Creating an app to combat the spread of Covid-19

Creating an app to combat the spread of Covid-19

May 28, 2024

How can a busy city’s residents travel safely during a pandemic?

That was the unexpected and critical dilemma we faced. The project started with the aim of improving Barcelona’s public transport app, but then it collided with a global pandemic. With the city in lockdown, the initial task – to add an alternative route-prediction feature to the app – flipped to a far more urgent challenge. That of keeping the city safe. Our teams adapted fast, creating an app with a new vital function – combating the spread of Covid-19.

We tracked data related to crowds at bus or metro stops throughout the day

Flipping the switch

At the start of 2020, Barcelona’s public transport company, Transportes Metropolitanos de Barcelona – TMB – came to us with their existing app. It worked fine when everything was running smoothly, but it couldn’t re-route users when traffic, roadworks or protests disrupted travel. Our Data & AI team offered several solutions using a range of techniques, including data gathering, processing, storage and visualization technologies. But the outbreak of Covid-19 not so much moved the goal posts as threw them off the pitch.

With most commuters confined to their homes, we had hardly any data to collect and measure, or anything to predict. So Sngular and TMB decided to pivot the project to focus on the new, urgent concerns over social distancing.

Using big data to measure social distancing

It was now vital to know how many people were in public spaces at any one time. So we tracked data related to crowds at bus or metro stops throughout the day. Then we designed a data model that enabled TMB to process and manage the data in near real-time, ensuring rapid implementation, robustness and scalability while keeping maintenance costs low.

We also created a user-friendly dashboard to display critical data gathered from sensors at bus stops and metro cars. The data was conveyed in easy-to-interpret visualizations – for example, passenger density was displayed on a map. This empowered TMB to react to up-to-date information at lightning speed. The project architecture was also future-proof – enabling considerable data storage for future analyses, as well as the potential to include data from other operators.

How we helped TMB gain Barcelona locals’ trust

When Covid-19 threw us the world’s biggest curveball, we responded with agility and adaptability. Sngular’s quick reaction gave TMB an incredible adaptive advantage, resulting in a solution that far surpassed the project’s initial scope. We created an app that not only tackled the spread of Covid-19 but regained Barcelona residents’ trust in public transport and TMB.


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