noticing how apps, software programmes for tablets and smartphones used for a wide range of purposes such as entertainment, shopping and instruction, have become increasingly embedded in our day-to-day lives, they began developing their own. We were so impressed by what they came up with we thought we would share a few of our favourites. 

Whether you want to streamline the supermarket shop, organise school events without the fuss or need a bit of inspiration to take up a hobby, these innovative Aston apps will ensure you make the most of your new gadgets. 

1. Whisk


Shopping Made Easy

This pioneering app, created by International Business and Modern Languages graduate and Apprentice star, Nick Holzherr, makes the weekly shop quick and easy. Simply choose any number of recipes from your favourite cooking websites, or from Whisk’s own carefully hand-picked selection, and the app will identify all of the ingredients you need to prepare good grub. Your newly created shopping list, with the exact portions you need already calculated, will then be transferred to the online supermarket shopping basket – no hassle, no aggravation and no queues involved! If you want to plan a week of meals or just a single dinner party, Whisk is up to the culinary challenge. What’s more, the app will soon suggest recipes for your leftovers and recommend the perfect bottle of wine to have with your meals.


2. Hobzy


Hobby Help

Whether it’s knitting woolly jumpers, perfecting the art of photography, learning how to draw, growing veg in the greenhouse or building Lego replicas of famous landmarks [LINK], everyone needs a hobby. Aston graduate, Alex Major, evidently understands this. His brilliant app company, Hobzy, is the perfect complement to a huge variety of pastimes. Sign up now to upload and share examples of your hobbies, gain feedback and draw inspiration from a worldwide like-minded community. If you’re into making craft items, Hobzy’s ingenious Craft Calculator will work out how much you should sell your handmade goods for. Hobzy also caters for those who have yet to find a hobby they can call their own. The Find and Craft feature allows users to search through a huge variety of craft tutorials from across the internet (imagine Google but focussed specifically on handmade how-tos). With the help of Hobzy, you’ll be an expert in no time.

3. Readdle


Portable PDF Power Station

  On the day the iPhone launched in 2007, Aston graduate, Denys Zhadnov, his brother and a friend, saw an opportunity to help people be more productive and efficient, stay paperless and keep the planet green. They came up with the idea of making an innovative, user-friendly file management and reader app for the new smartphone. Seven years later, the app, Readdle, has more than 3.5m active users worldwide. Tailor made for use anywhere – in the office or on the go – Readdle will let you store, read, edit, annotate, sign and send PDF documents with an ease its competitors struggle to match.


4. Early Ears


Health and Wellbeing

Hearing loss in children is more prevalent than you might think. More than 80% of children will have at least one episode of a condition known as ‘glue ear’, which causes fluids to build up in the middle ear. Audiology experts in the School of Life and Health Sciences at Aston, recognising the conditions potential to cause emotional distress and realising it often went undiagnosed, developed the Early Ears app to detect hearing difficulty in children. The app takes the form of a test, in which toys are arranged for children to look at and then paired with other toys that sound similar – for example, a duck and a cup. The app will then verbally ask a child to identify a series of items at different sound levels. If they identify less than 80% correctly, which suggest they may be suffering from hearing loss, the app will offer reassurance and guidance on what to do next. Early Ears is designed specifically for children to use. The interface is simple, colourful and playfully designed and although a serious health and welfare tool, children often enjoy using it.

5. School Events Pro


School Meetings (Minus the Headaches)

Finding the right time for busy parents to attend school events – sports days, plays, football matches, parent’s evenings – can be a logistical headache for all concerned. Happily, enterprising Aston graduates Kyle Johnson, Mohammad El-Hilu and Tom Stuart, who founded educational software company, LearnAware, have devised an app that can navigate the nightmares of bringing parents, teachers and children together at the same time. School Events Pro allows users to organise and manage events online with the minimum of hassle – and as it doesn’t require using stacks of paper, it’s also environmentally friendly and cost effective. Give it a try – over 90% of users have rated it ‘above average’ or ‘excellent’.