We chat to Team ThreeC about how ‘Medcycle’ reminds you to take your pills and donates leftover medicine to the Third World
Vodafone 24 returned for a third time this year, primed and ready to put more teams of university students through their paces. The team that amazed us with the most innovative, ground-breaking mobile idea in response to our brief, would win a year-long internship at Vodafone UK HQ in Newbury. There was just one catch – the teams only had 24 hours to come up with their idea and spruce it up for our panel of judges…
For Team ThreeC – made up of Bournemouth Uni students Connor Cranston, David Clarke and Shanice Chapman – this year’s Vodafone 24 was a shot at redemption after not making the shortlist in last year’s competition…
“Last year our entry was just a PDF with a load of text,” says Connor. “It was so boring compared to other people’s entries – websites, presentations, and all sorts of fancy stuff – and we realised we needed to make ours look really good as well as sound really good so it would catch people’s attention.
“So this year, we tried to make it look as cheery as medicine can be,” he explains.
There’s plenty of substance behind the polish too. At its heart, MedCycle is a medicine-assistant that tracks what medicine you’re taking, and reminds you to take it whenever necessary. But the idea involves so much more that alone…
“Loads of medicine is wasted every year, particularly in the UK.”
“We noticed that when we got medicine ourselves, we wouldn’t take all of it all the time. We had a look into it and found that loads of medicine is wasted every year, particularly in the UK, whereas a third of the world doesn’t have any access to the right drugs at all. So it made sense to make an app that could stop people wasting medicine, and then repurpose it somewhere else when it wasn’t used.
“For the basic user, MedCycle would just track your medication and remind you to take it. But say you were using it and taking some antibiotics, and then it comes to the end of your cycle and you have 12 antibiotics left. A charity could put in a request for them that would go into a big computer database, and then allocate your medicine to that charity.
“Every charity has their own processes for repurposing medication,” he says, “so there’d be no need for a third party – it goes directly from the user to the charity who needs it, via freepost.”
The magic of using freepost is that the underlying concept of MedCycle could work far beyond the shores of the UK.
“We just used the UK initially because it’s got the NHS and it’s a bit easier to link it to an organisation, but it could be used abroad on the same principle: just using freepost envelopes to send medication to charities. There are charities equivalent to Medicine Relief in the UK all over the world, so theoretically, it could be used anywhere really.”
For all that is impressive about MedCycle, perhaps the thing that really stands out is the ambition – this is a project that aims high and, as Connor admits, that created some significant challenges:
“I think the first problem we encountered was worrying about whether people would actually use the app,” he says. “People’s phones go off all the time now and it’s easy to just ignore them, so how would you convince people to actually use it? That’s why we introduced text and call reminders as well as push notifications, in the hopes that would make grab people’s attention.”
Grabbing people’s attention is one thing, but what about the other challenges?
“We’d probably need quite a lot of outside support,” Connor says. “Apart from the NHS, we’d need to get pharmacies like Boots on board to get people using it when they pick up prescriptions. Obviously you’d need charities like Medicine Relief too, otherwise you’d have no-one to send the medication to. Maybe some government support as well. So yeah, quite a lot! But mainly the pharmacies and the charities; they would be key.”
You can check out MedCycle below:
“It was a bit daunting…”
With a second trip through Vodafone 24 now under their belts, we asked Connor what he thought Team ThreeC thought about the whole process:
“At first, it was a bit daunting,” he admits. “You’ve only got 24 hours so you just want to get on with it; you don’t want to spend too much time planning ideas. We spent far too much time last year coming up with an idea, so by the time we actually had an idea we agreed on we only about five hours left to get it into shape.”
But this time the team were ready:
“It was challenging but fun at the same time.”
“It was quite good this time round because 24 hours is actually quite a lot of time – if you’re dedicating that whole 24 hours to it! We did ours in about 12 because we had other commitments the next day. It was challenging but fun at the same time.
“If there’s one thing we learned,” says Connor in closing, “it’s that a big idea is only good if you can execute and communicate it well. You can have the best idea in the world, but if you don’t put the effort into making it understandable to the average Joe on the street, then it’s not worth anything.
“Last year we had this amazing idea, but when we looked back it was just five pages of text. This year we did a simple website which you can click through step-by-step, and we found that less is more, to be honest. It’s all about explaining a really big idea in as small a way as possible – that’s what we wanted.”
Life after Vodafone 24: Want to know what last year’s winners have been up to at Vodafone UK HQ? Click here to find out!