The most important thing during a natural disaster is to FIND SHELTER and find it FAST. No time to tap away on your phone. We found a surprising lack of apps and services designed to very, very quickly, and with little action from the user, immediately alert about the nearest shelters you should head towards. This can potentially save lives. We were thinking about this because the recent developments in climate change and the resulting natural disasters really left an impact on us.
What it does
Whenever weather patterns indicate a natural disaster, our user will be notified of the nearest shelters for food, water and residency. Our IBM powered chat-bot acts as a live assistant providing emotional and practical support. Users can also list their properties to appear as shelters for others to find.
How we built it
Our front end makes constant API calls to our weather API, which can alert us to anomaly weather patterns. If detected, the front end will automatically make a call to our Node.js backend server, which will use mapping algorithms to show shelters within walking distance. We populated our database with shelter data from various sources such as NYC OpenData; our database is based on PostgreSQL. Our distance calculation is based on latitude and longitude. Our alert system uses Twilio to send text alerts to our user to quickly check the app. We use IBM-Watson assistant to power chat-bot to hold conversation with our user.
Challenges we ran into
We had the most difficulty in setting up our location distance algorithm because we were unable to utilize Google API. We also were having trouble making shelter coordinates appear on our Google Map view. We tried using MongoATLAS, but we were having trouble and we were not able to find resources, thus we pivoted to a classic PostgreSQL. We worked it though! (for like 5 hours)
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are very of the fact that we used so many APIs and were able to use them all together. This was not an easy task, and it really pushed our boundaries as developers in being able to manage complicated projects.
What we learned
This project, more than others, really taught us the power of APIs. It taught us that we don't have to re-invent the wheel, and that we have to learn to use the tools provided and use them well. Our API knowledge is much increased because of this.
What's next for Haven
We want to expand on home registration and our chatbot. Both systems are very rudimentary right now, since we wanted to focus on the most life-saving elements of "Haven" before other aspects. But this may allow a movement of community and crowd-sourced sheltering in the future.