Digital Insights News

PPE Hive: Agile response to a crisis

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User interface of PPE Hive app

PPE Hive

While Britain has been working from home during the lockdown, it’s been hard not to miss news of the extensive lack of medical supplies, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), which is much needed by healthcare workers across the UK. Like so many others with a desire to help in whatever way they can, team Calvium have drawn upon their individual and collective skills to contribute to the cause. Some of the Calvium team have responded by making scrub caps and 3D printing masks. We were also delighted to be able to respond to a call out for  “someone to help build an app that connects local face shield makers (3D printed) with demand in specific places”. Given Calvium’s ability for rapid, agile logistic tracking system development we agreed to partner with Automated Architecture (AUAR)

3D printing PPE from hone
One of the Calvium team’s at-home setup for 3D printing face shields

To create a minimum viable product as quickly as possible. From the first phone call to Beta release we have created the PPE Hive platform in three weeks.

PPE Hive is a platform for connection and exchange; connecting those who need PPE with people who can make it, with people who have the necessary materials to make it, and those who can transport it. In its current functionality, the platform allows users to request PPE and offer PPE or transport for it, and can check what the community is currently providing or in need of. Ultimately, the platform simplifies exchange and accelerates connections that are already taking place via email, phone calls, social media etc.

As the project has progressed at such a fast pace, and development has now reached a beta release pro-bono, it is important to take time to reflect upon the work that has been completed thus far, and to look ahead at what lies in store for the future of PPE Hive. 

Working quickly to meet the need

There has been a global shortage of PPE that is greatly needed by healthcare workers to protect themselves from the virus. Grassroot efforts from individuals making and donating, through to manufacturers changing their production to make equipment on a large scale are some of the initiatives that have come to light in response to calls and requests for donations of vital PPE. 

The PPE Hive project has been led by AUAR, and the idea behind it was built upon the experience of one of their collaborators, Nagami Design. Responding to the shortage of protective equipment in hospitals, the Spain based company rapidly converted their usual manufacturing of 3D printed furniture to producing 3D printed face shields to be donated to nearby hospitals. They have now put all furniture production on hold and are focusing exclusively on the production of robotic 3D printed face shields, printing up to 500 masks a day and working with the local community to continue to distribute them.

The need for PPE and other equipment is so great that the production and distribution needs to be a quick process, and the networks that have been created from the need for PPE require an application that speeds the time it takes for connection and exchange between supplies, distributors and those in need. 

When AUAR initially brought the idea of creating a platform that streamlines this process of connection and exchange to Calvium, it was clear from the outset that the nature of the project would require quick development to meet the vast needs for PPE. Yet, in just three weeks, the system architecture & front end design and back end development was put together, all while the team was working from home. The project has also faced another challenge in terms of fast moving circumstances, as many other initiatives were popping up globally, meaning that adaptability was key in terms of knowing where our efforts would be most effective. 

Source: unsplash.com

Collaborating during a lockdown 

AUAR and Calvium partnered on the PPE Hive project close to the beginning of the UK lockdown, working together (in a virtual setting) to rapidly develop a platform that would enable the safe production and delivery of PPE. Despite the challenge of collaborating while the whole team has been adjusting to working from home and communicating 100% digitally, both organisations have succeeded in producing a functioning app that is robust enough for user testing.

Collaboration runs through the platform itself and it aims to bring communities/networks together in the bid to safely and efficiently produce and distribute PPE.  PPE Hive enables makers and distributors of PPE to know where it is needed most, what is needed, and in turn those who are requesting PPE can be confident knowing that the process of connecting with a distributor will be more timely and safe.

Conclusion

At the time of writing, PPE Hive has been developed for a beta release pro-bono with trusted users in the Bristol area, taking on real requests for PPE from real users.

Originally self-funded, the system design has been built as an adaptive architecture so that post Covid-19 crisis it can be used to support other public needs. The project has been led by AUAR, who have set up this GoFundMe page to support the early trial.

We are excited to understand how the platform can help immediately and also how it might be funded to scale up to a UK wide release.