We’re introducing to you Radostin Cholakov and Hristo Hubenov, from the HackAUBG winning team “InnovaOne”. Their project “GeoShare” impressed the jury with it’s innovation, idea and great potential. Rado is involved in the development part of the project and the application and Hristo is part of the business processes – development of the presentation and business model.
How do you feel about winning HackAUBG?
Hristo Hubenov: I think that it was an amazing experience. We had this small amount of time but at the same time we managed to construct something great. The last time I was in a hackathon was 2 months ago, but actually this time I was much more determined.
Radostin Cholakov: We proved that our team can really work together and build interesting things.
What are your roles in the team?
Radostin: I am a ninth grader in Plovdiv and I was mainly involved in the development of the app and programming and Hristo was more involved in the presentation and business model.
Hristo: I am a student in Harmanli and together with Emanuil Manolov, we build the business model. He is a teacher in Harmanli. Darko Tachev is another member of the club who helped us with the presentation. It was really a combination of different types of fields and people.
And how do you know each other and how did you form the team?
Radostin: We got together before the hackathon. The others were working on a project about air and water control quality. So they called me to help them with my Machine Learning and Software Engineering skills. So, that’s how we met. When we heard about HackAUBG, we decided to take part.
Can you tell us about your winning project GeoShare?
Hristo: It’s crowd dynamics and city management system. The city management and authorities don’t have real time in depth information regarding the distributions of the people in the city. People do not know where the persons are distributed and so they can not make their optimal decisions when leaving their homes. At the same time the authorities don’t know where the biggest population is located, so they also don’t know how to act when a problem occurs or make a prediction. So, in the time of the hackathon, we managed to make a website and an app.
Radostin: We actually build a system, which collects in real time information of many people through their mobile devices. So we know where they are located, but it’s all anonymous. It’s really focused on privacy. Then, with the collected data we aggregate some algorithms and ML models, to generate analysis. For example – which street has unusual traffic, which park is not very crowded. We build a data-driven product. We have an idea to build a machine learning model on historical data, that can predict in the future how traffic will go. This can help with more precise management of the city.
Where did the idea come from?
Radostin: When the hackathon theme was announced – smart cities, we started thinking of what are the biggest problems of a smart city. We were thinking of traffic, pollution management, COVID management and so on. We had that idea that with the location data and the distribution of people in the city, we can solve multiple problems at the same time.
You knew the theme on the opening night of the hackathon? So on Friday night you hear “smart cities”, then you brainstorm and after that you have two days to create all of this?
Radostin: Yeah, it was a really crazy experience. On the opening night we stayed up until 3AM to discuss the idea.
What challenges did you have within the hackathon? Because you have a complex idea and only two days to execute.
Radostin: It was hard, yeah. I had to build the mobile app and the web dashboard for GeoShare. The first day I was working mainly on the mobile app, which is tracking users locations and saving it to the database. At some point I realised that it’s crashing after some background usage. My idea was to build an app, running in the background on your phone, so you can use it normally. It just records your location without you doing anything. I thought that it was finished and two hours later I realised it’s not working. I was terrified that I didn’t have enough time to fix it. But that night I stayed till 3AM to fix the app. That was the biggest issue that I personally had.
Hristo: Basically when we were thinking about how to create a sustainable business plan in that short amount of time, we wanted it all to be explained and everything to be clear, so that it could be easily comprehensible by the other members. I wanted to create something that I’ve never done before, from the design of the presentation. There were no templates. So I started thinking about the design and how to combine colours and stuff like that, how to make the script clear and etc. I also created a logo and we brainstormed about the name. There were many things that were small, but not clear from the beginning. After all, I think we managed to do it all.
Well, you are the winners, so i guess you managed to do well. Do you think that HackAUBG is harder than other hackathons?
Radostin: Well it definitely is more interesting than others. The difficulty depends on how energetic you are and how dedicated you are about winning. Hackathons are always stressful because of the limited time, but HackAUBG was one of the most interesting events that I’ve been to.
Who is the product intended for?
Radostin: We’re targeting both ordinary people and institutions. The app can be used by the average consumer. People benefit by using the app and it can be used by the city officials in order to manage the city.
As I know, you are using location data. What about the security issues and privacy?
Radostin: At first, when you think about it – knowing everyone’s location sounds terrifying. At the same time we took privacy really seriously and we’re actually collecting GPS and other data anonymously. We’re not tracking the users identity, so we know where you are, but we don’t know who you are. One of the main points that we build in GeoShare is actually to have encrypted connections and all these things which are important for privacy. So at first it sounds scary, but we’re specifically solving the most important problems about privacy.
People will have to download the app and install it on their phones. In that matter, how do you plan to convince them to do it? To get them to know that it’s OK, it’s safe.
Radostin: Most of the users are already using social networks, Google Maps and other stuff which are tracking them nonetheless. So in a way we’re providing a more secure and private product than the already existing ones. In the same time we plan to have social features like Google Maps, in order to be helpful to the average person. GeoShare is going to be useful for both ordinary people and city officials – people can see which streets are busy, where is it crowded and etc.
Are there other projects from the hackathon that were interesting to you?
Hristo: I think that everybody from the hackathon had great ideas for the short amount of time. They managed to show how determined everyone was. There was an idea about a social media platform, similar to LinkedIn, where people from the Computer Science department can find jobs. Also, you can create events on the platform and etc. It can be a really big – social platform for computer scientists. Another interesting project was one for the air quality monitoring system. It’s pretty interesting to see their solution. And there was one other project, about parking slot sensors, that can navigate the cars more efficiently.
What do you think about the bulgarian startup ecosystem? Do you think we have good enough ground for development of something big that can make huge international progress?
Hristo: There are really bright minded people in Bulgaria that can create great social contributions and ideas, impacting the world, not only Bulgaria. We can see that Radostin is such an example. He is a ninth grader and he’s already making amazing projects like АзБуки.ML. And recently with BESCO’s contribution, the startup visa, I think that more people will be able to come to Bulgaria and create new things. I believe that Bulgaria has great ground for development.
And what is the future of GeoShare? Do you plan to continue working on it and what are your next steps?
Radostin: We will release the app in the app store in order for the users to download it. I will also work a little bit more to polish it up and finish it. We also plan some security features and even a blockchain one, which will make sure that the system is decentralized and won’t be controlled by evil people.
And what can we expect from the business part?
Hristo: We’re going to try to implement the project in the market and clarify how we’re going to price it and how we’re going to sell the data, because that’s what’s important for the city management authorities and I think that there’s a lot to be done from the business point of view. We’re going to target more and more people and create a better market evaluation. Over time, when the project grows, the business plan will become more complex, developed and we’re very determined. We will also be looking for sponsors and investors. It’s only a matter of time for everything to get better.