The problem we solve
There are 3 billion of us in lockdown, yet we still need to go shopping, to the pharmacy or to work. The WHO and CDC claim that lack of social distancing is the main reason the virus spreads. Not knowing where crowded areas are when going out, or queuing in front of stores and pharmacies for a long time make proper social distancing impossible.
As professionals we have a strong background in creating change through digital transformation for the enterprise industry. With the rise of the pandemic we wanted to give back to the community using our experience in digital by creating a super user friendly tool that can truly help us flatten the curve in a way that doesn’t require special medical skills or complex equipment.
Our journey started with a research to find out what are the most efficient ways to slow down the spread of the virus. We have learned both from the WHO and CDC that one of the best methods to do this is to practice social distancing. But how can people practice it when they need to go out shopping, to the pharmacy or in some cases to public spaces? Without the right information, it’s really hard to do that. So we decided to build a digital tool that can help you avoid crowds in your surroundings anytime you need to leave your home.
What it does
NoCrowd is a ready to implement mobile application, solving social distancing in 2 steps. No registration required, it’s completely anonymous. We don't link the data that you send to you or your device. Its core purpose is to keep us safe, by keeping us distant while needed.
How it works
Users share their location within the app while being outside. Thus everyone can see on their screens where crowded areas are, with main focus on stores, pharmacies and public spaces. Using this information we can decide when it’s safest going somewhere, helping each other stay safer throughout our journey.
Users can lower their risk further when going to stores and pharmacies, by requesting a queuing number from the safety of their home, through the app’s built in digital ticketing system. This way we support stores and pharmacies maintaining limited queues at the entrance and help lowering the risk of infection by staying in a crowded queue for long.
How we built it
We used native Android and iOS technology to develop the MVP. The users' device receives GPS data from satellites and bounces that information on to a server without any identification that could link it to the user, keeping the system totally anonymous. The back-end algorithm on the server clusters received data from multiple devices and sends it back to the user's device where it is displayed on a map. Our data management is completely anonymous and GDPR compliant, no contact tracing is used.
Privacy & Data Security
The device is sending always the following parameters to the server: latitude, longitude and a timestamp. We deliberately choose not to connect the device to the coordinates it sends in any way. This means that no one will know about your pin on the map that it’s you, except you. Similarly, you won’t know about anyone on the map who they are, except them.
We will store latitude, longitude and timestamp data on our servers for up to 24 hours, but most of the case just for a couple of minutes. After each day, the previous day’s data will be deleted forever.
Data Security is provided by AWS’s world leading infrastructure, on which among others Siemens, Shell, Airbnb, Bayer, GE, Netflix, BMW and others NoCrowd will be in good company.
As a first stage we created two a step revenue stream:
1. Partnership with stores: shops struggle to manage peak times, thus using NoCrowd creates value for them on 2 levels.
- On the first level, it helps them distribute shoppers so the stores won’t get overcrowded.
- On the second level, it has a positive impact on the Customer Experience, making shoppers enjoy more shopping with a higher level of comfort.
2. Partnership with authorities: many governments don’t have the right digital tools to support their local authorities with a digital queuing and/or ticketing system. NoCrowd can be easily integrated with no additional technology requirements.
Both types of partnerships require a monthly license fee per location.
In a second stage we plan to extend our revenue stream by offering hyper localized ads. Companies will be able to run hyper personalized and non invasive ads through the platform. The ad cost will be dynamically calculated based on how many people were engaged it, making it a highly targeted and cost efficient way of digital promotion.
We have a 6 pillar growth strategy and the experience behind us to execute on it
- Government support to promote it as the official app in practicing social distancing, which is WHO’s and the CDC’s top advice in slowing down the virus. (Source: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6914e4.htm?fbclid=IwAR2h8vsTwiSZC7cqVOmlSY5pP2tUCp9rmoJBtjsuBOE4UABPclq8d9mYkXk)
- Contacting relevant global and local influencers to help user base scale up
- Local authorities to incentivise their communities in using the app
- Onboarding supermarkets and pharmacy chains as partners, by giving them a tool to keep their customers safe.
- Through PR and media outlets in and outside of our network, eager to showcase solutions that can help us combat this crisis.
- Through the halo effect of our network, as people are open and eager to distribute solutions that could help them stay safe and get over the crisis sooner.
What we achieved over the weekend
It's our 4th hackathon in the row, and each of them were a really challenging experience, but this was definitely the toughest one. Being also the longest we managed to make good progress on the following topics:
We have passed the 500 mark, in number of total feedbacks from test users. We gathered and organized the usability inputs and made new enhancements on the user interface, making the app even more intuitive.
We created the digital ticketing process both from the back-end and on the mobile sides. Also we had an interesting turn on the lately developed crowd reporting feature. While this functionality was born from the request made by users during the product acceptance testing, we decided to remove it. The functionality was challenged by two skill mentors, who have strong background in ethical IT and social policy at the EU Commission, as a potential risk factor of creating a feature that could have secondary use cases that are unwanted. It was a totally different perspective, that we didn't thought of. We realized that it is better to leave out this feature, to make sure we create a solution and not a new kind of problem.
- We have reached out to Google Experts, to get a strategy on how get the apps published, and now we know what to do next.
- We have validated our business model with experts from KPMG and made fine tunings in the revenue strategy.
- We have checked our data privacy strategy with a field expert.
- We discussed about a pilot use case of a Hospital in Greece.
We created a new pitch video, to showcase the project’s current state including the new features that we have added and excluding the ones we have removed.
The solution’s impact to the crisis
NoCrowd is already capable of helping people disregarding their background to do proper social distancing. There are no technical limitations to release it globally, therefore we envision it as the practical, ready to use tool that will be a gamechanger in flattening the curve wherever we roll it out. The more of us using it, the higher the impact will be, therefore we can potentially impact not only the current 3 billion people in lockdown, but those who would join this curfew if we don’t act.
The necessities in order to continue the project
We need support from governments, and relevant influencers to help in promoting the app, as the official tool of social distancing.
The value of NoCrowd after the crisis
Sustainability: Once restrictions will be loosened, NoCrowd will help users to cope with the new limits set by governments for attending events and going to parks, shops, or public spaces easily by using the app. This would prevent another virus outbreak, helping us, as humanity, to gradually form our new day-to-day life. Thus it will also contribute to economic recovery.
Vision: NoCrowd has the potential to become the digital solution the people check before going out. Once the pandemic is over, the app will continue creating value by saving time for its users. While, avoiding crowds is quintessential in the current crisis, wasting time in queues and crowds was a problem before COVID-19 appeared, and will be here after it as well. With the app people have a tool to minimize their time loss anytime they need to go out shopping, to restaurants, to post offices (public services) and/or to different events.
Challenges we ran into
Delayed going live phase. We have a waiting list of early adopters, but due to the crisis, both Apple and Google are much more restrictive in their approval process, while approval times increasing significantly, from hours to more than a week.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Our first initiative was to participate at Hack the Crisis Austria (28th - 30th of March) where NoCrowd got the 3rd highest ranking of 50 solutions.
Our second attempt was to participate at Hack the Crisis Hungary (3rd - 5th of April) where NoCrowd won the 1st prize in the Save Community category from 134 solutions.
Our third attempt was to participate at The Global Hack (9th - 12th of April) where NoCrowd became a global finalist (top 15) from 500+ solutions.
Our fourth attempt was to participate at EU vs Virus (24th - 27th of April) where NoCrowd became a global finalist (top 116) from 2100+ solutions and ranked #3rd in its challenge.
- We have started discussions with the Hungarian Government to launch the tool on a national level.
- We have a confirmation that the Romanian Authorities want to use the tool.
Our journey so far
In the first hackathon #HtCA (Hack the Crisis - Austria) we have learned that no matter how advanced the software engineering is, people first want to understand it's usability, and only afterwards they care about data privacy. We had the assumption that such events are more focused on the technology side, and less on the usability side, but we were wrong. Although we had a super intuitive prototype prepared, we didn't put enough focus to present it and we talked too much about the technology.
After the #HtCA we had one week to improve our prototype and to move forward with the development. We used this time to collect feedback from potential users (from government and business people to friends and family) and incorporated the learnings to make a better prototype.
In the second hackathon #HtCH (Hack the Crisis - Hungary) we understood that although our initiative is completely non profit, mentors and advisers suggested to have a plan B, that could generate revenue for the tool to sustain itself. So, we invested our energy to build a business model that creates business value to shopping malls, grocery stores and pharmacies, thus creating income for the app.
In the third hackathon #TGH (The Global Hack) We made a mistake by submitting in the Crisis Response category, where we had only limited guidance, due that most of the mentors had health or medtech background. Nonetheless, we managed to make another push on developing a new crowd reporting feature and were able to connect a social behaviour expert, who gave guidance on how prepare to be compliant with such medical authorities as the CDC.
Based on expertise of rolling out apps globally, we foresee the following timeline for the next 4 weeks:
- 1. Giving our best to win an award at EUvsVirus, to drive further awareness by onboarding new governments and relevant influencers
- 2. Going live on both iOS and Android platforms, as soon as apps are approved
- 3. Rolling out MVP in target cities, while developing ticketing system in parallel
- 4. Continue strategic discussion in Austria to get the government's support
- 5. Further feedback based iterations, while preparing country level rollout
- 6. Rolling it out in Hungary together with the government and influencers
- 7. Rolling it out in Romania together with the government and influencers
- 8. Rolling out in multiple countries on a global level.
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