My dad loves watching Shark Tank and seeing these smart ideas get made and bought for big bucks. Every once in awhile he'll message me a new idea and tell me to get to work on it. Usually I don't pursue his ideas, but this time when he told me to make a product to help with the virus, I thought about what I could really do to help that's within my reach. After some time spitballing, it dawned on me that I should repurpose one of my previously made apps for a new target audience.
What it does
I See TP is an Android app that allows users to find and submit stores or other locations that have emergency essentials available for purchase or trade. It will display whether an item is in stock or not, and an estimate distance from the user's location to that location. The items that the app currently display include toilet paper, masks, sanitizer, lysol wipes, water, rice, ramen, and milk. Users can also filter what the map shows if they are only looking for particular items. Any user can submit, edit, and report locations; nobody has to register to use the app.
How I built it
I ended up having an app very similar to this already made, the Outlet Finder. This app allowed users to find and submit locations where electrical outlets are available to charge your phone, laptop, etc. I had been recently working on it, so when this new idea hit me I started cloning and modifying it right away. I was already working part time to allow myself more freedom to work on personal projects. It took me one week to setup two new databases (dev and production), build the app and website, write up a usage guide and FAQ, and create a basic store listing for download. The craziest thing is I started working on this project a day before I saw that this hackathon was occurring. The timing couldn't have been better for me to have a nearly finished product ready for submission.
Challenges I ran into
When I first started this project I thought I was going to name the app FEE (Find Emergency Essentials). When I realized the web domain I wanted was already taken I started coming up with new name ideas. I think I spent the most time and effort trying to get a clever name where the web domain was still available and would be easy to share with people. In retrospect this feels silly because I felt like I could've added other features to the app with that time instead.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
When building I See TP, I decided I wanted to have the locations update in real time. This includes having them load on the map when zooming in and out, and making them appear and disappear based on your filter rules if they are updated by another user. My previous app didn't include these capabilities, so I had to spend a lot of focus on trying to get this right.
What I learned
I learned how to utilize Firebase more efficiently, not only to show data in real-time, but also how to load it faster than before. Knowing this will be useful for my Outlet Finder app as well as any other apps I can repurpose this to be used for.
What's next for I See TP
- iOS and/or a web version of the app
- New items to track
- More detailed information regarding the types of items (quantity, quality, etc.)
- Account management options for gamified modes to encourage users to add/update locations
Try It out
android, android-studio, firebase, geo-fire, google-directions, google-maps, java