One of the most important things about attending various professional conferences is the new networks and connections that can be established at these events. Being able to connect with someone who shares interests similar to yours can lead to a meaningful connection that can benefit both of you immensely. However, most conferences tend to have upwards of 200 people and it would be very hard if not impossible to speak to everyone and find people with matching interests. The idea for Cnct (pronounced Connect) came out of a desire to establish these connections quickly and efficiently resulting in meaningful networks being formed.

What it does

Once you log in with Facebook, you pick your occupation and are then redirected to a search page. Here, you search for an event and if the organizer has it created on Cnct, you can check in. After this, you pick your interests at the event from a list of tags. These tags were created by the event organizer and should be representative of the major interests of attendees expected at the event. Once the tags are done, you will then be provided with a list of profiles of attendees that is sorted based off of how your interests and theirs match with the ones with similar interests being seen first. We believe that meaningful connections should be made without any bias beforehand and as such we intentionally chose to hide someone's profile picture and company. This is in an effort to make potential matches as bias free as possible. Once you express interest in chatting with someone and they do the same for you, then direct messaging is opened up between you two and you can then start a conversation or even set up a meeting.

How we built it

We built this mobile app for the iOS platform and if the product grew, we would be able to build an Android version. We first used Sketch to mock out the designs of what we wanted to build and get a visualization of the product. We then used Xcode as the IDE for all our development in both Swift and Objective C. We used Firebase to handle the realtime messaging and the main database for the app. We used Facebook as the log in provider for creating new accounts. We used JSQMessaging + Firebase to build out the UI and backend functionality of the chat.

Challenges we ran into

One big thing for us was deciding what idea to work on in the first place and differentiating enough from existing products in the market. Building out the ability to trigger remote notifications using the Apple Push Notification Service.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We came into this Hackathon looking to do more than put a hack together but to build a product that is solving a need that can be put out into the world for people to benefit from. In that regard, we are very proud of how much we were able to achieve because we managed to build ~80% of the app in this very short period while still maintaining the goal of working on something meaningful and worthwhile. As a team we were able to efficiently work through all the big challenges and talk through all the features with equitable division of labor.

What we learned

We learned problem solving from both a software engineering standpoint and more in general in conceptualizing a product.

What's next for Cnct

We plan on wrapping up and polishing the remaining ~20% of the app and then uploading to the app store within 2 weeks. There are numerous conferences happening around the Nashville region and they would provide an ideal testing bed for the app once it's live.

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