ODID DPhil and team launch new social distancing app

24 April, 2020

A new app developed by ODID DPhil student Alex Barnes and colleagues to help with social distancing has now launched and is available to download for iPhone and Android.

Crowdless (previously Keep Your Distance) provides real-time data on how busy essential places such as supermarkets and pharmacies are so that people can choose the best place and time to visit. The free app uses Google Maps and Google Places data alongside crowd-sourced information from users, who can report how busy the venues they visit are. 

Crowdless was developed by social enterprise Lanterne in just four weeks. Lanterne, co-founded by Alex with Sebastian Mueller and Yohan Iddawela, was originally set up to create an app to help people navigate safely in conflict areas.

‘Our plans to roll out our core product were heavily disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak’, Alex said. 'We were keen to see what we could do to help in the current circumstances, and our Chief Technology Officer Sebastian came up with Crowdless. We think it will be extremely useful for people who need to travel to shops and grocery stores, but are trying to do social distancing effectively to protect themselves and the wider population.’

The team worked with Adapt, a UK-based social enterprise that specialises in data security, data privacy and data ethics to ensure user privacy. The app does not collect any personal identifiable data and a person’s current location is used only to display the most relevant search results.

Lanterne has received funding and support from the European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre United Kingdom, the European Union’s Big Data Corridor, Oxford Foundry, London School of Economics Generate, Santander Universities and Yoti.