Leisure Activities and Location Sharing Application

The Challenge

Motivate young people to hang around together and provide a powerful alarm mode for those who are in trouble.

The Context

The initial idea came up in 2016 after multiple sex crimes against students that made a noise in the world. The very first thought was to create a panic button application that would broadcast SOS to the friends, but nobody would download the application toward this goal only. Next to no time the idea morphed into a big service aimed at different in-crowd leisure activities.

Project Summary

Using the in-house scalable Node.js backend, we have built both Android and iOS native applications with the focus on the UI inspired by a party atmosphere. The main screen is designed for showing the location of the people from the inner circle in real time and for chatting with them.
NDA protected. We don't show real project name and layouts but accurately describe the features.
The evolution of the product brought even more features including in-app discounts, party invites, scoring for the time spent with friends etc.

Technology Stack

iOS Swift Objective C Android Kotlin Firebase AppCenter REST API Angular Node.js MongoDB Dockers Amazon Web Services Sketch Zeplin

Key Features

Inner Circles Concept
Once registered, users are encouraged to create their first inner circle and to invite friends by phone numbers. Inner circle members can share their location with each other and chat together. In fact, usually the inner circle is just a packet of friends who are going to the party or hanging out with the same people.
Users can create the unlimited number of inner circles—one for family, another for close friends, still another for course mates, colleagues etc. Uploading actual photos to the profile is strongly recommended—to accent the reality of what is happening.
Scalable Server with the Load Balancer
We aimed to build an application with the peak traffic tolerance and the automatic scaling option to be used in heavy hours. That is why we took full advantage of a server side container microservice architecture. This approach enabled us to deliver the continuity of service with the additional Amazon Cloud instances automatic deployment.
Communication is king: the application must support all types of personal interactions!
The off-the-shelf software didn't meet the requirements, that is why we have developed the chat by our own efforts. Now users are able to exchange text messages, pictures, locations, special responses etc. XMPP flexibility made it easy to create the necessary services in the application and on the backend using the existing XMPP libraries.
Maps Usage and Location Tracking
To provide exceptional location reflection, we have customized Google Maps and Apple Maps with creatively different pins and specific popup user statuses.
Real time location tracking in foreground and background modes became the biggest challenge for our team. Since the beginning of the development both Apple and Google were making increasingly tougher demands on receiving user location data, and all this while we were implementing different open and secret algorithms to override the limitations.
Our goal was to find a balance between the battery consumption and the positioning accuracy. In light of this we are finally proud to have a solution no worse than the alternatives dealing with user location tracking only.
Alarm Mode and IoT Alarm Button
Being activated by a user, the Alarm Mode starts automatically sending push notifications to the members of the inner circles. The idea is simple yet effective: friends around can help a user in trouble in much less time than it takes for the emergency response groups to arrive.
We have also developed a prototype of the IoT Bluetooth alarm button: being hidden in a dress, it can activate the Alarm Mode even when the smartphone is out of reach. With a powerful application and an IoT device like this, hanging around becomes safe like never before.
Scoring System
To motivate users spending time together we have invented a scoring system: the more time a certain user is staying with a group of friends, the more bonus points this user is getting. All inner circle members can see the bonus points of each other: in such a way every going out turns into a fascinating competition.
A little later the scoring algorithm was modified: users started receiving bonus points not only for the time spent with friends, but also for the amount of friends staying around.
Bonus points can be used to pay for some in-app features such as unique map pins; they can be also exchanged for discounts in the neighboring partner shops and cafes.
Eugene Komarov, Android Developer:
In a winkle of an eye users can drop a pinata within the inner circle to let friends know they are organising a minor event: a morning run, a party, an apartment art show etc. Those who are within a pinata radius are getting extra bonus points!

However, COVID-19 pandemic has ruined the whole pinata concept. Alternatively we started temporarily rewarding people staying at home.
Leaderboards and Contests
At the advanced stage of the development we have added leaderboards—global and college specific. These leaderboards show the inner circles with the maximum bonus points. This is the way active users are socially rewarded for the time spent in a good company.
A contest is an event like a concert or a public talk to be attended by many people. The contest idea is to promote those who join the event with friends and stay longer than others.
Admin Panel
We have provided the Angular admin panel to manage leaderboards and contests. Admins are also allowed to send informative or advertising push notifications to the users.
Catchy Design and Animation
Following both Android and iOS platform requirements and best practices, we were focusing on the integrity of the eye-catching design and animation while every single screen element is rich in details.

The Outcome

It took half a year to release the app, and in 2020 we are still working on the new features: it is easy due to the powerful scalable backend we have developed. Gamification approach with map, chats, and scoring system made it possible to gently mask the safety side of the application and to attract young people.
Launch Year: 2018
15,000+ people
are using the application every day
6,500+ inner circles
were created by the permanent users
10+ partner shops
grant discounts to the active users

Effective Team

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