Social distancing is an important part of fighting coronavirus. While staying at home helps prevent the spread of the virus, we sometimes need to go outside our homes for essential activities.
For example, grocery shopping remains a key activity for individuals and families. With the increased need for people to stay indoors, grocery delivery/pick-up services are overwhelmed and many people are getting more anxious about going out for groceries without getting in contact with too many people.
With most people having the option to work from home now, people can go grocery shopping throughout their day if they want to, so it is important for them to have access to grocery stores' traffic.
We would like to collect grocery stores’ traffic data to populate on our website, which can indicate the live traffic and the anticipated traffic over the next couple of days.
The main goal of this project is to help maximize the social distancing guidance in order to reduce the risk of spreading or contacting coronavirus.
Also, people have to stay home in this difficult time to fight coronavirus, while many people would like to help, they don’t know what to do. Another goal is to encourage everyone to act proactively to help our community, and it can be as simple as reporting their grocery schedule on the website. We believe the project will help bound our community in this difficult time.
How I think our project differentiates with current products on the markets are:
We use crowdsourcing to gather data, which is different from current traffic applications' data collection techniques such as Google Map. For example, even though Google Map has traffic features, it uses GPS techniques to collect data.
Secondly, we believe grocery shopping habits have changed since the outbreak of coronavirus, as we can see people rushed to grocery stores to stock up for a couple weeks or even months of food supply during a single visit, so our project will have first hand insight from the public on their new shopping patterns.
What it does
Our project is in its initial phase, and we are starting with grocery stores in Vancouver, BC, Canada. We think this prototype can apply to all cities around the world.
The web application offers people a place to help each other in this difficult time and offers people a peace of mind.
It allows its users to view live and future traffic of grocery stores in their cities and neighbourhoods, which can help them to decide when they are going grocery shopping during the coronavirus crisis and maximize the goal of social distancing, reducing the risk of exposure to coronavirus.
In the future, we are planning to add more features, such as to show testing lab locations and to create an online coronavirus response community in each city across the world.
How we built it
Backend: firebase and flask framework and temporarily hosted on Wix (will replace with Heroku soon). We also plan on containerizing the application so when the website traffic increases, we can spawn new containers and serve the customers, thereby tackling scalability issues.
Challenges we ran into
Most people like to stockpile a lot of things when they go grocery shopping during the coronavirus crisis, so we are only looking at big brands grocery stores and people go shopping during this time. Even though Google Maps has Places API, we couldn’t get all the stores we are interested in using the API directly, so we had to get location coordinates ourselves, which required some time.
Since Crowdsourcing relies on information of self-reporting, we have to encourage people to participate and we are developing our marketing strategies right now.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We had this idea on the first day of the Hackathon, and now we almost developed our testing website which we are very proud of.
We also gathered some information from the public, and many people have the feedback that they would love to use the website when it is ready, as they don’t want to go grocery shopping when there are lots of people nowadays.
What we learned
We learned how to use the firebase platform and Google API. We managed to form a productive team in a short time, and we are also welcoming new people to join us.
We learnt to connect a google form to a realtime database which is linked to the map component of the website, enabling users to see realtime updates in the map once the users have submitted their form.
What's next for CovidLife
Right now we are using Wix to support our website, but we are in the process of developing our own web framework. We are also planning to develop more features on the website, a couple of ideas we are thinking of:
Get a coronavirus response community in each city.
Include a “Help Neighbour” feature which shows if someone within your vicinity is getting groceries soon. You could request pick up help which reduces the number of people going to the stores as well as saves some money on delivery charges
Get live testing lab information on the website.
We also would like to expand our ideas to other cities around the world, and we would love to get help from more people to work on this together.