We decided to create Buy&Bye because we all felt that although we wanted to be more responsible as consumers and purchase sustainable products, cost and time were our main obstacles. As students, we often found ourselves spending much longer than anticipated when shopping for specific groceries due to the time taken to locate the items. We also usually ended up reaching for the most popular version of that product with little thought about the environmental implications of our purchase.

Some further research indicates that this mindset is reflected by others around us. Generation Z and younger Millennials care more about sustainability and are even willing to pay more for such items. [1] [2] [3] [4] This means there is a strong incentive for retailers to use our app to promote their sustainable items and appeal to the new generation of consumers. Especially since several fast fashion brands have neared bankruptcy due to Gen-Z's rejection of fast fashion. [5]

Thus, our idea was born. Our app aims to aid the individual in the short term in order to help the Earth in the long run! We believe we shouldn't have to compromise between time, money and sustainability - which is why we created an app that allows users to find the quickest route to sustainable products in the store and rewards them with achievement badges and discounts on more sustainable items once they collect enough points.

We were inspired by products such as Pokémon GO, and Google Maps. We also took inspiration from the Lancôme and Alibaba Hong Kong AR Scavenger Hunt concept.

What it does

We aim to help consumers spend their time more efficiently and money more effectively, by guiding the customer to the item they are looking for, either using a map-based view of the shop's floorplan or Augmented Reality (AR). Many people have busy lives and cannot spend a lot of time searching for more sustainable, eco-friendly or cruelty-free alternatives to the products they require. By promoting such items in the app's search results and providing a quick and easy way to locate them in the store, as well as rewards for choosing more sustainable alternatives, this app is perfect for the busy consumer looking to change their purchasing habits.

Users enter the name of the shop they are going to be purchasing from and select the relevant store from a dropdown list. The stores available will be the ones that have partnered with us and given us access to the relevant information. This allows the app to retrieve the map of the floorplan of the shop to guide users around with. Next, the product name is entered into the search bar and users are provided with a list of matching and related products. These will be displayed according to their 'Sustainability Rank' (represented by stars) - with the most sustainable items being placed at the top of the list. Once a user selects a product, they will be directed to its exact location on the map using an indicator.

Buy&Bye also encourages our users to purchase sustainable alternative versions of their products, favouring organically sourced produce, meat and dairy-free alternatives and Fairtrade items in our search results. Each product purchase also holds a number of 'BB Points' - where those with a higher Sustainability Rank retrieve more points. These could be exchanged for reward points related to membership cards of the respective stores.

How we built it

After discussing the features our app would provide, we began our project by sketching out draft designs, deciding a colour scheme and prototyping our User Interface (UI) design using Figma. Once we developed a clear UI concept, we began implementing our project: For our app's REST API we used Nodejs, Express and MongoDB. The frontend was developed using Kotlin and Android Studio and the XML files adapted from our Figma design.

Challenges we ran into

The major challenge we faced was that we did not have any experience using Kotlin, Android Studio or Figma and were novices at mobile application development. We spent a lot of time understanding how to use these new software tools and relying on our knowledge of other programming languages in a competition where we were already pressed for time. We ran into several technical challenges from the design stage to the building of the app - however we were able to reflect upon and learn from each experience. For example, we had some difficulty creating a dynamic dropdown list for our search box that filters the list of products retrieved from the database via the REST API in real-time. At one point, we even had to redevelop all the pages in our app to make use of fragments in Android studio instead of individual activities, so that the slide-out navigation menu can be developed, allowing the user easy navigation between all sections of the app. Being able to render SVG files of shop floorplans such that they scale to fit different screens appropriately and display product locations accurately proved to be another relatively complex UI challenge.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

As for many of us, this was the first Hackathon we had taken part in, we are proud of the fact that we were able to propose a very practically useful, interactive and marketable idea, implement this as a functional application in a language none of our members held prior experience in and devise a presentation all within 48 hours.

Each of us learned at least one new skill/language - a feat we never thought we would be able to achieve in such a short time frame.

We knew we had a big task ahead but we persevered because we liked our idea and were committed to implement it as best as we could.

What we learned

We learnt a great amount about common technologies used in Android app development (such as Kotlin), database configuration and UI design, however more importantly, we developed a number of soft skills, including: working in sub-teams, ensuring everyone in the group is on the same page, deciding who is the best fit for a task and how to ensure we stick to internal deadlines.

This experience has definitely enriched our skillsets. We also learned more about design, as this is something we were not experienced with. We learned not to overcomplicate it too much.

We also learned to persevere, even in times where everything mysteriously stopped working.

What's next for Buy&Bye by Hapax

In the future we intend to:

  1. Implement a feature that uses Augmented Reality and Ultra-wideband based localisation technology to make it even easier to find products in the store in a more gamified way.
  2. Ability to import your shopping list and automatically get the shortest shopping route through a chosen store, personalised to you.
  3. Improve our sustainable suggestions using elements of Machine Learning to personalise the app.
  4. Add more game features to ensure the user stays motivated!
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