As world-renowned and startup technology companies create mobile applications throughout the Bay Area, a little-known source in a corner of The City is quietly creating its own award-winning apps.
San Francisco State University's Information Systems Department has partnered with the SAP America University Alliance Program since 2012 to give students experience and professional recognition for using the company's resource-planning software.
SFSU is the second state university in Northern California to offer SAP recognition certificates, said Lutfus Sayeed, a professor of information systems who initiated bringing SAP recognition to SFSU. Chico State University was the first in Northern California.
"Having exposure and experience to the most widely used ERP software enhances the marketability of students," Sayeed said. "When they interview for jobs or scholarships, if the company is using SAP, they don't have to train this person from ground zero."
In order to become a part of the SAP university alliance, the department must pay an $8,000 annual subscription fee, which PG&E has sponsored for the past three years.
"Students are able to be innovative and get recognized," said Leigh Jin, an associate professor at SFSU, who also teaches SAP software.
More than 30 students who graduated from SFSU have received SAP recognition award certificates, meaning they have been recognized by Germany-based SAP, one of the largest software companies in the world, according to Sayeed.
And companies are starting to take notice; PG&E and SAP have both recruited SFSU students who achieved SAP recognition.
The program also allows students to enter various SAP-sponsored competitions.
Jeff Carpenter and Afsheen Agahi, both 23 and set to graduate from SFSU this month, are no strangers to creating mobile apps, but said winning SAP-related awards gives them "a head start" professionally.
Creating a mobile app is "pretty simple if you know programming," Carpenter said.
First you think of an idea for the app, he said, then you pick a platform, code the language and design the user interface, similar to how an artist would take to a blank canvas, Agahi added.
The pair were named one of three finalists nationwide at SAP's Retail Forum last October for an app they created to help combat theft at stores. Carpenter came up with the idea for the app from his job at Target, which would allow customers to take pictures or video of alleged shoplifters and upload the images to the company's server.
The app ultimately didn't win, they said, because of concerns related to safety and privacy rights of taking photos of suspected shoplifters.
Other award-winning apps developed by SFSU students include a water conservation app that helps consumers track water usage, and a shopping cart app that allows customers to scan items with their smartphones, then compare prices and read reviews of the items before purchasing them.