"The Big One" is a 9.0 magnitude earthquake predicted to ravage the west coast of North America, with some researchers citing a 33% chance of it hitting in the next 50 years. If it were to hit tomorrow, or even a decade from now, do you think you'd be adequately prepared?
In 2013, the Alberta floods displaced hundreds of thousands of people. A family friend of mine took to Twitter to offer up her couch, in case someone needed a place to sleep for the night. She received over 300 replies.
Whether it's an earthquake, a fire or some other large-scale disaster, the next crisis to affect you shouldn't send you, your loved ones, or your community adrift. Enter Harbour.
What it does
Harbour offers two main sets of functionality: one for people who are directly affected by a crisis, and one for those nearby who wish to help.
In the Face of Disaster
Forget group chat chaos: you will have immediate access to the last recorded locations of your family members, with directions to a pre-determined muster point.
Don't know what to do? Have an internet connection? Access our Azure chatbot to ask questions and get relevant resources. No internet? No problem. Easily find resources for most common catastrophes on a locally-saved survival manual.
Live Updates: A direct and uninterrupted feed of government warnings, alerts and risk areas.
If You Want to Help
Crowdsourcing the Crisis Response: Have a couch you can offer? How about shelter and a warm meal? Place a custom marker on your local map to tell your community how you can help. Far more efficient than a messy Twitter feed.
How I built it
We built this app using Android Studio in the Kotlin programming language for the primary app development. We used Google Firebase and Firestore to maintain the database of important locations and contact information. We used Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services Key Phrase Extraction for the user-friendly chatbot that helps with finding disaster information. We used Balsamiq for creating mockups and GitHub for version control.
Challenges I ran into
The two key challenges we ran into were: Integrating Google Maps - the SDK was well documented, but getting the exact markers and behavior that we wanted was very time-consuming. Improving the user interface - A big part of why we were motivated to build this app was because the current solutions had very poor user interfaces, which made them difficult to use and not very helpful. Making a clean, usable user interface was very important, so we spent a significant amount working through the details of Android Studio's graphic design to make this happen
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
I am proud that we were able to make so much progress. In our early planning, we wanted the app to have four key functionalities: family coordination, community resource-sharing, user-friendly disaster recovery information, and city-wide alerts. It was an ambitious goal that I didn't think we could reach, but we were able to build a minimum viable product with each functionality.
What I learned
I learned that it only takes 24 hours to build something with a large potential impact on society. We started this hackathon with the goal of improving the disaster response resources that citizens have access to. Despite the time constraints, we were able to build a minimum viable product that shows the promise of our mobile app solution.
What's next for Harbour
The next step for Harbour is to partner with Canada Red Cross to integrate our app design with their informational resources. We will continue to improve our Machine Learning emergency resource and get more detailed emergency response information from the Canadian Red Cross.
We also hope to work with the City of Vancouver to integrate government-defined danger zones to help citizens understand the dangers around them.