SMS CHECK-IN

Conversational Design & Government Initiative

Hackathon / 24 hours / 1st Place Winner of North America

In a team of 5, we participated in a SAP intern Hackathon, titled “Hack to the Future”. We were asked to look at the world around us and come up with the next revolutionary idea. This is a SMS platform that pushes out messages to those living in an area possibly affected by a wildfire. The aim is to make the process of immediate evacuation as well as finding a home to stay, as simple as possible.

SMS Check-In pitch video used during our
hackathon submission.

ROLES

Team Lead
UX & Interaction Designer
User Researcher

I lead my team through design thinking methods to achieve a solid proposal supported by development technicalities, business strategies and user-centered goals.

TEAM

  • Ali Serag El-din
  • John Yoo
  • Himanshu Garg
  • Saman Moradi

TOOLS

  • Sketch
  • Flinto
  • Final Cut Pro
  • Whiteboards

PROCESS

PROBLEM

SMS News

News outbreak during this year's BC forest fire detailing housing difficulties.

Just before the hackathon began, a series of wildfires greatly impacted the northern towns and forests of my province. My news sources and social media platforms were flooded with content documenting residents evacuating and firefighters tirelessly working.

In 2017, Northern British Columbia had nearly 40,000 people displaced and forced to leave their homes by raging forest fires. In past years, Fort Mcmurray had 80,000 residents displaced along with 2400 buildings destroyed.

There aren't many events more traumatic in one’s life than losing a home, something that happens to scores of Canadians on a yearly basis. We saw a number of good hearted individuals wishing to offer up their homes to those affected, giving them mental relief and a safe environment from the trauma, however the offer to the victims rarely seems to come through, few know how to properly connect with those that need help the most.

Fire Evacuee Family

Family comforts one another after being overcome with emotion as they view the remains of their home that was destroyed by wildfire on the Ashcroft First Nation, near Ashcroft, B.C.

CURRENT EFFORTS

"Isn't it a tragedy? They say that there are about [40,000] people displaced right now, and they are ending up in gymnasiums and the high schools and things. People are offering homes to come to ... it just seems such a shame. I don't know the answer to it and I don't know why people are not giving the word."

With the ongoing number of residents willing to offer up housing, we saw the gap in evacuees receiving these offers. Most evacuees are instructed to find and arrive at evacuation centers set up around the province. There, families will go through a Red Cross check-in system. But many do not and end up sleeping in their cars with no documentation of their safety.

PROPOSED SOLUTION

Our team saw this opportunity to design a method of alert, communication and services for evacuees. Our goal is to help evacuees reduce complexity in finding an alternative to fire evacuation centers, and attain emotional relief and support through contact with good samaritans.

We also aim to support the good samaritans in reducing time and effort it takes to accommodate fire evacuees in need.

SMS Phones

We’ve created an SMS platform that pushes out a message to those living in an area affected by a wildfire. We’ve specifically chosen SMS as our medium as it is readily available to most people and users don't require a smartphone or mobile data to fill out a complicated form.

SMS doesn't jam up the phone lines and users don't have to wait to connect which is a common problem in these kinds of disasters. We aim to make the process of immediate evacuation as well as finding a home to stay, as simple as possible. A single SMS based platform for all our services such as accommodation, news updates and step by step directions.

EXPERIENCE

Our experience is divided into two streams of users: wildfire evacuees and volunteer homeowners. Focussing mostly on the wildfire evacuees, we have identified three stages in the experience: Alert, Check-In, Pairing.

SMS User Flow
SMS Experience

Here's me drafting out the user journey of the SMS process during the Hackathon.

PROTOTYPE

ALERT

SMS Alert

We start by informing residents of the emergency with details about the areas affected. Those that live in the area are informed of the evacuation order and where to go, based on clear directions generated through the Google Maps API, as well as advice on best practices concerning supplies. It then guides them through evacuation to safety.

CHECK-IN

SMS Check-In

Checking-in allows the system to collect information on safety of residents as well as set up for housing search. They are asked about the number of people that are in their party. Then registered with available government services for disaster relief. Afterwards the wild-fire victim is able to access different options relating to an update on the wildfire status, contact information and available accommodation including evacuation centers and individuals offering up their homes.

PAIRING

SMS Pairing

Based on the user's preference, they are paired to a place that can best satisfy their needs.

HOME OWNERS

SMS Home Owners

A similar process is used for Homeowners that wish to help those affected and offer up their home and actively be involved in their community’s well being. it keeps track of house occupancy and continuously updates as people are paired.

APPENDIX

SCALABILITY AND THE FUTURE

In the future we’d also like to implement machine learning to accurately predict behaviors of forest fires in our text updates and preemptively inform them of steps to take. Our SMS service can be utilized by the Government of British columbia as well as the Red Cross in efficiently helping rehouse and guide people affected by forest fires, and in the future, extend to aiding against all natural disasters.

Using blockchain, we could also insure security and validity of information being stored on this text-based system. As a preventive measure, it can track all transactions between people in case of emergency.

My team and I are currently working to transform this system into a templatable platform for other disaster needs in light of a numerous natural disasters hitting major metropolis cities. I am working working implementing a more refined conversational experience within the design.