Hack the Crisis: We Care!

How we created project We Care! in this COVID-19 themed hackathon

This weekend I was part of a great and amazing group of people working as a team. We where coders, designers, ideators, jack-of-all-trades, creators, academics, researchers and doers. We all where part of even a bigger team in the Hack for Crisis Initiative in Sweden https://www.hackthecrisis.se/

We came together from all different parts, working purely online, never worked with each other before, We created We Care!, a website and an app concept to keep you safe in crisis, that we submitted.

Here is a demo video and a screenshot from the live website of our solution.

Nitty-gritty details

The stack consists of a website (https://covidmap.se/) where the user can enter symptom data as well as their postal code. This is then submitted to a Firebase database, from which a Python application downloads the data submitted and analyzes it in batches. The aggregated, anonymized results are then published back to the database and can be viewed in the map.

The whole system was designed to function as follows:

A future improvement to this could either be to do the Python computation directly in the Firebase Cloud Function and then submitted to the Firebase database. Alternatively, to have the website publish its data to the Python backend which in turn will post the outcome of the analysis to the Firebase database. Either way, the user will get a response on their input.

The motivation for using postal codes is to get a granular overview of the spread while still being within compliance of GDPR. Other suggestions have been using Bank-ID as a user id form, but that combined with medical data would be a GDPR issue we were not able to handle during the hackathon. We will also ensure compliance with Swedish laws on research ethics, submitting for ethical review if required so that collected data can be used for research purposes.

The backend alley

On a personal note, I was working on getting the Python backend (written using SQL Alchemy and Pandas) up and running. The essential pieces were present thanks to the original Swiss team which open-sourced the project. The enhancements we added on top of it were:

  • smoothening installation process by adding a basic Python packaging setup.py.
  • post-processing scripts to calculate symptom risks with Pandas within the Python backend instead of doing it in the Vue.js frontend side
  • a Flask microserver based REST API to reduce the data storage in the database and perform computation more frequently to keep the website up to date
  • Creating a docker image of the application

Our intention was the deploy the backend in the cloud, but because of the time constraint we were unable to achieve that target. For now the backend is semi-automated. In due time, yes we can!

Did I mention our implementation was open-source as well!

The fight is far from over

If you want to help us please go in and test https://covidmap.se and self report yourself and please share this post in your network if you want. You can also visualize the aggregated results.

If you want to fast… go alone, if you want to go far go together. Thanks to everyone in my team for a great experience. I loved working with you and being part of this team.

Ashwin Vishnu Mohanan

About the author

Ashwin Vishnu Mohanan, Ph.D. in Fluid mechanics