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How MACHBARSCHAFT has started

The idea for MACHBARSCHAFT was born in an apartment building in Munich. People (& families) of all generations live in this house. Some of the residents are over 80 years old and have no relatives who can take care of the daily errands. In order to make everyday life easier and safer for these people, a Post-It was placed in the elevator with an offer of help and a personal telephone number. This has led to reactions. The offer was gratefully welcomed and accepted. It has been shown that elderly citizens rarely take advantage of help offers on the Internet. A solution without media discontinuity is necessary and was born this way.  The MACHBARSCHAFT - one call helps.

Inspiration

The crisis triggered by COVID-19 poses unprecedented challenges for Germany and the world - especially for each other and with each other. The high risk of infection of the virus requires the quarantine of infected persons, suspected cases and members of risk groups. This leads to supply difficulties in the home environment. Even simple purchases or pharmacy visits that are vital for survival can no longer be done independently. As recommended by the Robert Koch Institute, the gap in supply is currently being closed in the best possible way through solidarity and support from family and direct neighbours. Digital media and digital communication, which the predominantly younger generation makes use of, support these solidary actions enormously. However, for a considerable part of the older generation, it is precisely these communication platforms that are inaccessible. Since many of these people in particular belong to risk groups due to their age and direct personal contact should therefore be avoided at all costs, it is obvious that this gap in provision is even more drastic for them.

At this key point, MACHBARSCHAFT makes it possible for those seeking help without Internet access to contact the smartphone-using helpers efficiently via a simple telephone call.

What is MACHBARSCHAFT?

Our app represents the link between the younger digital-native generation and the older generation in need of help. People in need only need to make a phone call and provide specific information. The telephone call with the bot is processed in the background and finally displayed in our app in the form of orders. Now the younger generation comes into play. These are the app users, or as we call them, the helpers (MACHBAR:IN). They select a nearby job, contact the person(s) in need by phone to agree on the exact type and size of the job. The helper sets off, gets the urgently needed items and brings them to the person in need at home. The money is handed over either before or after the purchase, depending on the agreement. In order to ensure appropriate protection against infection, the money is packed in an envelope and handed over at an appropriate distance.

Test me

You want to see for yourself what it sounds like when you call our service? We have an American phone number for you to test our service: +1 844 612 5859 If you are living in Europe, use +420 910 902 652 (Czech Republic), and if you are a german native speaker, try +49 40 299960980. Your data will be transferred to our database and your order already arrives in our app. If your order is not accepted, you will receive a phone call after 24 hours that unfortunately nobody could process your order. You can test both sequences by choosing between both at the beginning of the call (so you don't have to wait 24 hours for your call back).

How we built it

Backend

In order to be able to process calls from as many people as possible at the same time without having to resort to a conventional call center (also regarding the COVID-19 infection risk of the call center employees), we used the service Twilio. In this service, we have modelled an easily understandable call flow in which all necessary data for a request for help is collected. In order not to discourage elderly people from using robot-like voices, we recorded the questions ourselves.  The collected transcribed data is then sent to a Firebase function (Javascript/NodeJS) via POST request, which tries to generate longitude and latitude from the spoken address via Google Maps API. This data is then stored in a Firestore database along with the name and request so that it is visible to nearby volunteers. Another Firebase function triggers a callback via Twilio after 24 hours if no volunteer could be found.

App

To ensure the best possible user experience, we program the app natively for iOS (Swift & UIkit for the frontend) and Android (Java). These apps communicate with the central database of Firebase, Cloud Firestore (NoSQL). We used the SDK for Android and iOS from Google. Function and design of both apps are based on the created wireframe.  After the users have verified themselves via an identification procedure Passbase, they have to create their account via SMS confirmation. In advance, the user is informed about the process in the app and the procedure for dealing with requests for help is explained.  After successful login the user will see help requests in his area. These are visualized on a map and in a list. In advance, the user only sees the most necessary information in order to offer him a small decision support.  As soon as he decides to comply with a request for help, he has to confirm this and then receives further information. The user can contact the person seeking help again and exchange any uncertainties. Now he can go and take care of everything else. As soon as he has completed the assignment, he can confirm this.  If an order has not been accepted after 24 hours, the person will be informed about the situation by a callback and it will be up to him/her to decide whether to continue the order or to withdraw it.

Website

Our simple website serves as a central information platform for interested volunteers. The purely static website machbarschaft.jetzt is based on a bootstrap theme, which was implemented with the technologies HTML5 and CSS3 (SCSS). A CMS has not been implemented yet. Since the website can be accessed in any situation, a responsive layout was important.  The website serves not only to recruit new volunteers for our native apps but also to promote our entire concept to future supporters. Since our target group of people seeking help is mainly informed via analogue channels, supporters can download an attractive MACHBARSCHAFT flyer which can be hung up in the neighbourhood or distributed in mailboxes. This way, both target groups - volunteers and people seeking help - can be addressed in parallel.

What's next for #Machbarschaft

In the first step we would like to fulfill our mission successfully and help the elderly to make their everyday life easier in this difficult time (LAUNCH). Then we will scale MACHBARSCHAFT by new use cases and target groups (SCALE). In a post-Corona era (Post-Corona) we see numerous opportunities for strategic partnerships (partners from Mobility Services, Pharmacies, Doctors & Health Insurances, Retail, Banks as well as Public Authorities) and technology expansions that will make MACHBARSHIP a valuable, meaningful and significant pillar in your and our daily life (EXPAND).

Our Way until now

After a long search of one or the other, we met Friday, 20th of March, late in the evening and got to know each other in a smaller group and presented our skills. Soon Dennis' idea was precisely formulated and further developed. We compared our ideas with the possible and feasible facts and came very close to the ideas of the idea giver. This is mainly due to the high level of know-how of the group. The group was very broadly based from the very beginning. There were several developers, creative minds and organizational talents in the team.

The following day, we mainly dealt with branding, design, wireframing, creating a flow chart, creating the content for the app and website, and general questions in the process.  The technical process for the realization of MACHBARSCHAFT was well planned and successful. Initially, the team drew up IT architecture proposals to describe the various systems and tools and their role in the network. The specifications for the various systems were also concretized, especially the database structure for Firestore.

After the idea was concretized, the first step was to formulate work packages and create tickets. Despite the broad-based team, we soon realized that with a number of 12 people we would not be able to create a working bot, back end, front end, website, app and content for the respective formats. Therefore we needed reinforcement. iOS developers, designers, videographers, UXers and copywriters were needed. Not every position could be filled, but thanks to the incredible motivation of the team members, this gap could be filled relatively well.

In the subsequent phase, the various teams independently devoted themselves to the realisation of the plans. The main teams were divided into Firebase, Twilio, Android and iOS. Regular (telephone) exchanges as well as arrangements in case of unforeseen errors, problems and changes were indispensable and always worked.  Meanwhile our team has grown to over 20 people. Some developers have joined us. Designers and videographers were in short supply in the last final spurt of the Hackathon, so we had to rely on the help of friends and acquaintances at least for the design. That's why the logo and the color scheme was finished by an external designer who is not directly participating in the hackathon. This position is an absolute must for the further development of MACHBARSCHAFT.

Since the caller calls a bot, we wanted to make this call as pleasant as possible. Therefore we had a professional radio presenter record the questions and answers of the bot, which should give the caller a trustworthy impression of our organization. These recordings were recorded on Sunday, cut and inserted in the back end. Now the caller hears a friendly female voice instead of the somewhat strange sounding bot voice.  Since we couldn't find a graphic designer, videographer or motion designer in such a short time, we had to design, record and cut the video as best as possible as a team. The video explains the spirit and functionality of the app and is well suited for the first impression of our project.

We also thought intensively about the actual practical implementation of the assistance. Top priority was given to infection protection for those seeking help and for MACHBAR:INNEN. Thus, we designed fair codes of conduct from the first contact to the payment of the goods for what is probably the most frequently requested service, supermarket shopping, detailed RKI and WHO guidelines. We are also developing science-based behavioral guidelines for the potentially second most frequently requested service, the walk to the pharmacy, which is usually vital for survival.
Since we also thought about how to best publicise our project, we decided to create an extra website. This website will guide potential helpers to the Appstore, provide information about the process and offer a download of a flyer. This flyer serves to make people seeking help aware of our services. Initially, it will be distributed in the home or in the neighbourhood, in pharmacies, but also in municipal offices for senior citizens or in voluntary offices of communities. Also the publicity via regional radio stations seems efficient. In addition, advertisements in the daily newspaper, pharmacy reviews and television are also conceivable.

As we would like to make our offer known on online platforms, especially for potential MACHBAR:IN, we have created a several social media account, where we will post the pitch video and upcoming updates.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, GitHub and LinkedIn

How did we work

Ticketing tool: Trello
Communication: Slack
Repository: GitHub
Website: HTML, CSS, Bootstrap machbarschaft.jetzt
Old Wireframe: FigmaNew Wireframe: See on Github: https://github.com/machbarschaft/machbarschaft-organization

Challenges

One of the biggest challenges was to develop an executable app with all the necessary features in 48 hours. In addition, we lacked the essential skills of an app/web designer and videographer. We tried to make up for this, but with infinite motivation and dedication. By cleverly dividing the individual tasks in development, we created a working prototype. It was also important to us to implement a verification process that was as secure as possible to protect those seeking help. We were able to realize this with the help of Passbase. Another important part was to consider the necessary data structures and to create interfaces between database and Android application. At the same time, we were concerned with how we could visualize the data in the best possible way and how to make the process as comfortable as possible for the helpers.

During the technical process, various problems arose that had to be solved. Among other things, it was initially not possible for us to perform address verifications in the Twilio account in order to acquire a German telephone number. Therefore, we had to work with a US number at the beginning, which could only be tested with high telephone charges. After Twilio fixed their system bug after half a day, we were able to do address verifications. Unfortunately there were no German numbers available anymore, but since a team member lived in Hamburg, we were able to purchase a Hamburg number at short notice and use it for our testing purposes.

Due to the collaborative work, there were frequent problems when merging and working with Git, especially during iOS development due to various local files. We were always able to solve these problems together.

Successes

Probably the greatest achievement was to digitally bring together about 25 foreign people with different experiences and levels of knowledge, to implement a great idea together and to develop a runnable app that carries the core goal of the idea within itself.  Despite the circumstances that a personal meeting was not possible at any time, the communication ran smoothly. The team members were reliable, punctual and it was no problem that the communication was purely digital. Thanks to some tools provided by the organization, data exchange, various uploads and even communication within the team was no problem. Thanks to constant input from all sides on how to improve and optimize our project, we were able to achieve a goal-oriented implementation. Thanks to this, we have done a considerable amount of work in 48 hours and can deliver a presentable result.

What we've learned

We have learned that extraordinary situations require extraordinary actions and that with the right will and motivation you can achieve incredible things! We have also learned to get out of our comfort zone. It was necessary to get into direct and fast close contact with complete strangers. Even if we came to our limits in terms of our abilities and energy from time to time, we were able to motivate each other because for all of us "the greater good" was in the foreground.

Try It out

Hackathons

Technologies

adobe-illustrator, android, ardour, bootstrap, css, firebase, github, html, imovie, ios, java, javascript, keynote, passbase, photoshop, swift, twilio, uikit

Devpost Software Identifier

256032