The Communa.ly team created an app which transforms the Council’s relationship with its residents. By replacing the resident’s Discovery Card with a mobile application, not only do residents always have their ID with them, but also have location-specific offers and information. The app changes the way that residents engage with the community by encouraging them to help others. Each time they help, maybe by taking the recycling out for an elderly neighbour, or helping a community project, they build their community profile and earn points.
The app was written in HTML5, JQuery, CSS, AJAX, PhoneGap, Barcodes4.me, with the API written in Rails, accessing a Postgresql database. With the team split into frontend developers, UX/UI Design, and API/database.
Use of local data
The team used datasets from BANES – Discovery Card discount details (offers page), recycling routes (reminders to put recycling out). Future development might include event notifications, location-specific reminders of residents benefits/offers, and the use of iBeacons for proximity-based information. The datasets could have been improved by structuring the Discovery Card offers and events to make it easier to maintain and access. Recycling routes were found to contain invalid and duplicate data and, because the data was a snapshot, could not be relied on for year-round accuracy. Overall each team was duplicating effort writing their own APIs into the data, and a central team who structure, clean and make the data accessible would make all teams more productive.
As a team of six who had never met before, and hadn’t decided in advance what to build, we had great fun looking at the options and quickly started working in our own specialist areas to form a great team. The two frontend developers worked through the night to create a fantastic user interface which was demonstrated on iOS, but works on all phone platforms.
How we’d develop it further
Given further funding we would engage with the council and community groups to confirm requirements. We would work with the council to determine how card issue and proof of address would work within data protection and legislative constraints. The aim being to support the issue of cards without residents having to visit council offices. The cost savings for council in terms of not issuing photocards can help pay for the application development and hosting, and potentially fund extra discovery rewards for active citizens. We would need to work with volunteer and community groups to link the app to opportunities for residents to help – perhaps linking to Bath’s volunteer centre. We would also like to explore how the rewards mechanism could support BANES businesses, for example providing greater loyalty card features and triggering reward messages to card holders.
The project slides are also available at bit.ly/communaly