This Philly-Made App Will Reward You for Social Distancing
Would a free cup of coffee or a discount at your favorite clothing store encourage you to keep your distance? The entrepreneur behind this new health platform is betting it might.
If the photos and videos of tightly packed tourist destinations, beaches, or city blocks are any indication, social distancing is not the most popular practice. Some people have rebelled against it by protesting while others have just grown fatigued and bored, heading outdoors to explore — unmasked — getting as close to others as they please.
But what if social distancing came with rewards like, say, a free cup of coffee at your local café or a ten percent discount at your favorite clothing store? Philly entrepreneur Shannon Morales believes rewards like these might encourage better adherence to social distancing rules.
“I realized that there was a lot of information out there, but I didn’t really feel like I was getting the information I needed to be safe in terms of being a single mom and knowing what stores to visit to get what I needed while also staying away from crowds,” Morales explained.
“I thought it’d be good to have something that would allow me to see where the nearest essential stores are, how crowded they are at certain times, and how close I am to a high-risk area in my city. Those, to me, were some of the most important things that I needed to know and none of the apps out there at that time had that information.”
In early April, Morales began working with a team of Drexel University students who’d been displaced from their internships due to the pandemic. Together, they developed Stealth.ify, a web-based public health app that displays highly dense areas in real-time and rewards users for staying away from those areas by informing them of sweet deals from businesses near their location. The app uses geospatial technology and predictive analytics to show levels of risk for contracting COVID-19 based on someone’s location.
Morales says more than 100 users have signed up to use the app in its current private beta testing mode and her team is accepting additional beta testers on a case-by-case basis. She estimates the app will be ready to launch sometime this summer.
When it’s ready, Stealth.ify certainly won’t be the only COVID-19 app out there. Tech companies around the world are employing software tools from tech giants like Apple and Google to develop apps that can track and/or contact trace cases of the virus.
But Morales, who recently graduated from the Philly Startup Leaders’ Founded in Philly Idea-Stage Accelerator, believes Stealth.ify will stand out from the rest because its interactive map features combine COVID-19 case tracking, and locations for essential stores and testing sites while also providing rewards.
“Although our app includes tracking, we’re really trying to focus on serving communities to make an impact. For us, that really comes down to, not just connecting people to the right information and letting them know how far they are from those highly impacted areas, but also connecting them to local businesses to help support the local economy and get communities back in decent shape,” she said. “We’re trying to do our part by connecting all these pieces together. Even if it’s a small part, it’s still something.”
Morales also boasts potential future uses for the Stealth.ify app including a B2B solution that would provide internal heat maps to help businesses maintain social distancing within their buildings by showing them how many people are in their buildings at any given time. As social distancing will likely be required in some capacity for the foreseeable future, features like this may ensure Morales’ app remains relevant for years to come despite the recent easing of social distancing restrictions and stay-at-home orders.
Philly Startup Leaders executive director Kiera Smalls agrees.
“Although some states will ease up on social distancing requirements, there is still a public health concern around the potential spreading of the virus,” Smalls said. “This concern is our new normal, and this app will help us all adjust accordingly.”