Creating connections with the HatsOff mobile app

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HatsOff app connectionsThis is the third part in a series about a group of competitors in the Connect to Cognitive Build contest. Read the first part to find out how the team developed the idea for the HatsOff app and the second part about design.

Our app that rewards kindness, #Hatsoff, is on the verge of becoming something big.

As the team continued to work on the prototype, we needed a Bluemix development organization setup with sufficient runtimes and resources, as well as a code repository for the app and API prototype.

For the showcase mobile application, we debated developing a purely native iOS app or a hybrid app using IBM MobileFirst platform. We went for the hybrid option, which enabled us to implement the application on different platforms, so we can reach users who use different operating systems, and the capabilities that MobileFirst provides.

We then started to develop the user interface screens using ionic framework. I did the initial work, then handed it off to our colleague Sai. He made it come to life by adding the new logo and color scheme, then implementing the Agent screens.

For the backend architecture, we had to determine which NoSQL database to choose to store our data from the many that could handle geo-spatial queries. It was an easy choice to use Cloudant DB. We also used API Connect and its Loopback technology to model and implement our back-end services and APIs.

We created APIs to mine the data we collected to find characteristics. We had to determine which cognitive services were best suited for user interaction with HatsOff, which server runtime framework to use for our APIs exposed through API Connect, and how to best use a serverless or function-based programming environment such as OpenWhisk. We used some Watson APIs such as Speech to Text, Text to Speech, Alchemy Language and Watson Virtual Agent. There might also be uses for other services, such as Personality Insights, which analyzes customer conversations and provides personalized services.

OpenWhisk triggers actions for events such as a user reaching a HatsOff point threshold. This action could be a notification to an agent, or it could be more complex and kick off a workflow to re-evaluate the user’s premium.

Choosing to use blockchain

Kicking off a workflow in the enterprise from Bluemix is possible with the use of the Secure Gateway or Business Operations Connect. The idea can go a bit further by connecting businesses to their customers through blockchain networks with the use of smart contract.

We explored use cases for how blockchain could fit in with our solution as it applied to the automobile insurance industry. Our idea had to do with insurance policies represented as smart contracts, with rules that adjust premiums. These premiums could be triggered by HatsOff calling a non-validating member node in the network. It was a viable and appealing fit for blockchain. We experimented with a smorgasbord of new technologies. From there Neil Delima and Ron Lynn stepped in to wire the user interface to the backend services.

We’re not only developing an application to show random acts of kindness, but also providing a set of APIs that any company can use for integration. An insurance company interested in peer feedback for decision making can subscribe to and integrate these APIs with their existing apps. Their apps would call the HatsOff user registration APIs with existing user data, such as a car’s make, model, license plate number, and so on. The API offering consists of a bundle of existing services which include API Connect, OpenWhisk and cognitive services such as Text to Speech and Alchemy Language. Providers could use these services as part of the HatsOff bundle or as a standalone with their existing solutions.

An example would be a web application that uses Speech to Text. There are other options, such as bundling APIs with Watson Internet of Things (IoT) driver behavior. Integration with social media sites enables augmenting a user’s profile information and posting a HatsOff to someone’s Facebook page.

All these things — innovative application of technology, a team of volunteer contributors, never losing sight of the business perspective, grounding our efforts around the business case — are why we were successful. It’s so much more than a kindly driver allowing me to make a left turn in rush-hour traffic.

What can we do with this data? Who benefits, and even more importantly, where is the value for businesses? Our big moonshot is to create multimillion-dollar value for IBM with API Connect, Watson and the whole world of IoT.

The #HatsOff app’s core team and several incredible volunteers are fast at work putting together a working prototype in which all the details come together. We are asking the right questions, open to learn, and focused on the customer that will take our app to the next level.

Learn more about how IBM is helping clients take advantage of the digital economy.

HatsOff team members Ron Lynn, Padma Chukka and Neil Delima contributed to this story.

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