LSE students and alumni develop app to help with social distancing.

An LSE PhD candidate and two LSE alum have developed a free app designed to help people observe social distancing, during the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Economic Geography PhD candidate Yohan Iddawela and LSE alumni Alex Barnes and Sebastian Mueller have developed the ‘Keep Your Distance’ app to help people make informed decisions about visiting essential locations such as supermarkets and pharmacies.

Using AI technology, data from Google Maps and Places and crowdsourced information, Keep Your Distance, provides users with real-time updates on the busyness of certain locations. This information can then help people decide the best times to visit key places. If a certain location is busy, the app also shows users less crowded alternatives close by.

The prototype of the soon-to-be launched app was developed in just three days by the group, who run UK start-up company Lanterne. They are also helped by their lead Data Scientist, Wian Stipp, who is currently a second year BSc Mathematics and Economics student and President of LSE’s Machine Learning Society. The group met through friends and societies at LSE.

The Lanterne team were previously working on an app to help people navigate safely in conflict areas. With the outbreak of COVID-19, Lanterne’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Sebastian, suggested the team use their expertise to develop Keep Your Distance, to help people protect themselves and the wider population.

Commenting, co-founder of Lanterne and LSE PhD candidate Yohan Iddawela said: “The mission of our social enterprise, Lanterne, is to use data to improve safety and promote economic development. As a result, we wanted to see what we could do with our skillset to help people out at such a trying time. Sebastian came up with the idea of building a free platform to help people with social distancing.

Keep Your Distance provides live data on the crowdedness of places so that you can choose the best place and the best time to visit while maintaining social distance. We provide data on supermarkets, pharmacies, parks, doctors and pet stores. Our hope is that this can help people observe social distancing more effectively, stay safe, and play a part in slowing down the infection rate of COVID-19. We’re also committed to ensuring that this remains 100% free for everyone to use.”

The team is working closely with social enterprise Adapt, which specialises in data security, privacy and ethics to ensure the privacy of Keep your Distance users is observed.

They are looking for users to test Keep Your Distance. If you are interested in trying it out please sign up on their website.

The above article first published on lse.ac.uk in Apr, 2020.