‘Camouflaged’ app wins “hackathon” to help victims of domestic abuse

‘Camouflaged’ app wins competition to help victims of domestic abuse.  It’s the problem-solving computer coding equivalent of the 100m sprint – otherwise known as a ‘hackathon’ – and the University of Bradford has just come first in one such competition judged by industry leaders including UKBlackTech Ltd, Microsoft and PwC.

The UKBlackTech AI for Good Hackathon saw coders from different universities and industry compete to write an app centred around improving mental health and social care of people at risk. The app designed by Bradford students was described as ‘innovative’ and could even be taken to market.

The winning team included three University of Bradford students: Smriti Kotiyal and Muhammad Usman (both Msc Big Data Science and Technology students) and Svetlana Bormotova (BSc Computer Science exchange student from ITMO University, Russia) – and two more students from London South Bank University.

They spent three days (June 10-12) competing against 55 others and won by creating an innovative software application designed to help victims of domestic abuse during Covid-19.

The app in question – Auxilium – is aimed at victims of domestic abuse – cases of which have risen during lockdown – and ‘camouflages’ itself to prevent an abuser from knowing it is there, while at the same tracking behaviour and linking to the authorities.

Smriti, 25, originally from India, said: “It was amazing. When we learned we had come first, it was overwhelming. The initial idea came from Svetlana but we all had a rigorous discussion about it and then there was no going back. It was such a rewarding experience both technically and personally. ”

Daniel Neagu, Professor of Computing in the Faculty of Engineering & Informatics, said: “Teams had three days to train, formulate their solution and create the prototype, using a combination of AI, big data analytics and mobile technologies. The winning app used all three to support the user in an informed and secured way. Judges were really impressed with the application and were praiseworthy of the University of Bradford participants and engagement in general. The students did a tremendous job and we’re very proud of them all.”

Mark Martin MBE, founder of UKBlackTech, which ran the competition, said: “This was an innovation event with the goal of coming up with tangible solutions to real problems. It takes people out of their normal comfort zones and one of the reasons we pulled this together was because of the C19 pandemic.”

“Six of your students joined the hack and one one of your teams won. Their app was very topical. The judges couldn’t believe those young people came up with something so innovative – it could be taken to market if there’s an appetite for it.

“The fact they won shows your university students are not just sitting on their hands. The power of your students is they come with diverse experiences and they are able to speak to that through innovation. The point is that sometimes that’s not seen. If you’re building tools and products, they need to reflect the community. Imagine what we’re missing if people like this are not included – that’s what UKBlackTech is all about.”

Mr Martin, who founded UKBlackTech three years ago “with a mission to create the most diverse tech sector in the world” said more hackathons would be announced in the near future.

Pro-Vice Chancellor Zahir Irani, (Academic, Innovation and Quality) added: “I am delighted that our Computer Science students have developed such an innovative idea to support vulnerable people. Their idea demonstrates the societal value and contribution that AI can have on shaping future society, something that is so important to us here at the University of Bradford.”

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