The “Eastern Crescent” area in Austin concentrates social disadvantaged people with low resources and opportunities. On the other hand, the west side of Austin concentrates social advantaged people, so most businesses and services were deployed in this side of the city. As a result, most people from the East side struggle to access a sustainable food source and health services, specially when a family heavily depends on one member, who might be unavailable in some cases (i.e., health problems). Also, many people can’t afford taxis or other mass transportation to move from one side of the city to the other; or can’t walk as distances might be very long. In addition, many people don’t speak English or prefer not to ask for help or service, as they fear to expose potential risks as per their immigration status.
In every community, there are always people in need, and people willing to help others...Problem is the lack of information to connect “the help” with “the need”. And that's exactly what “Easy-Community” does.
“Easy-Community” is an IoT Platform that connects People, resources and opportunities, through multiple channels and languages, allowing people to interact with the community and ask for services or help in their own language and without the need to be fully identified.
“Easy-Community” can be seen as a “Community Bulletin Board”, implemented through an IoT Platform, This is NOT a web-page nor a smartphone App based solution; it’s an IoT technological solution that uses multiple channels and communication links to enable users to interact and participate in the community, either helping or asking for help; ultimately connecting people, resources and opportunities for everybody (opportunities for getting help, for helping others, to promote business and services but at the same time helping people who can't afford full fare or price, to volunteer as platform operators, to help people with a ride or pickup a delivery for them; among many others). In fact, this is a huge opportunity for the City to supervise and take actions when needed, improving the lives of people in this area of the city, working along with the community and all stakeholders.
Access for people who don’t have the latest technology
Users that don’t have access to the latest technology, may use a landline phone or mobile phone to call or text the platform to make a request. Platform operators will then answers those calls or texts and enter the requests in the system for them. Once the request is fulfilled, the platform will notify these operators to either call or text back the answers to the requester.
Special cases would require an operator who understand sign language to assist deaf people. In these cases, a video chat is required so the user should have access to a computer or tablet with internet.
The use of Artificial Intelligence and Chatbot can automate the service for common requests, alleviating the need for operators, leaving complex cases to be handled by humans operators.
Users can use a PIN or Access Code to be identified (as the health and service providers will need a sort of individualization), but there is no need to provide further details, from the Platform access perspective. The PIN or Access Code can be assigned by the City or other social service, to avoid disclosure of immigration status while using the services. If the City social service takes care of this approach, they could evaluate the family social situation and classify accordingly to associate a level of social disadvantage. This way, a potential provider might offer much lower fares, or even a free service, if they consider this situation.
Trip Fare Negotiation
The platform features a Trip Fare Negotiation, which allows people to set a maximum fare they could afford for the trip (the platform provides guidance from previous similar trips, using Artificial Intelligence and other relevant information) and the transport driver can accept, counter offer or ignore. This feature is to support low-capacity transportation drivers and shared-ride drivers who might be flexible with the fare according to the demand and convenience of accommodation for the request.
Dynamic scheduling for delivery services
This solution features dynamic scheduling for delivery service, allowing people to receive deliveries anywhere, anytime. The real-time information allows delivery schedule to be adjusted to the most convenient routes increasing performance and efficiency, lowering operating costs. Win-win formula that benefits people and providers.
Who will use our solution and how?
As in the “old Bulletin Board” system, multiple users interact with it, although in different ways and purposes;
Eastern Crescent residents
These are the people in need and main receptors of the system. They can access the platform to ask for help, interact with community providers or helpers, and access for help to solve their daily problems such as getting appointments from a health service, getting a helper to do a shop or pick up a delivery for them, getting a shared ride or simply ask questions or for counseling.
People can access the services through multiple channels; using a regular telephone or a mobile phone; either texting or calling. Real-time translation can be used to alleviate stress for non-English speakers. Visually impaired or elderly people can also use these channels if appropriate. Of course, web and smart mobile apps are available for those who can have access to.
Health & Social service centers
These entities can participate in the community with help and support for people requesting them. From appointment scheduling to general information, they might be delivered through the platform to people and the community. Since most of these entities have access to computers and the internet, operators can use a web access to accomplish their tasks.
Groceries and Services Businesses
Many business owners can use the platform to promote their products and services, but they will surely help people in need, either with lower fares or for free. This is another way to be involved in a community to make business and support those who need help. The platform can be configured to rate the contributors and allow more promotion for those who helped more. Since most of these entities have access to computers and the internet, operators can use a web access to accomplish their tasks.
Mass transportation bus drivers
Same way, transportation drivers or operators might contribute to the community promoting their service, but offering low fares or even free passes, to those who can’t afford full cost or are in a difficult temporary situation.
Taxis or low-capacity transportation unit drivers
Using a tablet or an IoT device (provided by the platform), drivers could connect to passengers requesting trips, and confirm them. Automatic Trip Dispatch can bring more business. The Platform features a Trip Fare Negotiation process that allows drivers and passengers to agree on the trip fare, with a base value proposed by the platform (learned using Artificial Intelligence and considering the level of social disadvantage of the potential passenger). The driver is free to accept or reject the trip.
Shared-ride services can immensely contribute to the community as they might have vacant seats to help people in need of a ride that otherwise can’t afford. These drivers can check the current ride requests and confirm the acceptance. Using a tablet or an IoT device (provided by the platform), real-time information is provided to help the driver connect with passengers and opportunities, while increasing efficiency and lowering operating costs. Automatic Trip Dispatch can bring more business.
Shoppers and Delivery services
People who work as shoppers or doing delivery, can use the platform to engage with the community to both offer their services and help people who can’t afford the full fare. Since the platform allows efficiency in the route planning, a “free service” might not increment much operation costs, while it might represent a huge help for someone in a struggling situation. Again, these people can get recognition from the community and increase their business as a result of this participation. A smartphone apps will connect these services with the people and opportunities.
Cyclists and biker shoppers
This platform provides a way to connect cyclists and bikers to the community, looking for opportunities to help people (for free or at a very low-fees) with medication, food or even small grocery bags delivery for people in need. This way, these riders can do what they love while contributing to the community. A smartphone apps will connect these riders with the people and opportunities.
Any community member willing to help can have access to the platform to check requests from people in need, and respond with help or take actions for them (for example, do a grocery pick up or give them a ride for a health appointment). The platform allows rating these helpers to later be recognized or compensated in any way by the City.
People willing to part-time volunteer for the community could work as operators, mainly from home, using a computer, tablet or smartphone. The platform will route incoming calls to them to answer calls from the platform users. Also, platform can ask operators to call or text people to let them know information available for them (for those people using regular phones).
Responses to Areas of Opportunity
This proposal contributes to all areas of opportunity, in a different way;
Supporting health during the unexpected
The platform connects people ‘s needs with resources and services, allowing the fulfillment of requests such as transportation, grocery pickup or shop, childcare, food delivery or getting a ride, from the community. When a family member or main transportation is unavailable, a platform request will connect the need with a solution to overcome the difficulty. Multiple channels and languages might be used to access those services, integrating disabled or non-English speakers while keeping privacy.
Providing trusted healthy services
The platform allows non-English speakers and disabled people to hire transportation and health services safely and anonymously (to access taxis, buses and healthcare appointments), without ever giving up their personal information. Access is impersonal and operators use real-time translation to support people who can’t access the latest technology. Operators can enter requests for them to receive health or other services.
Delivering health to those who want it
Since the platform connects people with services and opportunities in real-time, a “home” delivery system can be dynamically adjusted according people mobility. Dynamic scheduling for delivery allows people to receive services anywhere, anytime. This doesn’t mean delivery companies can trace people as the platform only provides the minimum information required to accomplish the delivery, and only when needed.
Connecting neighborhoods to hubs
The platform may coordinate trips from people front door up to hubs (and vice versa), with community transport (or city sponsored transportation). It also encourages shared-ride drivers and operators to help people in need of a ride, whenever a vacant seat is available. The trip fare negotiation features allow people to get trips at lower costs that can afford.
Other - Think outside the box
Support for blind people;
There are several applications that support blind people, providing adequate information when needed, through auditory messages. The problem is that blind people cannot easily or comfortably interact with a smartphone touch screen. For that reason, we have designed an additional device that interacts with a mobile phone application, so that the blind can interact easily. These devices can take the form of a cane, or a handle and have several buttons to interact with the application interface. It also has a vibration element as a notification feature.
There are also autonomous devices that do not require a smartphone, suitable for use by those who do not have access to one. However, with the proliferation of these smart mobile phones, the cost and provision of them makes them increasingly accessible. The following are some of the benefits of this system '
- Know the current location (street, places).
- Get a list of nearby businesses.
- Know transportation options.
- Request a low capacity transport to start a trip.
- Route guidance to specific places, including bus stops.
What to expect from this solution?
This solution will create engagement and involvement in the community; increase communication and interaction among the community; bring more jobs as it creates opportunities to help people but also to do business with those who can afford. In addition, it will maximize efficiency in transportation systems as well. But, fundamentally, it will alleviate the distress and hopelessness of those who need the most.