Madeira Safe App – interview with Pedro Teixeira

Pedro Teixeira is leading the engineering team for the development of the Madeira Safe app.

He has a degree in Software Engineering from IST and has specialized in distributed systems and networking protocols. Pedro is the author and contributor of some famous open-source projects and packages and has also been the writer of 10 books around the subject of Node.js and systems architecture.

How did you become involved in the Madeira Safe App?

At the end of April this year, I was invited to lead the engineering team for the development of the AppCovidMadeira application, a project funded by FCT under the RESEARCH4COVID fund and led by IASaúde. I gladly accepted the invitation, hoping to be able to do something to help during the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, together with the researchers in this project, the engineering team started the specification and development of an application to help monitor and guide COVID patients during their isolation.

What is the engineering team’s purpose?

The engineering team is responsible for the development and maintenance of the Traveler Support System developed for the Regional Government of Madeira and IASaúde for the operationalization of the sanitary barrier in the region’s airport, as well as, monitoring travelers during their stay in Madeira, not only during the probation period but also after it. This team is also responsible for the development of the Madeira Safe to Discover App for the Madeira Promotion Bureau.

A few days after the start of this project, we were presented with a new challenge. The local government had decided that, in replacement for the mandatory 14 days of isolation, to mandate that incoming travelers take the COVID test before being able to enter the archipelago. Since the local government had no information system capable of serving the travelers and the health authorities, I was asked to lead the development team in this urgent effort to create this infrastructure.

Meanwhile, I was also in touch with the research team of the Maré project. This project, led by professor Nuno Nunes and also funded by FCT, consists of the design and implementation of a mobile application that facilitates the day-to-day planning for citizens during this pandemic. Based on a distributed system of sensors, this application allows a worried citizen or traveler to consult the influx of people to certain public places, as well as, based on anonymous information, calculate an estimate of the risk of their own exposure, thus helping to modulate their behavior.

The two projects are in some way related to each other. How was this managed?

The Madeira Regional Government decided to join the development of the two projects so that they could work in an articulated way. The traveler support system commissioned by the local health authorities would be complemented by the adaptation of the Maré project to the Madeira archipelago. A protocol was signed where the two systems, although different and operated by different entities, would be integrated at different levels: at the communication strategy but also, more importantly, allowed the traveler to have a continuous and integrated experience during their stay.

The Maré application, which already allowed day-to-day planning through detailed information on the influx of people to certain public places by the hour and day of the week, would be complemented with the possibility for travelers to receive points when carrying out certain actions within the application, such as: bringing a certified COVID-19 test before the trip, activating notifications in the application, submitting epidemiological surveys and others. These actions are encouraged and awarded with points, which can be used to book experiences during your stay.

When is the Madeira Safe app being launched?

At this moment the application is in it’s finishing stage. Once it gets launched, this application will be downloadable by anyone on their Android or Apple phone. During their stay, the traveler will be able to access a map of the region where several points of interest throughout the region are identified. The user will also be able to respond to epidemiological inquiries, as well as convert his points into experiences to be enjoyed in the region.

Can Madeira residents use this app as well?

Madeiran citizens, if interested, will also be able to anonymously use the planning functionality of this application, which alone can be very useful in the day-to-day planning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What about in terms of user’s privacy?

With the exception of health data (which are managed by IASaúde in its segregated information system), the Madeira Safe to Discover application will be managed by the Madeira Promotion Association in a way that promotes user privacy. From an early stage in this project, it was chosen to separate the two systems: IASaúde and its professionals use its information system with travelers’ personal data, while the Madeira Safe to Discover application only manages information regarding accumulated points and experiences to be enjoyed without accessing personal data. In this way, users’ privacy is promoted, while at the same time promoting and encouraging responsible and cooperative behavior.