Campus and Community

Social Meter: the app that helps us to maintain social distancing

The app was launched a few days ago and will help fight this pandemic.

In order to prevent COVID-19, we should stay 1.5 to 2 metres away from each other – this rule was defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) and adopted by the General Health Directorate (DGS) in Portugal. It is not always easy to understand when we are passing this security line, especially when there are no signs to help us. Two Técnico students – Francisco Trindade de Melo and Inês Moreira – created the Social Meter app that will help us to maintain social distancing.

“The idea of creating Social Meter came up right at the beginning of the pandemic, given the difficulty and usefulness of measuring social distancing, in a quickly and and accurate way”, says Francisco Trindade de Melo. “We took advantage of my experience in Artificial Intelligence and Inês expertise in web apps and we created Social Meter”, he adds. Filipe Simões (web designer) and Martim Calado (copywriter) joined the team shortly afterwards.

In a simple and intuitive way and through artificial intelligence systems, Social Meter allows you to assess safety distances through the mobile phone camera. “The first phase involves the detection and location of the person / object. Then, using smartphone sensors, and knowing the user’s height, the inclination of the smartphone and the location of the object in the image, we are able to estimate the desired distance, using trivial trigonometry”, explains Francisco Trindade de Melo. Social Meter does not collect any personal data or record images or videos, thus guaranteeing user privacy and all people around.

The app was launched for testing on August 27. The Técnico students are confident about the future: “we are expecting an increasing number Social Meter users in the coming weeks due to the beginning of the new academic year”, stresses Inês Moreira. “This app will allow students to maintain social distancing and to return to classes feeling confident and safe”, she adds. In fact, there is no doubt that, at a time when it is expected that the pandemic situation in Portugal is going to get worse, Social Meter will be a strong ally against COVID-19.

At the moment, the app is only available for Android operating system, but according to the team members “the development of an iOS version is planned”. “We will use the experience acquired in the meantime to assess other opportunities”, says Francisco Trindade de Melo. The app is available in Portuguese and English but it is expected to be available in other languages.

“The main purpose of this app was to provide another protection against the new coronavirus“, says Inês Moreira. Although there are other apps to help combat Covid-19, “Social Meter focuses on social distancing whose measurement method is instantaneous and very close to reality, as long as the instructions are followed”, stresses Inês Moreira.

Bearing in mind that we might face a second wave of COVID-19, and that schools and universities are about to reopen, Inês Moreira highlights the importance of “measuring the distances between people and between people and objects. Social Meter is useful to measure the distance between two people, in the various spaces of the school, in a waiting line, between a person and a table, in a restaurant, or at the beach, among so many other things”.

The team calls on all students to use of the app, namely those who are now returning to schools and universities. “Don’t make it easy, please take care of yourself, your parents and grandparents. If we all play our part, we will beat the new coronavirus”, says Inês Moreira.