Ethiscan was inspired by a fellow member of our Computer Science club here at Chapman who was looking for a way to drive social change and promote ethical consumerism.
What it does
Ethiscan reads a barcode from a product and looks up the manufacturer and information about the company to provide consumers with information about the product they are buying and how the company impacts the environment and society as a whole. The information includes the parent company of the product, general information about the parent company, articles related to the company, and an Ethics Score between 0 and 100 giving a general idea of the nature of the company. This Ethics Score is created by using Sentiment Analysis on Web Scraped news articles, social media posts, and general information relating to the ethical nature of the company.
How we built it
Our program is two parts. We built an android application using Android Studio which takes images of a barcode on a product and send that to our server. Our server processes the UPC (Universal Product Code) unique to each barcode and uses a sentiment analysis neural network and web scraping to populate the android client with relevant information related to the product's parent company and ethical information.
Challenges we ran into
Android apps are significantly harder to develop than expected, especially when nobody on your team has any experience. Alongside this we ran into significant issues finding databases of product codes, parent/subsidiary relations, and relevant sentiment data.
The Android App development process was significantly more challenging than we anticipated. It took a lot of time and effort to create functioning parts of our application. Along with that, web scraping and sentiment analysis are precise and diligent tasks to accomplish. Given the time restraint, the accuracy of the Ethics Score is not as accurate as possible. Finally, not all barcodes will return accurate results simply due to the lack of relevant information online about the ethical actions of companies related to products.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We managed to load the computer vision into our original android app to read barcodes on a Pixel 6, proving we had a successful proof of concept app. While our scope was ambitious, we were able to successfully show that the server-side sentiment analysis and web scraping was a legitimate approach to solving our problem, as we've completed the production of a REST API which receives a barcode UPC and returns relevant information about the company of the product. We're also proud of how we were able to quickly turn around and change out full development stack in a few hours.
What we learned
We have learned a great deal about the fullstack development process. There is a lot of work that needs to go into making a working Android application as well as a full REST API to deliver information from the server side. These are extremely valuable skills that can surely be put to use in the future.
What's next for Ethiscan
We hope to transition from the web service to a full android app and possibly iOS app as well. We also hope to vastly improve the way we lookup companies and gather consumer scores alongside how we present the information.
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