Combating COVID-19 with Digital Health
With COVID-19 all around the news these days, each one of us is concerned about our own safety and health and that of our dear ones too. Despite practising social distancing and quarantine, we will always be in constant threat of infection by coming in contact with a virus carrier until we have the vaccine for COVID-19. We at QED24 took this adversity as an opportunity to help people stay safe during these times and solve the problem through tech. We developed a secure, performance-based digital health mobile platform that comes along with a symptom checker, mapped hotspots, statewide statistics, helpline numbers, and lockdown hacks for physical and mental wellbeing.
Create an app that serves as a one-stop-shop for viewing relevant information about the pandemic via an engaging interface. The main aim was to encourage people to stay home and let them know if an area is safe to visit or not.
| The Plan
Keep it simple, silly.
We wanted to keep the app as simple and minimalistic as possible. With an interactive onboarding experience for the user where the user selects if he/she is experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or not, which could be updated later.
Feature 1: Symptom checker
We wanted to keep the sign-up flow as simple as a Whatsapp sign-up. A user enters the name and their mobile number is validated via an OTP. This registers the user in our database and lets them avail the services on our application.
Feature 2: Simple sign-up
Feature 3: COVID-19 tracker
Once the sign-up is done, the user shall be asked for permission to enable the location for this app. The location service will run in the background even if the app is in the background or is killed.
Feature 4: Live hotspots alerts
Based on the symptoms received, we mark the user on the map as a green or red dot. Thus the map view in the application indicates live hotspots of infection in their locality. This keeps them aware of infected locations and take extra precaution while visiting such locations or avoid travel altogether.
Feature 5: Staying up-to-date with interactive dashboards
Along with the information about the local hotspots, the user shall also be able to view reports of active COVID-19 cases from all the States too.
Feature 6: Lockdown hacks
The app would also have a section which helps the user get along with the day to day activities in order to maintain excellent physical and mental health.
Feature 7: Help centres
User can always take the symptom test similar to the one at the onboarding screen and if he is in need of medical help, the Help centres section lists down all the COVID-19 helpline numbers.
The user can revoke the location permission form the app settings whenever he feels like. The user should also be able to sync their contact with the application in order to know if people in their contact list are in safe zones and are well. This information is shared with their contacts only if the user grants permission to do so on a ‘One to One’ basis. This feature helps create an ecosystem for the users with their know ones like family and friends and their mutual friends if permitted by the users.
| Security concerns
- We intend to save the user’s current location only and not keeping a trace of its geolocation.
- We don’t seek permission for anything else than geolocation, contacts and notifications.
- We don’t run any malicious activities in the background assuring the user’s privacy is intact.
As a part of MVP, we aimed at delivering the app with the following features
- Map view
- Statistics from all States
- Lockdown hacks
- Helpline centres
Other features, as discussed in the plans, will be incrementally added to the build.
| Design discovery
Design is as crucial for a product to be successful as technology, especially for mobile apps.
As a process of discovery, we went into multiple iterations of ‘Tech + design workshops’ and had a rough vision of what we wanted to have on the table.
Not to mention, this was all done remotely. In a compact timeframe, we produced minimalistic designs that perfectly serves our purpose and is also interactive and intuitive enough for the user to get along with the application in no time.
| The Execution
Building this application under such tight timeframe was a totally different experience at all stages of the PDLC. To deliver a product as quickly as possible we went for the tech stack we love the most - React Native and NodeJS
Instead of having a conventional sprint of two weeks, we went for the feature-driven milestones run in parallel. We had 3 developers working the mobile application and one developer working on the APIs. All at the same time. Having a clear vision of the application from the initial ‘Tech + Design’ workshop helped us work upon dependent features on different platforms in parallel.
Eventually, we had all the pieces of the app intact and had iterations of a closed group of beta testing internally in the organization.
Running geolocation services in the background was the major technical challenge we faced during the development phase. This feature was the soul of the entire application.
| Technical Solution
We have documented our solution in a blog, please have a look - https://www.qed42.com/blog/react-native-endless-background-process
Alas! We couldn’t launch it
As we approached towards the application delivery, Google Playstore and AppStore announced they won’t allow any application related to COVID-19 to go live (check the hyperlinks for detailed info). A handful of applications that were already published were also pulled down from the store. Yet we did publish the app which later got rejected due to the current situation. The app never came to the users, but what did come to us is the experience to deliver a quality application in of a couple of weeks.
Here's a sneak peek into the app