USafe?: Safety through SMS

The Flowroute Team traveled down San Francisco for the DeveloperWeek Hackathon. At the event, our team got to hack with attendees and saw some crazy awesome innovation happening, particularly around use cases for SMS. After the event we sat down with the creators behind the uSafe app, Queenie, Harmann and Chris, to learn more about how their app enables individuals to alert friends and family to their location when walking alone at night, catching a ride or any time they might feel unsafe.

What is each of your backgrounds in and what brought you together as a team?

We all met at Coding Dojo, which is a programming boot camp in San Jose, CA. Afterward, we worked together on a non-profit project, and that is when we realized we make such a good team since we complemented each other’s skills and share a passion for learning new technologies. Upon completing the non-profit project, we started on USafe? and we knew that we were a rare group of developers that are both professionals and friends. This was the first hackathon for all three of us and we are really proud of the outcome.

Previously, Chris studied Computer Science in college and he wanted to deepen his knowledge of web development. Queenie graduated from UC Davis with a BS in City Planning and was doing project management until she decided to jump out of her 9-5 job to build a more exciting career. Harmann is a Finance graduate from the University of Colorado at Boulder. While working in software sales, Harmann was exploring programming and left her job to pursue a career as a Software Engineer.

What was your inspiration or thought process for creating the app?

When brainstorming a project idea, we like to get together and start by thinking of inconveniences in our everyday lives and how technology can make us more efficient time and money-wise.

For USafe? Harmann pitched us an example of a time when she went to a late dinner with a friend and had her friend text her once she arrived home. From there we came up with many scenarios in which this application can help people stay safe and potentially even save lives.

What was your technology stack for the project?  

Our hackathon submission was built with Javascript, Angular.js, Node.js, Express.js, and MySQL. Our mobile application was built with Swift 3 and iOS 10 that shares the same server.

Do you each have a feature or particular capability that you really wish was included in the app?

We will be deploying our beta version to the App Store in a few days, and we will build a 2.0 version based on feedback. But we have a vision for 2.0 that if the user did not mark him/herself safe after the specified time period, our app will automatically send the user’s location to the emergency contact.

How do you think the ability to utilize SMS differentiates or adds value to your app?

The Flowroute SMS API allows users to add anyone as their emergency contact, even if they do not have USafe? installed on their phone. With SMS as a universal feature across all mobile phones, the feature makes it easy for users to get started. Also, SMS is instant and it would be cumbersome to use an alternative such as email.

Anything next on the horizon for the team or the app?

We are planning to build the web version of USafe? using React. We will continue to develop more awesome apps together and attend more hackathons. We already have some great ideas stirring.

Transporter, time machine or cloak of invisibility?

Chris wants a time machine so he can go back in time to pair-program with himself.

Harmann chooses a transporter.

Queenie chooses a transporter: she doesn’t need a time-machine since she has nothing to regret, and she doesn’t need a cloak of invisibility since she has nothing to hide.

First computer?

Chris owned an original Macintosh and played Sim City on the 512×342 pixels screen.

Queenie’s was a tamagotchi.

Harmann’s was a 2003 Compaq laptop.

Current phone?

Queenie and Harmann both have iPhone’s.

Chris is using a 5-year-old Samsung Galaxy S3 because he likes to get the most out of his devices before replacing them. He prefers Android phones because they are easier to tinker with and customize.

Favorite app?

Queenie’s favorite app is called Meitu, where she can remove her blemishes and dark circles on her selfies before posting them on Instagram. She admires software that can perform such photoshopping operations, can you imagine all the complicated algorithms behind them?

Chris and Harmann’s favorite app is uSafe? of course.

I once waited in line for…?

We are all always in queue waiting to be dequeued (it’s a data-structure joke).

To learn more about the USafe? app check out their site!


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