The COVID-19 crisis brought us social distancing and economic disaster. The shutdown poses a threat to millions of jobs and different businesses. Only a few people can work from home. And even the digital natives among us will miss the personal contacts, community with friends and the sociability.
We are going to change this: Platona is a universal solution which allows all citizens of the European Union to turn social distancing into digital togetherness.
What it does
Platona offers an all-in-one solution for offering and receiving support and services or just for sharing knowledge. Our approach addresses the urgent individual needs of millions of people around the world.
Our product can play a huge part in transforming classic jobs into digital services. This transformation won't be temporary during the crisis but permanent.
Platona provides a platform for all kinds of services, that can be offered via 1-to-1 video chat. The three key benefits:
- the person offering the service can earn money because we measure the duration of the call and bill them through the app
- profiles can be found by internal search and through external search engines
- users can easily switch from just consuming services to providing them
Platona as a platform can help to establish new business models during the crisis. But it will also help small and medium businesses to continue their work in a simple digital way.
How we built it
The app consists mainly of a Next.js frontend that consumes a GraphQL API built in Node.js and Prisma. The apps then run in a Kubernetes cluster that forms the platform.
Through this way of implementation, we have a crucial advantage: no need to install anything! Just open it in the browser on your phone or desktop. Also using Kubernetes clusters leaves us all options to later scale the app to handle very high user numbers.
What is already working:
- create account and services
- search and find services
- start and receive calls
- have a list of all your calls and their durations
What's next for Platona?
For our alpha version, we will soon enable the next steps:
- full payment processing: users will be able to charge the balance. Balance will be transferred to providers after calls.
- landing pages for all the services and users (for sharing and search engines)
- central landing page, which explains how to use the app
- make the prototype as sexy as our mock-ups ;-) For now, it is focusing on proving the technical feasibility.
The most difficult technical part was building a video chat that is facilitated by a central API and yet very fast and responsive.
The central API was necessary because we want to securely measure the duration of the call. Just ex-changing a simple WebRTC-link for peer-to-peer connections won't allow this. Also, using some external service like Skype would not allow this. So we needed a platform that lists the services as some kind of "Yellow Pages" and offers calling these services without ever leaving the platform. In this way, the caller and the person which was called can clearly check, that the call took place within the billed duration.
This means we had to write most of the video chat functionality ourselves. We need to track the online status of the service providers and enable pain-free starting of video calls. Enabling snappy and fast video chat is challenging and demands complex infrastructure.
Last but not least, the payment of services needs to work smoothly. We don't want the service provider to run after his money. So we need a balance based approach that disallows calls if the balance is insufficient.
Want to try it out?
If you are interested in trying out the technical prototype, here are the steps:
- go to https://alpha.platona.de/
- create an account
- create a channel
- receive calls for that channel
Best thing will be to create two accounts and use one on your mobile phone and one on your desktop. Then you can call yourself and don't depend on other accounts.
Want to see it in action?
Here is a video of our prototype handling a call: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-BMYnrZxwY
Want to invest or get in contact?
Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are looking forward to hearing from you.