Our project was inspired by the lack of cellular data infrastructure in developing nations. Because of this many services, like banking have transitioned to SMS-based platforms. Cursory research showed that this transition has not been extended to include map services, like Google Maps. We believe that access to these services would improve the day-to-day lives of people that wouldn't have had access to these services previously.
What it does
This program allows users to send text messages to a host email, which analyzes the content and fulfills the user's request. We currently have four main functionalities: Address, Directions, Elevation, and Weather. Address stores the current location of a user, indexed by their phone number. Directions returns the steps to arrive at a specified destination address, using the current location as a starting point. Elevation returns the how high a specified address is above sea level. Weather returns the weather conditions and temperature (celsius) at a specified address.
How we built it
Our program is built mostly in Python, making use of the googlemaps and the pyowm modules. We also created a host email account through gmail, to send and receive SMS-messages. We created a Linux virtual machine using Amazon Lightsail to host our Python scripts.
Challenges we ran into
The largest challenge was finding an appropriate server to host and run our Python Scripts. We also had some difficulty working with the API's, though this eased as we became more familiar with them.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We have a fully functioning program. It can handle multiple requests from different users and functions in the background of our Lightsail server. We had a vision for our program and executed it well within the given timeframe, even adding functionality beyond what we expected.
What we learned
The majority of our progress this weekend was in the Python. We also gained experience with API's and servers, learning to create and configure our own server to run our scripts.
What's next for MapChat
Currently, MapChat only supports AT&T carriers. In the future, we will add support for all carriers. We would also like to move beyond MapChat, using our platform as a base and adding functionality that goes beyond simply maps.