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.