This past year, a pandemic unlike any other has resulted in the world coming to a screeching halt. The COVID-19 virus has changed the world and interpersonal relationships as we know it. Seemingly normal occurrences like visiting friends and family, attending on-campus classes, and going to work, have become nearly impossible because of the contagious nature of the virus. Even conducting essential activities like medical checkups and grocery shopping are plagued with the danger of getting infected.

Despite wearing masks and taking precautions, the number of victims affected by COVID-19 increase every day by about 100,000 people (New York Times & Johns Hopkins University). According to the CDC, not only is the public plagued by the direct effects of the virus, they are also facing mental health issues by the inadvertent isolation from social distancing.

In this project, we propose a mobile application through which users can network with friends, family, and their communities and trace their exposure to COVID-19. This will enable people to remain safe but also to conduct everyday activities/in-person events with less fear of exposure.

What it does

This application allows every member of society to create an account and update their COVID-19 status with an user friendly mobile interface.

They are also able to connect with friends, family, and anyone they might come in contact with to trace exposure. Every time there is a warning or suspected exposure from their connections (and their connections' connections), the user will get notified.

This mobile application will allow the users to:

  • remain safe and reassured in public settings because the app is very clear on who all they should social distance with.

  • more efficiently get tested for COVID-19 because sources of exposure will be conveniently traceable.

Below, one can see exactly how this will impact current day to day activities and how this will enable more effective COVID-19 management.

How we built it

  1. Before implementation, we first storyboarded our plan for the application on Figma and set up the virtual environment for @protocol (using Flutter framework, Docker container, and Android Studio).

  2. By using the flutter framework, we developed the front end design of the various pages and tracks in our application (login page, connections page, alerts page).

  3. Following completion of the basic buttons on each page, we linked the pages to each other, beginning backend development.

  4. One aspect that was particularly challenging was implementing an account saving system for users to be able to come back to the app but this was achieved by using @protocol.

Challenges we ran into

Our team (for 3 of whom, this is the first hackathon) had little to no experience working with other virtual environments and frameworks so the initial configuration process and learning of flutter use/implementation was time consuming. In addition, we are all are new to mobile app development and the Dart language that Flutter (the framework we were using) uses so learning that, especially backend development given limited documentation was also challenging.

However, we found a few helpful resources and pursued our mobile application development/as opposed to more well documented web application development because of the ease and accessibility it provides to the user.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Despite knowing very little about application development, we all persevered and worked together to learn a completely new framework and language. We were able to develop a prototype of a product that could be very useful for so many people and can improve the mental health and vitality for much of society. Our various time zones and budding experience proved to be no boundary in our shared goal of creating a viable app in 40 hours that would help so many people amidst the pandemic!

What we learned

Over the course of implementation, we learned how frameworks operate in mobile application development. Our team learned how to use Flutter and Android Studio to create a compatible application. In addition, our team also learned to use @protocol to implement log in functionality.

What's next for COVID Tracer

Expanding the capabilities of this application could yield very beneficial outcomes for the public. In the the next few months:

  • We want to expand backend functionality so that the user can manually add other users to their network.

  • We would also like to configure the Alert function so that it will send push notifications to everyone in the user's network.

  • We would love to implement a location tracking system which will help identify hotspots of COVID-19 where there is potential exposure based on users and COVID-19 status (positive or negative). This would make "super spreader" events or locations far more unlikely. In addition, public health officials could more effectively base vaccination and testing stations where need is higher.

  • We would also like to have a more wholistic account creation system (collecting more data from users about age, gender, race, etc.) through which we implement data analysis techniques based on geographic and demographic data to spot trends in contagion and infection, and more effectively address socio-economic inequity in healthcare.

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