The idea came while walking through my neighbourhood in Zurich to the supermarket. Even with all the health guidelines and rules provided by the Swiss government it can be challenging to keep your distance from other people, even on less travelled small alleys, as there are still quite a few people out for a walk, jogging, biking or just going to the supermarket. Because of this I think an app that would tell you how many people are already on the path you'll be taking would be quite useful so you may choose a less populated path to your destination and improve the social distancing between people.

What it does

The app would be quite simple in its design, making it easy to use for as many people as possible. Imagine you are getting ready to leave the apartment to go to the supermarket and you'd like to check how many people are on the way. You would simply introduce the starting location (let's call it A) and the location of the destination (let's call this one B), similar to google maps, then the app will present a couple of possible paths between A and B and it will show on top of them the number of people currently on each path so you may choose a less populated path. Once you decide on the path you will take you just press on a button (let's call it 'Activate') and you'll be added to the count of people on that respective path. Other options would be an 'Update' button which will update the starting point A to your current location and as such the count will be more precise and another option would be 'Finish' to end your journey and decrease the overall count on the path you were up to this point.

How to built it

The application would run on iOS (Swift implementation) devices and on Android (Kotlin implementation) devices. Both applications would use the Google Maps API for the map and to find possible paths between A and B. To record the number of people on each path and its realtime updates, Firebase could be used as a shared realtime database. It can store these values and they can be requested whenever they are needed by the application.

A great benefit with this approach is the anonymity of each individual as no login or registration is required, Firebase allowing for anonymous user login. The user can be created and deleted as the path starts and ends respectively and we just modify the counter for that path.

Once enough people have used the path, possible statistics from previous days could be available, for example checking how busy a path is at a specific time of the day, based on the previous day(s). Another example would be to show the statistics for a path next Tuesday given how the numbers were on the previous Tuesday(s).

What's next for Social Distancing Helper App

The success of the app is highly dependent on how many people are using it, such that the numbers displayed would be as accurate as possible. The actual implementation of a usable prototype would be quite fast, a couple of days to a week by my estimations for 1-2 people (3 max). Personally I am familiar with all the technologies presented above that I think would be needed for this app (Swift, Kotlin, Google Maps API and Firebase).

If there are people, entities or companies being interested and liking this project proposal feel free to contact me so we can discuss it more and potentially making it happen. If you think this would be a useful idea feel free to adapt it and let me know, I would like to see how it would develop.

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