Innovative Apps

Some UVic-made apps save lives, some save time—and others enhance our leisure hours. Here are just a few of the notable apps made on campus or by members of the UVic community.

APP: Central Coast Biodiversity

CREATORS: Brian Starzomski, UVic community ecologist and conservation biologist, UVic graduate student Chanda Brietzke, UVic alumna Kelly Fretwell (BSc ’13), with support from the Hakai Institute.

WHAT IS IT? The free app, Central Coast Biodiversity, has an inventory of more than 800 species, including plants, birds, seaweeds, marine invertebrates, mammals and reptiles.

WHY WE NEED IT: Instead of carrying around multiple field guides, you can use one app.

WHO WILL USE IT? Kids, adults, students, researchers, eco-tourists, citizen scientists and everyone in between.

“To me one of the great things about the app/website is that it covers a wide range of taxa—vascular and non-vascular plants, mammals, birds, seaweeds, fish, sea stars, crabs, etc.—so instead of carrying around multiple field guides all you need is your phone or tablet.”
- Kelly Fretwell


APP: DivDot

CREATOR: Matthew Smith (BSc in Computer Science, 2019), Nick Addison (BSc in Computer Science and Physics, 2019).

WHAT IS IT? DivDot creates payment solutions. Recently, the team launched a mobile credit-card processing app that allows trades and services to quickly request payment from their customers by text message or email. They are currently working toward a solution to eliminate the need to write cheques, particularly for large amounts of money that exceed e-transfer limits.

WHY WE NEED IT: Have you ever experienced the hassle of taking a cheque to the bank and waiting for it to clear, only for it to bounce? DivDot Direct Debits payments are online bank-to-bank transfers with no limit.

WHO WILL USE IT? Tradespeople.

“DivDot started as an idea to change the way people hire local services. I recruited some classmates of mine and began to build a company out of my living room. We graduated from the living room, attended a financial technology incubator in Charlotte, North Carolina, released a payment-processing application for local services, and are now on a mission to build innovative payment solutions. One solution that we are working on is to eliminate the need to write cheques.”
- Matthew Smith


APP: DragonPass

CREATOR: Jane Zhu (MBA ’05) and Cai Kehui.

WHAT IS IT? DragonPass is a platform for travellers to access different services at airports and railway stations, saving time for passengers and creating a more enjoyable travel experience.

WHY WE NEED IT: This company can tell you what services are available in each airport or railway station you visit. It eliminates the need to walk through each and every airport wing to find the service or amenity you need.

WHO WILL USE IT? Everyone who travels.

“DragonPass is a consumer platform offering extensive services at airports and high-speed railway stations, connecting the offline services scattered around the world and providing passengers with a premium travel experience. Through years of accumulation, our service network covers 500 airports and high-speed railway stations in over 130 countries worldwide, accessing the most scarce and unique resources in the travel industry. Through our innovative platform and mobile solutions, DragonPass serves over 28-million members worldwide and provides a suite of services including lounge access, airport restaurant programs, limousine and Meet & Greet services and so on.”
- Jane Zhu


APP: FreshWorks Studio

CREATORS: Samarth Mod (MBA ’15) and Rohit Boolchandani (MBA ’14).

WHAT IS IT? FreshWorks Studio is an award-winning firm that designs and develops elegant and highly functional mobile, web, blockchain and AI applications.

WHY WE NEED IT: Software isn’t a one-size-fits-all product anymore. Our goal is to create extraordinary experiences utilizing the latest technologies. Creating apps that are custom-built specifically for your needs and challenges will make your organization more successful.

WHO WILL USE IT? We work with anyone from Fortune 500 companies, enterprises, non-profits, entrepreneurs to the public sector.

“When Rohit and I came to Victoria, still reeling from culture shock and with no network yet, we thought we would just be going to work for some tech company after finishing our MBAs at UVic. We always had a desire to do something different and wanted to have a positive impact on the community and society. We saw an opportunity to bridge the gap between technology and business with our education and experience in programming. We initially started by developing our own apps but realized a significant opportunity in developing apps for other businesses whose core business wasn’t IT.”
- Samarth Mod


APP: Kokomo

CREATOR: Ashton Meuser, Computer Engineering student

WHAT IS IT? Kokomo allows you and your friends to collaboratively build a playlist. Each user is able to suggest a song, as well as to vote for songs in the queue. The song with the most votes gets bumped up and the one with least votes gets bumped off. The project received funds from the PlanIt program with the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Centre.

WHY WE NEED IT: This app is perfect for parties and social gatherings; it eliminates the problem of disagreeing on music.

WHO WILL USE IT? Music fans, party goers and people who like hosting.

“Personal experience inspired me to create Kokomo, a collaborative music playlist platform. When listening to music with friends, I realized that there was often discontent with the song selection and frequent swapping of the device controlling the music. After fruitlessly searching for a solution, I decided to build my own.”
- Ashton Meuser

APP: Medimap (began as a website but recently launched as an app).

CREATOR: Blake Adam (BCom ‘11)

WHAT IS IT? Medimap provides easy access to wait times at walk-in medical clinics in your community to help you find same-day access to care. You can then pick one and check in online.

WHY WE NEED IT: It reduces the inconvenience of long waits at a walk-in clinic. WHO WILL USE IT? Patients of walk-in clinics.

“My co-founder [Jonathan Clark] and I had experienced the frustrations of spending hours in the clinic waiting room with other sick people, and we couldn’t believe that there wasn’t an online resource where we could look up wait times at walk-in clinics in our community. It seemed like a really simple solution that could help a lot of people get access to care.” 
- Blake Adam


APP: Nal-Pal

CREATORS: Derek Jacoby (PhD ’16, MSc ’11); Madhav Malhotra (MSc ’19); Aldyn Chwelos, current BSc Computer Science student.

WHAT IS IT? An app that could save someone from an opiate overdose. By using geolocation and map features, it identifies and connects community members who own Naloxone kits with people who are currently overdosing. The drug user can then send an emergency text to the network and the nearest helper is notified and can hurry to their location. In 2018, the project was awarded $15,000 at the South Island Prosperity Project Open Innovation Challenge.

WHY WE NEED IT: It could save hundreds of lives, especially now with the dangers of fentanyl.

WHO WILL USE IT? People who want to help save lives in their community.

“A group of friends and I took a naloxone training course in 2017. After about a year, none of us in the class had used our training, but in reading the news it was obvious that the opiate overdose epidemic was worsening. We realized that there was an opportunity to use technology to solve a social problem in access to naloxone. We met with local shelters and aid groups and determined that cell phones were ubiquitous among the population of drug users that were having overdoses, and that there was no app to connect someone in need of a naloxone kit with those who had the kit and training.” 
- Derek Jacoby

APP: iDerm

CREATORS: Mohsen Akbari, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and his grad student, Bahram Mirani (MASc ’15).

WHAT IS IT? A smart bandage that connects to an app. A patient using GelDerm (patent pending bandage created by Harvard, University of New Brunswick and UVic researchers) will be able to scan the bandage’s embedded sensors with a smartphone app to gauge whether or not infection has set in. The information can be used for self-monitoring and can be relayed wirelessly to a patient’s health care team for follow-up.

WHY WE NEED IT: It has the potential for transformative advances in wound care and to detect the earliest signs of bacterial infection. GelDerm’s ability to administer antibiotics directly at the wound site rather than through a general course of medication also reduces problems of antibiotic overuse.

WHO WILL USE IT? Doctors and patients.

“The idea of GelDerm was first developed when I was talking to my grandmother about diabetes and how her ulcers could be so painful when infected. Even changing the bandage was sometimes painful since the bandage was stuck to her wound, and most of the time, she did not even need to change her dressing. I thought, what if I make a bandage that does not need to be changed before it is actually needed? Since I knew that infections at the wound site can dramatically change the pH of the wound, I came up with the idea of embedding colour-changing sensors in a bandage to detect infections at early stages without a need to go to a doctor and take a lengthy lab test.”
- Mohsen Akbari

APP: Let’s Face It 2.0

CREATOR: Jim Tanaka, UVic psychology professor, with help from UVic team José Barrios, Noel Feliciano (BSc ’12, MSc ’15), Jon Bowen (BSc ’15), Jasmine Yadeta, Elliot McSmythurs and Leandro Collares (MSc ’13).

WHAT IS IT? This app is a powerful educational tool for learning faces and recognizing emotions of the important people in the lives of children on the autism spectrum. The app for iPad allows children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to make an interactive album of faces and names. It also has unique science-based games that train facial recognition through interactive play.

WHY WE NEED IT: Provides a great tool to establish a better connection between children and their families. Teachers can also use it to learn the names of their students and students can use it as an effective tool for studying any subject that involves visual images.

WHO WILL USE IT? Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the people in their lives.

“Research has shown that children on the autism spectrum have difficulty recognizing faces and interpreting facial expressions. At the Centre for Autism Research, Technology and Education (CARTE), we were inspired to design the Let’s Face It! (LFI!) Scrapbook to help children on the spectrum with their face-processing skills. In the app, the child collects images and videos of the important people in their life (parents, siblings, friends, teachers) and uses them in the LFI! games. By ‘building new tools for different minds,’ CARTE hopes to enrich the everyday lives of children on the autism spectrum and their families.”
- Jim Tanaka



In this story

Keywords: technology, alumni

Publication: The Torch

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