When meeting someone, something that often comes up early on is where that person is from originally. Especially on a large college campus, answers are diverse and can span the entire globe. Hometown provides a fun and easy way to keep track of where your friends are from, and can provide some interesting facts such as how local or global your friend network is. Hometown is not just another social media app - it purposefully requires you to add friends manually, with the goal of being a fun and natural part of your social life and not one more place to import all of your Facebook friends.
What it does
Hometown is based around a very simple contact list that only requires a name and hometown, although it can take extra fields such as a picture or phone number as well. It then plots all of the hometowns on a map to display this information graphically. A third view shows interesting 'metrics' about your friend list, including the furthest and closest hometown to you, average distance to hometowns, and number of friends from nearby your hometown.
How I built it
We developed apps for android and iPhone in parallel, using Android Studio and Objective-C, respectively. For the android app, Google Places and Google Maps APIs were used for the mapping feature, and Mapkit was used for the iOS app.
Challenges I ran into
The APIs were surprisingly difficult to work with, and getting the API keys to work properly was a roadblock. Getting the data to persist was another challenge at first.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
Almost none of this worked the first (or second or third) time, and I'm proud of our team for persevering until it did work.
What I learned
Android Studio had a much steeper learning curve than I was hoping, but I was able to use this weekend as time to read all about it and go through several tutorials, and now I think I'm getting the hang of it. -Sam
What's next for Hometown
We have a lot in mind for Hometown in the future. One cool feature would be using NFC and/or a QR-code type of system to quickly add friends who already have an account in the app. We still want to stay away from importing friends in bulk, but making the input process easier would be nice. Also, a long-term idea would be to let travel companies (American Airlines, MegaBus, etc.) pay for access to users' data (with their permission) and use it to advertise relevant trips within the app. For example, if I have 7 friends with hometowns in Chicago, I might get a notification from MegaBus that there's a sale on tickets to Chicago this weekend. That way, we can monetize the app while still providing a useful feature to our users.