Whether we’re with friends or not while traveling, it's hard to know what's going on now in a new place. Hot events? Crowds? Delays? Deals?
We present here&now, the social network for travelers. With here&now, wherever you go, there’s a community of people at your destination. By allowing travelers to engage with other travelers nearby through sharing insights, communicating hazards and delays, highlighting locations, and more, here&now helps build an immediate community wherever you are.
What it does
here&how is a localized social network that connects users with others in their area, particularly in tourist destinations where leisure is the focus--although local users are also encouraged to interact and benefit from the community. It does this through providing a real-time map and feed where users can make and view location-based posts, promoting a sense of connection between people in the area by providing a platform for dialogue.
Upon opening here&now, you'll see all kinds of remarks, tips and alerts in the form of categorized posts from other users nearby. You can search and filter through these posts to gain specific information. You also can add to the discussion yourself by making a post linked to your current location, helping those coming after you or interacting with those around you! If you're in Bryant Park in NYC, you can make a post linked to Bryant Park, Midtown NYC or NYC as a whole. If you're at home in San Francisco, however, you can only comment on these posts or ask questions.
The here&now community also has a practical purpose of providing community-driven alerts to users about nearby hazards, crowds, lines, and other types of immediately useful information about nearby locations. This has the added benefit of facilitating better social distancing amidst today's COVID challenges, as here&now will integrate crowd-density-specific posts and data collection into its structure.
Additionally, here&now creates a community of travelers through allowing users to curate automatically generated timelines of their travels while earning badges and building relationships with others they meet on their journeys by adding friends and followers on the app.
A basic outline of the various functionalities of the app that contribute to building the real-time community are outlined below:
Local Map View
- Bird’s Eye view that contextualizes user within neighborhood
- Highlights hot posts from their relative geographic position
- Emphasizes temporal topics, such as hazards and crowds
- Similar to Waze, produces socially useful source of truth on local situation
- Posts tied to location, tagged with topic that focuses discussion
- Users restricted to posting in current location
- Flexible format allows post to fulfill many different purposes
- Write to guest books tied to venues, such as hotels, that can be seen by future visitors
- Remote users can post questions in any location
- Stream of real-time posts made in geographic vicinity
- Adjustable regional granularity, filtering based on distance, time, and popularity
- Engage in dialogue on local posts through associated threads
- Explore conversations in other geographic locations
- Travelers, businesses, and locals engage in one real-time, dynamic community
- Seamlessly summarizes user’s travel experiences in integrative timeline
- Timeline of user’s trips that provides detailed memory of journey
- Integrates user’s posts on all topics into a single location, producing clear narrative
- Other users can draw inspiration from profile timelines
- Add friends and earn badges for contributing to community
- Aggregates posts of all categories made at point-of-interest
- Many different modes possible, including hotels, airports, restaurants, hiking trails
- View historical and current insights from other travelers
- Guest book preserves messages from past travelers
- Business can engage directly with visitors via offers, messages,
here&now has many possible use-cases that apply to many sorts of venues, allowing two-sided communication between business-owners and their customers, including:
- Airlines & Airports: Provide updates on check-in lines, delays, crowd density
- Hotels: Up-to-date info on vacancy, deals, status
- Restaurants: Updates on crowd density, queues, menu items
- National Parks: Inform on current conditions and advisories, communicate events like bear sightings
- Beaches: Lifeguards and beachgoers could communicate about tides, weather, etc
- Museums: Create localized discussions on exhibitions, artwork
- Stores: Promote new items and samples, provide localized, personalized deals for users
How I built it
here&now will integrate a React Native frontend and Python Flask backend that connects to a MongoDB database that will contain user profiles, posts, and venue pages. The entire platform is hosted on Amazon EC2. Additionally, we will also use Hadoop MapReduce to analyze location data we gather from users and the SafeGraph Data Consortium to produce predictions on crowd density.
It will take careful consideration of the user experience to produce a final platform that is intuitive and easy for users to navigate and use for the purpose of building localized communities. We will also have to be concise in terms of teh features we offer and the ways in which users can communicate and interact to preserve the local concept while simultaneously making the experience engaging enough to sustain long-term users. In terms of infrastructure, providing the service to encompass large geographic areas and large numbers of users and posts will be a challenging task if we achieve such growth. We are also currently resource limited in terms of access to cloud computing resources such as AWS, which will be integral to implementing the service.
In order to manage these challenges, we will start with closed-beta releases in specific geographic neighborhoods that will allow us to test and hone the concept before implementing it on a broader, more resource-intensive scale.
We hope to finish building the app and setting up the backend infrastructure shortly, using our past experience with these platforms to our advantage, before looking for ways to effectively beta-test the platform.