"Do you feel safe walking alone at night? and if you don't, what specifically makes it unsafe to walk around alone at night"
- "No, having to walk through dark sidewalks and no one around makes it difficult to feel safe."
- "Not right now, the amount of sexual assault makes me uncomfortable."
- "Yes, mainly the fact that I am a male." (anonymous responses)
As a college student, the prevalence and danger of sexual assault in our society has become increasingly clear. Over the past few months, students have received countless emails about reported sexual assault cases on campus, disregarding the many other voices that go unheard under this system.
Even though we don't share this same fear of walking alone at night, coming to campus has shown us the dangers that women face. Receiving the emails about the numerous sexual assault cases made us realize the prevalence of this issue and inspired us to make this project.
To better understand the feelings that women go through, we shared out a survey asking the following questions:
- "Do you feel safe walking alone at night? and if you don't, what specifically makes it unsafe to walk around alone at night"
- "What are some things you've done in the past to make yourself more comfortable with walking around at night?"
- "Have you made sure to walk around areas where you knew people were, and how did you determine that?"
- "What kind of emotions have you felt walking alone at night, whether that be to a specific place or when returning home?"
- "Tell me a time in which you might have felt that you were in danger while walking alone."
After receiving the responses from the survey, it became obvious that women feel incredibly unsafe whenever they are walking alone at night, in areas with very little external light, very little people, and almost all have had experiences of being in danger when walking alone at night. Several responses spoke about the lack of lighting in certain areas, or about how walking in empty spaces made them feel vulnerable.
We followed up by talking to a few of the survey's participants, and asked about how we could better the situation, and what features we could implement to help ensure their safety best at night.
What it does
Safe Track is a mobile/web application designed to guide users safely at night, using community-sourced navigation to provide the safest path to any location, integrated with instant location sharing to friends, family, and emergency services. Most navigation tools provide the quickest path to any destination, however apps such as Google Maps or Apple Maps only take a factor of time to destination into account. Safe Track is designed to help users discover the safest paths to their destinations, by providing community-sourced paths which are the best lit up / most populated at night. By doing so, users are able to avoid dangerous areas with very little external light and very little people.
The application also offers instant location sharing to several contacts, allowing you to ping your friends, family, and any emergency services at the click of a button. Users may also request the location of any of their friends / family members at any time, being able to check up on anyone, anywhere.
How we built it
We built the webapp using NextJS as the frontend and ExpressJS as the backend, using MongoDB to store user information in a database. The majority of the project is built using Node.js, which is the main way of connecting the front and back ends to communicate with the database and run the tracking algorithms. The incentive for picking NextJS is the power of server side rendering because we had primarily data that was driven by the backend, therefore we made use of a framework that best supported this philosophy. We also wanted to do web development because it is the most accessible and fastest way to reach a lot of people at once.
Challenges we ran into
One of the underlying challenges that we faced on the development team was trying to integrate live mapping software with the user movement. Since we were working on laptops, there was not a convenient way of testing whether or not the mobility function worked. However, the marginal inaccuracy readings of the geolocator was enough to justify that this application works. Another challenge was integration with MongoDB and our NextJS application, along with the utilization of GCP's tools such as the Google Maps API. There were also attempts by our frontend team to use OpenLayers a tool that creates and reads maps but that ended up not working as intended.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Accomplishments that we are proud of is that the mapping and tracking functionality works. That was a big turning point of the project, trying to create and track routes, then storing that data off to a database. We also came up and implemented a design that utilized both CSS and MUI, from a Figma design. Although it was not implemented fully, the skeleton code of the push notifications and user data tracking is something that we are proud to say we have accomplished.
What we learned
We learned that creating an app in one day was difficulty, especially with the wide gap in our experiences, however despite that we adopted the mantra to just keep going, no matter what goes wrong, theres always a awy to fix it. If our ship is sinking and we still have time, that's still time to shovel water out of our boat. During this project each and everyone one of us learned something new, for example, Jordan worked on presenting with his communication skills and had an introduction to node js server development and Griffin worked on implemented an interactive map utilizing google api. On top of this we had improved our existing skills such as Jay working on his mongoDB database that we have implemented.
What's next for Safe Track
- Our next goals for Safe Track, is to create a network and fully implement some of the features that were still on the table from our discussions. For example, getting emergency services involved, creating an optimization algorithm that would take the route data and formulate the best route depending on speed and safety
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