While the team was busy brainstorming about finding solutions to the problematic of sharing public spaces during the COVID-19 crisis, it was decided that our project would include some kind of mobile application that would allow the users to share when and where they plan to go out and check at all moment the occupancy rates of supermarkets, pharmacies and parks, where a high density of people can lead to a rapid dissemination of the virus. It should also include some mean of communication, so that the community of people living in a certain area can better organise and help each other in these complicated times. After having developed a couple of ideas and prototypes, we came up with the idea of implementing a Telegram Bot, being Telegram already a worldwide know and easy-to-use platform, with more than 200 million monthly users.
What it does
The team implemented a Telegram Bot named @SharingSpace_bot that allows you to see within a map the occupancy rate of the supermarkets, pharmacies and parks around you, and keeps a list with the times and the places where the people in your area are planning to go. You can also inform the bot when you are planning to go outside and make it visible to your neighbours, so that you can better organise and help each other.
You can start chatting with the bot with a /start message. It will then ask you to share your location, and it informs you if there is already an existing bot running in your area. In that case, it gives you its name so that you can contact it. In case there is not a bot implemented in your area yet, you can ask to create one. Once you contact your local bot via a /start message, you can share your location with it and it will show you the map with the supermarkets, pharmacies and parks around you and their occupancy rates. You can tell it when you are planning to go out and where, and it is recorded to a daily plan-list of the people living in the area.
Additionally, it reminds you to properly wash your hands when you come back home, and it keeps a ranking of the people that stayed home for a longer time during the week.
How I built it
The Telegram Bot is coded with open source Python3, using the python-telegram-bot libraries. The code is uploaded to GitLab and accessible to everyone wishing to implement a similar Telegram Bot.
Challenges I ran into
We started from scratch learning how to create a bot in Telegram with the botFather tool and using the package python-telegram in order to implement the necessary methods to make our bot work. We had to discuss the needs of the people in this exceptional situation in order to address the problem efficiently and how to make the solution user-friendly.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
Having implemented a fully working Telegram Bot that actually performs the desired task. Hopefully it will be helpful to everyone and will make life easier during these complicated times.
What I learned
First, we had to work together as a team, having to listen to each other and divide the tasks to optimise the time. Also, we had to learn how to choose the most useful and easier-to-implement ideas, as the time we had to find a solution to the challenge was limited. Furthermore, we had to investigate on epidemics control and do a bit of research on how to create a Telegram bot using the python-telegram-bot library.
What's next for A Telegram Bot to Optimise the Sharing of Public Spaces
Run the bot in a server, finish the code to automatize everything, contact the Telegram developers in order to make the bot massive and reach to a maximum number of people. Potential implementation of a chat between the people of the area using the bot, so that they can better communicate and organise. For example, going shopping for the elderly people, etc.