Hacking a travel-app

About a year ago I did the geekiest thing I've ever done - I attended a hackathon. Unless you’re used to sitting in a dark room in front of your computer 24/7 programming code you're probably wondering what a hackathon is. It is, as the name suggests, a bit like a mix of hacking and a marathon. Teams of programmers compete for 24 hours to create some kind of usable software. The goal of this particular hackathon was to improve public transportation with an app, and my idea was to make it accessible.

So, I signed up a team, which among others included my girlfriend, Mican, and her mum Anna. As it turned out, these two did not quite fit in among the hackers in the competition. When the other participants each had pricey feather-light super Macbooks, mother and daughter shared an old PC that Anna had bought because she liked the butterflies on the lid. In other words, their strength was not programming. However, they are experts on Autism, ADHD, Asperger's Syndrome and other cognitive impairments. This expertise was of course also the reason of their participation.

Our idea was to create an app that would make it easier to travel by public transportation for people with cognitive disabilities. A lot of persons in this group have difficulties using public transportation; it is difficult to be punctual if you have problems with the notion of time. And it is hard to think several steps ahead if crowds and noises make you stressed.

Interface of the travel-app in action

A map of a travel route

The app 

The app supports from start to finish. Among other features, the user can:

  • Plan trips for himself, or for someone else (for example, a child)
  • Set reminders before traveling
  • Create checklists on what to bring
  • Receive alerts on cancelations and delays
  • See the following stops and stations while traveling

Mican and Anna focused on the ideas while the rest of us programmed. In order for the app to work well for the target audience it had to be clean, straightforward and have clear instructions. It was proven a winning formula. We were crowned the nerds of the nerds and won the hackathon! The Swedish Queen handed over the price and Swedens most well known footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic cried with joy from the first row. True happiness!

No, that last part about the Queen and Zlatan is not true. But we did win and it felt amazing. The best part was that our team received support to apply for grants in order to create the app for real. The app will be released this summer. HiQ, a Swedish IT-company, has a team of programmers, designers and project managers that are right now building the app for both Android and iPhone.

For me the hackathon also resulted in a job at Funka. Now I work everyday with accessibility and design that works for all, which feels great.

The images shows what the app will look like. 

Hampus Sethfors