This afternoon I’m at the EdinburghApps Final Pitch event, being held at the University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum. As usual for my liveblogs, all comments and edits are very much welcomed.
EdinburghApps, is a programme of events organised by Edinburgh City Council (with various partners) to generate ideas and technology projects addressing key social challenges. This year’s Edinburgh Apps event has been themed around health and social care (which have recently been brought together in Scotland under the Public Bodies Joint Working Bill for Health and Social Care Integration).
The event has run across several weeks, starting with an Inception weekend (on 6th & 7th Feb, which I blogged some of here), then a midway catch up/progress day (held on 27th Feb – you may have seen me tweet from this), and culminating in today’s final pitch event, at which we’ll hear from previous winners, as well as this year’s teams. The challenges they have been addressing around health and social care challenges fall under five headings (click to see a poster outlining the challenge):
- Where will they walk
- Everyone included
- The sweet point of making Change
- Older people & social care
- Ch, ch, ch, ch, changes: Turn & face the strange
Sally Kerr, Edinburgh City Council
Welcome to our final pitch event!
EdinburghApps is designed by the Council to explore how new approaches and new ideas can inform what we do. So, to start with, we are going to hear from some of our previous winners.
ARC-Edinburgh – Anne Marie Mann & Ella Robbins
Anne-Marie: We started this app to address Addiction recovery back at Edinburgh Apps in October 2014 – which we won!
So our app – a smartphone app just called ARC (http://www.arcapp.co.uk) – is an App to support those in Addition recovery, helping them to track progress, boost motivation, and connect to the Recovery Network in Edinburgh.
Key features of our app are a guide to local meetings, AA, NA, etc. We also have a motivation and reflection section which includes motivational quotes, mindfulness resources, and we also have a “Need Help?” section which connects the individual to our Emergency section. In this section we connect the user to their key contacts, they select these at set up and can send a pre-populated text asking for support.
But there is more here. We had an idea, now we have an app, a company, a community… And Robin is going to talk more about that.
Ella: I don’t think when we first had our idea we knew what would happen next. We worked with Jana at the City Council to create a proposal for a developer – we aren’t developers we just had an idea. We hired a developer – through Anne Marie – and he’s been the third part of this project the whole way through, and that’s Dave Morrison, University of St Andrews.
When we had the team we researched the market. We had access to a close friend with addiction issues who was able to give us an insight into needs and requirements. But we looked at what else was out there. We connected to Dave Williams at the council who connected us to Serenity Cafe, which helps addicts in recovery.
We then set up our company, which we run outside our full time work and care responsibilities. We then went into an intenside user requirements and design process – drawing out every screen of our app before anything was built. We created a project plan, we worked out a marketing plan, and we set about launching our app.
The Council’s role was funding – which was great – but also project management. We had regular meetings to check in and check progress. The council were also essential to that relationship to Serenity Cafe, and that local and specific expertise of Dave Williams. Those contacts, access to market research, and knowledge and experience helped us hugely, particularly to overcome challenges as we went along. The Council provided guidance. On a practical level the Council also undertook printing and distribution of marketing materials and crucial advocacy.
In terms of our reflections on this process… It has been hard work and took longer than we thought. I work in marketing in my day job so this was a huge change and learning opportunity for use. We’ve had to manage a whole range of stakeholders who we wouldn’t normally have worked with, managing expectations, undertaking user requirements, etc. was a huge opportunity. It was a real chance to help people of Edinburgh and has been enormously rewarding.
So, the app is out now and we’ll be giving it a big proper launch very soon!
Q1) Can you see yourself doing another app now that you’ve done this?
A1 – Anne Marie) Ella just had a promotion at work, I’m just finishing my PhD, so not right now but I can see us doing more in the future.
A1 – Ella) Absolutely, sometime in the future, but not right now.
Run the City – Jenny Tough
This came out of Edinburgh Apps 2015, our team was Kate, Jenny and Hilde (aka Small, Medium and Tall). We all lived in different cities and had travelled to other places a lot so had lots of ideas about what we might do – probably 8 ideas, a bunch we pitched, but the one we settled on was Run the City…
So the idea was that running can be a brilliant way to explore a new city and get to know it, and as a traveller it would be great to have some guidance on the best routes etc. So, we proposed a mobile app that would be engaging, and have a minimum of 5 routes through the city, and would interoperate with other running apps – so you can capture all your running stats as you normally would. It was going to need to work on iOS and Android, and be easy to add these routes to.
So, myself and Jamie Sutherland (@Wedgybo) eventually took things forward – both of us are seasoned international runners.
We did some scoping on what runners would want and they really wanted a mixture of green routes and city routes, to not just be the key tourist areas. And that there needed to be different distances and difficulties, as well as th ebest local spots to run. I started out dropping key pins on the map based on Council data. But we also tried lots of routes out – running those routes, testing them out, making sure that worked.
The kind of data we were using was data on monuments in Parks and greenspaces. There were also trees with stories, parks in the city (with opening hours etc) and we came up with five routes…
The first of these routes is the City Centre Highlights and History, which starts on Calton Hill but also takes in Grassmarket etc. The second route is Edinburgh Green Route – for those wanting to enjoy great places to run but not neccassarily interested in the history. The third is around Hermiston Gait, which is actually beautiful. The fourth is the Water of Leith – and we had audio we could draw on here which was brilliant. And finally we had the Seven Hills of Edinburgh – a really difficult route but essential as an unofficial race does this route every year.
Jamie used Ionic framework which is based on AngularJS and ues Cordova for hybrid app. And we used FireBase to create the routes – and that looks really simple for me editing routes in the app.
We rang weekly test runs – in place of meetings! Edinburgh Apps gets you fit!
We sent the app to beta testers as it was, without instructions for accurate results. And there was mixed feedback on the runs and on the technical side of the app too.
In terms of what we found were difficult, and what we learned. We found audio placement difficult to define for different paces (i.e. walkers vs very fast runners) – and that only worked by testing it at those paces. The catchment area of audio points was also extremely hard to fine tune (e.g. which side of the road). But there was also the issue of the seasonability of Edinburgh – daylight time being an aspect, but also things like differences in route for festivals etc since footfall changes a lot. We also found that app simulator really didn’t give us a good idea of what worked and what didn’t – th eonly way to do that was test it with running.
The future for run the city. The MVP was recently launched and is available in the App Store right now. We have route development in siz new international cities currently underway. But doing more here is really a challenge when fitting this around other day jobs and responsibilities. So we are also testing monetisation strategies – events, in-app purchases, advertising to make that development work possible.
So, do try the app, give us your feedback.
Q1) What is the audio?
A1) It’s the directions – turn left, turn right, etc. But also the things you are seeing and experiencing.
Q2) And how easily could that be changed? Is the audio geocoded? Have you considered iBeacons if they become more popular/available?
A2) The audio is tied to pins on the map added in FireBase. We have been considering iBeacons certainly.
Q3) Could you crowdsource the routes?
A3) Sure, but it can take a lot of work to develop the routes. But the running community online is big and active so I definitely think that that’s the way forward.
Sally: And now we have the really exciting part of the day, the pitches from our teams! So, lets start with Game of Walks…
A Game of Walks (#agameofwalks) – Gary
The team for this project was Elena (@atribeofneli), Katie (@hiccuo42), Lorna (@LornaJa23511553), Mischa, Gary (@garycmartin), Mohammed.
The project we were walking on with Sustrans was to encourage children to walk more. The idea is that with a school groups we gamify the walk to school. And to also include some level of STEM, as well as art as they get to design some parts of the system. The second weekend was rather fun as we prototyped the system.
The idea is that children are in different team groups, collecting a particular animal shape. Then they get to choose the animal shape for the next week’s challenge. The idea is that you place these devices across the walk to school you encourage walking to school, use of safe walking routes, and some gameplay.
So we are using Arduino with sensors… And walking part triggers the light. The units wait a set period, then select randomly but equally a shape to show (of three). And then triggering will show another shape. Each animal shows around 10 minutes – and you need to collect it. If it’s someone else’s shape then you don’t collect it. So other walkers, cats, dogs etc. may trigger the system but it should be random and unbiased. And when they capture that shape maybe they share it on their blog, league tables within the school etc. And the units use little gobo selectors so you can theme and change those as you want (e.g. easter, christmas, halloween), etc.
So the units are all 3D pieces (18-20 hours per unit and all the pieces). They aren’t quite ready for outdoors yet, but the battery life isn’t bad – 35-45 hours right now but could easily be set up to do a week. And you could also set up the units to only capture/be active during school run hours.
So, where we are now is that we want to do some school events – fairs or festivals or similar – to test them in a contained environment. But I’d be keen for feedback from teachers, teaching assistants, etc. who would be keen to use these with kids in a real environment.
Q1) You said they aren’t waterproof at the moment?
A1) Not at the moment… You could take these and insulate the electronics on the inside so that they don’t corrode. If you wanted them more long term you could do more. The idea is to make these cheap and accessible – it’s about £12 in 3D printing material, and about £10 electronics, so relatively cheap and therefore not a big deal if they go missing. But actually you could fit most of the electronics in a poster boards – on a single image on the paper with a wireframe in that poster – which would be lovely. So, the form factor (units) isn’t essential.
Lots you could do here, like installing units that capture footfall data when game isn’t in place so that you have a baseline of data to give you some idea of how busy it is on a given route, and if the Game of Walks is making a difference.
Sally: We did test these units with colleagues at the council… And discovered just how competitive our adult colleagues were!
Meet & Eat: A recipe for Friendship – Beata and Annabella
Beata: The idea is basically dinner for strangers! Our mission statement was to help prevent loneliness amongst Edinburgh’s student population. The challenge owner was the NHS who highlighted the issue of loneliness, and that that is often about transitions in life of all sorts, including moving away from home/becoming a student. And this is a big problem. 68% of adults say that they feel alone, either often, sometimes or always. And 18-34 age group is most affected. Lack of personal contact can be as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. So we really wanted to find a way to help.
Annabella: We thought that a great way to address this would be through food – as we all need to eat. So, our example Meet and Eat user is Jin. Jin is a 20 year old engineering student at Heriot Watt. Studies are fine, but he misses his family and friends from home. He sometimes finds it hard to make friends outside of class – initially language was an issue but it isn’t now… But he doesn’t have that network of friends and support. But Jin walks through university and sees a poster on the wall for Meet and Eat. He signs up and decides to join a dinner at his student union. He feels safe going to an event there and decides, being Japanese, he’s going to take sushi as his dish for the dinner. He meets new friends with things in common, and they can take it from there.
So, that’s the idea basically. Students are often early adopters of tech but we wanted to have a location for events that was safe and neutral – and accommodating of students who don’t have room for, say 5 people.
So, we tried to run two test events. The first was to be at Glasgow School of Art but that was in reading week. We ran another in Fountainbridge. We only had one student along but he gave us great feedback. He said first years are much much more open to this. Freshers week is when people are open to meeting people, starting events there would make people more likely to come. And we need better advertising.
Moving forward we would like to popularise the concept using existing social media, university intranet and forum platforms. We’d like to create a welcome pack for partnering with universities and include that in freshers week. And maybe that could lead to student Meet & Eat societies. If we get that buy in we think we could go forward with the app idea, but we need more market research and marketing support.
What we need is marketing assistance, links to universities – we have links with GSA and Napier. But we also need business advice, and we’d like more people for our team. We have work, university… a cat… But not sure how best to fit this in – although we’ve been inspired by the presentations that we’ve already seen.
Q1) At least some students in first year of Edinburgh have catered food, not as likely to be able to participate.
A1 – Annabella) That’s a good point, which we hadn’t considered.
Q2) The office for social responsibility and sustainability in Edinburgh sponsored Global Sustainability Jam which led to an app called Fridge Friend – aimed at reducing waste by sharing with others.
A2 – Annabella) When we did some market research we also looked at supermarkets who recycle or discount food. We thought offers etc. might be encouraging and motivating.
Q2) There is also a thing called Food Share in Edinburgh who you might want to look at.
A2 – Beata) We looked at that but we think we need people engaged before we can do some of those partnership. In our research we came across Freedom who also use food waste in their cooking.
Q3) How do people get in touch if interested?
A3 – Annabella) We have email@example.com
A3 – Beata) And a Facebook group as well.
Chattercare – Archie and his Dad
This was initially designed to address people with cognitive issues… We are all social hubs, connecting with friends and families and neighbours… But when people have cognitive disadvantages they lose connections, those bonds are broken… People lose touch..
So, our idea is to enable communication between different people. So, the person with cognitive disadvantages can connect, but those people can also connect and exchange information between each other. We were really thinking about informal communication. From my perspective, when my great aunt had a stroke, you find yourself looking after someone with no idea of where to start… How do you wash a person in a wheelchair? What’s the new medication and possible side effects – how do I share that with others involved in care? For my great aunt she kept saying “miss miss” and had no idea what that meant – but actually she was wishing people a “Merry Christmas”.
So, how do you share that information? There are interest groups across similar carers; there are people caring for an individual – often many people involved; and messaging for one to one engagement; and we wanted some adaptive technology enabling the individual with cognitive difficulties to take part to. And so, that’s our idea.
And now… A live demo…
We are using a platform called Rocket Chat (Note: this looks like/may be a close relative to Slack) which is available for PCs, Macs, Web browsers, Tablets, Mobiles (iOS and Android). But we require lots of modifications… We will just show some examples here…
Lets call our home help “Jane Austen”. So Jane subscribed to a general #wheelchairusers channel, but she also is part of a homehelps private chat group for more specific questions.
“Mary Shelley” is our supervisor for home helps… And she subscribes to #wheelchairusers as well as #strokerecovery. But she is also part of direct message conversations with “Barbara Cartland” – the daughter of a patient who is interested in pensions. And also a private group for “Jack Faust” – an individual who needs care and help, this would be private to those caring for him. So Barbara Cartland asks for an update and his grandson “Billy Boy” sends an update and image from his visit.
So, what is ChatterCare since there is an application already there? Well it would be about customisation, and the idea would be that all communications are in one place; there is an opportunity for some oversight – so for instance the Stroke Recovery group could be monitored by the Council, to share authoritative information, expel myths, share resources known to be good. And eventually we’d really want some adaptive tech. It would be great to have the individual with cognitive difficulties directly involved, but they will all have very different needs and requirements, which is why that would be a later thing requiring further development.
Note: no questions here, so onto our final team…
Open Doors – Laura & Team Open Doors
Loneliness is a huge issue in the UK and it needs to be dealt with soon. Over 1.7 million people over 65 can go a week without having contact with someone they know, of these 1.1 million can go a month without that sort of contact. So, our idea is an app called OpenDoors which will be simple and intuitive and is designed for older people.
Elderly people are quite keen to use new technology, but modern technology can have too many confusing functions and applications that they will never need. So, for this app we plan to use very large icons, make it visual and intuitive, add only the necessary functions and features. And we want it to be very consistent so the users always know what they are doing.
We talked to people who tried to do this before and we think the biggest challenge would be getting people to join this sort of social network. There are now 11 million people in the UK over 65 (AgeUK 2016) but only 28% using social media. So, we want to start with Elderly people in Edinburgh, working with family members as elderley people are more likely to use technology if a family member uses it and introduces it. We also plan to promote our service and network at offline events, including those run by the council. And we plan to have a listing of local events to encourage meeting and engagement. We will also look at TV ads, as TV is used by older people to manage loneliness.
We think this idea also has the potential to save the NHS money, since loneliness can have such detrimental mental and physical health effects.
Our initial idea was that we would create a simple button-like device to access Open Doors but, for safety reasons, we decided a standard tablet or mobile app would be more productive. The users of our app will be both the elderly individuals and anyone who is familiar with the mainstream mobile devices.
We haven’t tested the app yet but we have interviewed elderly people, researchers, and UX experts to get their input. We also have an event coming up at the end of the month. And we have designed the prototype app, to include clear easy to use functions, chat, etc. But to make our idea a reality we would need to develop our OpenDoors app to also work offline, so that it is more flexible.
Rahma: The app is very simple, big clear icons, and you can look at family members, view our friends very easily, make a call, or view chat. And, for the keyboard we have bigger icons/keyboard so it’s easier to type. Personal profiles let you add information. But this is a prototype…. We want to make it a real app that could be sold or available for free. So, for now we will develop the app and
Q1) I would imagine that for your audience typing could be a challenge so autocomplete could be useful. Have you thought about customising that autocomplete/autocorrect for your users? My phone has autocorrect and autocomplete options… But those are biased to the model of what they think the user will say – so Californian tech comes up high in the options list. For your target population could you create a more appropriate model?
A1 – Laura) That would be possible. We were thinking of having voice commands for those with visual impairments. We haven’t considered what you were saying exactly, but it’s a really good piece of advice.
Q1) There is a team at Cambridge who helped Steven Hawking with this.
Q2) Most of us use a whole variety of tools right now… There is quite a wide list of tools in use in our family circle. If we all had to use one tool, we probably wouldn’t do that, but if that could stitch together existing tools that might work…
A2 – Laura) That’s what we want to do, to connect up some key tools but make it easier to engage with and use, making it more simple to use.
Q3) Great presentation. I have a comment about your user base… How will you develop your user base here? You need to think about how you get those early adopters first, to build up that interest to get to first 100 or 1000 users. Relying on Facebook or Twitter to find those family members won’t work.
A3 – Laura) Our marketing strategy is, for early adopters, to engage with the city, with the Council, and find users there. For app development and testing, and hopefully then expand out from there. Perhaps starting with computing clubs etc.
Sally: We have sadly reached the end of Edinburgh Apps and all the pitches will be on YouTube, and with the Council and Challenge Setters. My next step is to connect you to the right service owners, to help with next steps etc.
I want to thank all of the teams who took part. I know how much work it takes to get to this stage. I want to thank you personally for that work. And I also want to thank everyone who came along to support, to listen, etc. And, what we have for all the teams are some goodie bags. And I’d like all of the teams to come up here for huge round of applause!
Thank you again to you all! And do keep an eye online for all the videos!
And with that (and much rustling of goodie bags) we are done… !