Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly is committed to relieving isolation and loneliness in the elderly population by providing them with programs that combat loneliness and promote independent living. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, these efforts to reduce loneliness become much more difficult as physical distancing is required for the safety and wellbeing of the elderly. Fortunately, we now have access to apps that make staying connected easier through the use of technology. However, many elderly people face a lot of trouble in operating their devices and using such -often complicated- apps. Thus, with our project, we want to help many elderly people transition to some level of digital use to help them stay connected with others.

TechAlert, an Android app, aims to ease the confusion of technology by connecting the people in need of technological help to highly-trained, tech-equipped volunteers. TechAlert will easily be available to install on the GooglePlay Appstore. Once installed, the app will function with two clicks. The first click, the app icon, will launch the app and the second click, a ‘start’ button, will start the video chat. Once the ‘start’ button is pressed, TechAlert will match the user with an available TechAlert volunteer and the video chat will begin. The volunteer will be able to ask for permission to gain access to the user's screen, thus facilitating the channel of communication.

In terms of volunteers, TechAlert will have a login credential where volunteers can access their accounts and become ‘available’ to receive the video calls. This app will allow the elderly to receive the social connection and technological help they need with a couple of clicks of a button.

How we built it

TechAlert was built in Android Studio using Java SDK.

Challenges we ran into

Configuring the app screen and buttons to fit in different sized screens Enabling audio permission Creating a simple two-click button system versus a more complicated system in which users first need to click start and then connect. Incorporating Azure’s cloud computing systems in our back-end

Accomplishments that we’re proud of

Getting the video chat component to work with audio and video capabilities Up to 16 users can join a call

What we learned

We learned how to make a functioning video calling app on Android Studio using Java. However, we also learned that making an app is a multistep process that requires a lot of time to ensure maximum safety and functionality of the application. We had the privilege of glimpsing into creating a back-end for TechAlert using the many cloud-computing tools Azure offers.

What's next for TechAlert

In the future, TechAlert will have a more robust backend that can match users to volunteers on one click through the use of resource IDs. Additionally, volunteers will have a secure login page that will enable them to notify TechAlert when they are available and receive push notifications about an incoming user. Ideally, the volunteer will have a “refer” button on their screen which will allow them to specify what kind of specialized help the user needs if they are unable to provide sufficient guidance. For instance, a user may have a specific question related to Android devices or may speak a language other than English. The ‘refer’ button will enable the volunteer to choose the best-applied situation from a list and the user will then be transferred to a better-equipped volunteer. Furthermore, we want to prevent trolls from accessing and harassing volunteers, for this at the initial start of downloading the app each device would get a token that allows the user to connect to the app. On the volunteer interface, there will be a ‘report’ button to report any usage of the app that is not within its intended purpose and that token will be blacklisted on the database.

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