New app gets you out of line and into stores

Everybody’s COVID-19 experience has been different, but there’s one thing that almost all of us have become accustomed to – waiting.

Every trip to the store has become an exercise in patience, one that begins before you even get to the entrance.  Waiting in line outside a store for your turn to get inside, spaced two metres away from the people in front of and behind you, has become the new normal.

But what if you didn’t have to stand in line, unprotected from the elements and vulnerable to contagion? What if you could wait in the comfort of your car? A Fredericton-based company is working on an app to revolutionize the way we wait, with the help of eight students from NBCC Fredericton Campus. 2metre is the brainchild of Tom Batty and Norm Couturier of tech start-up 3D Planeta, along with local entrepreneur Peter Corbyn, and NBCC learners are helping the company get it off the ground.

“We can reduce the time people spend near each other when they’re shopping or obtaining services,” explained Couturier, President and CEO of 3D Planeta. “When you reduce the number of contacts people have with other people, you mitigate the effects of the virus on the health care system.”

The 2metre app will allow retailers and service providers to alert customers via text message when it’s their turn to enter the building. Retailers can reduce security costs, and customers can physical distance while being protected from COVID-19 and harsh weather like New Brunswick has experienced this spring. Its practicality can extend beyond the current pandemic in allowing people to organize their shopping and errands for maximum efficiency.

Five students in NBCC’s Information Technology programs were slated to complete work practicums at 3-D Planeta, but their placements were cancelled due to COVID-19. That didn’t stop them, though; they stepped up and volunteered to work on the project anyway, and three more of their classmates joined them.

“I’m excited for my students and beyond proud,” said instructor Karen Campbell. “They’re facing the same challenges as everyone else right now, and they’re stepping up to be part of developing this app that is important and timely and quite amazing.”

Students working on the app are Travis Votour, Mackenzie Storey, Aude Doussot, Josh Kleine-Deters, Oksana Hlyvka, Kiran Varma, Chien Nguyen, and Marina Libin. For them, working on the 2metre app is an opportunity to gain real world working experience while helping the community.

“I wanted to get involved with this project for many reasons,” said Votour. “At the core I felt a personal responsibility to contribute what I can to the current health crisis.

“Beyond technical skills, this opportunity has helped me understand how carefully curated the programs at NBCC are to prepare you for the workforce,” he added.

Storey agreed. “It’s interesting to see just how much our program sets us up for success because everything we’ve learned in the course so far has been applicable and helpful in numerous ways.”

Doussot is working with the customer experience team for 2metre. She’s enjoyed working with a progressive company with a social conscience.

“It was a great opportunity to work with amazing people whose job it is to make Canadian lives easier in such an unprecedented time,” she noted. “Working on this project has not only allowed me to have a peek into this industry, but also be a part of something that will help a lot of people.”

An international student, Varma wanted to do something to help the country that has welcomed him so warmly. “I learned so much coming to Canada and it’s time to serve the community, using this opportunity from 3D Planeta,” he said.

“This is a proactive project that responds to the needs of the country, and provides solutions that address real challenges for our country during the pandemic by using technology and innovation to keep people safe in public,” Nguyen agreed.

Tom Batty, Chief Operating Officer at 3D Planeta, said the company has been impressed with the work of the students thus far and looks forward to a continued partnership with NBCC.

“We’re really pleased that NBCC sees value in what we’re trying to do.”

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