When we saw Dr Theresa Tam announce earlier this week that almost half of Canadian Coronavirus deaths are related to care homes, we knew we had to do something. After speaking with a few care home managers subsequently it became clear what they're struggling with: chronic under-staffing due to transportation issues. They simply cannot get enough staff to cover shifts. When we dived a little deeper, they told us that because so many staff rely on public transport usually, the staff would rather not work than take the risk of getting infected. Public transport and taxis are a mess right now - there's no standardization on providing safe, reliable, sanitary transportation. Which is why we created Heropool.

What it does

Heropool is a carpooling platform that matches volunteer drivers with care home staff who need a ride to/from work. We leverage the existing volunteer networks of care homes to recruit drivers (specifically from not-at risk age groups). This volunteer network will be effective because the drivers have already been in contact with care home staff - in comparison to regular taxi drivers who might be reluctant to pick up care home staff.

We also have a network of mobile car cleaning services (we actually have two LOIs signed with them) who will provide sanitation services before and after every ride, in the car park of the care homes. The plan is to provide each driver with PPE before each ride, so much like a old-school taxi company, the drivers meet at one central location (the care home car park) before being deployed to pick up passengers.

The specific technology we created during the hackathon allows drivers and riders to input their availabilities, which are then matched together to book rides. You will be able to see those three elements (driver scheduling, rider scheduling, matching) in the video. We also have the capability to create notifications for the drivers and riders, in addition to a web-based dashboard for care homes to manage/oversee their staff transportation from.

How we built it

We began the 48 hours by brainstorming ideas for the solution. Next we built a wireframe, and began dividing tasks. The team worked together fantastically.

After the planning stage, we began actual development. We decided, because of the 48hr constraint, that we would build a web-app rather than a mobile app. We kept the UI really simple for that reason too. Next, we used Twilio to begin building notifications - because we want to use text messages rather than mobile notifications (we anticipate that our drivers/riders might be slightly older, and we want to avoid any connectivity lag around ride scheduling).

With all this in mind, we created a back-end API. The most recent work we've been doing is working on the UI using Vue. We're also simultaneously working on an admin portal and creating a driver/rider pairing algorithm.

Our partnerships team worked around the clock, making outreach to care homes and potential sanitation partners. After a slow start, we began to actually get somewhat overwhelmed by the replies from care homes (especially private care homes). Long story short: care homes want this service, it's a major challenge they're facing right now, and we have a tailor-made solution.

Challenges we ran into

Time (but who doesn't say that in a hackathon?). A 48hr limit meant that we had to create our product and test it ourselves. Of course, this could lead to problems later.

Our partnerships team did run into some difficulty finding sanitation partners - but after we described the long-term value for them, they were on board. What's in it for sanitation partners? After an initial week of free service, the service cost would be passed along to the care homes.

Finally, we also ran into some challenges building the algorithm for this specific use case - especially when you consider that drivers would be volunteering their time.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Within 48 hours we got very close to having a MVP ready. We had a very clear goals from the initial brainstorming, and this really set us up for success. Everyone knew their roles, and we worked very well as a team together.

We're anticipating that we'll actually be able to deploy this product within the next 7 days.

Our partnerships team did amazing too - they really identified a need, and quickly built upon it to have several conversations with potential real customers.

What we learned

We learned a brand new skill - Vue! Only Morgan had used this tool before, but because of the time constraint we knew that we needed a solution to quickly convert wireframes into a working MVP. Talk about learning on the job! Everybody quickly jumped into the process, and executed on Vue really well.

What's next for Heropool

We actually have a number of care homes waiting to see our MVP. They're even chasing us! The market needs this solution. We're planning to get some LOIs signed next week. On the tech side: we're perfecting the driver/rider pairing algorithm to make it more efficient. We also plan to do some more thorough testing now that we're not in a time constraint!

FYI - We cannot share Github links, because our code is proprietary to the company, but we can share some insights on the project privately. Please do follow up with us about that. ** See the extra link for a pdf to our hyper-linked appendix, which contains examples of outreach and LOIs signed from our partnerships team, UI mockups, and UN SDG alignment**

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