Using surplus in our society comes with a certain stigma. There are places where you can drop off your clothes or surplus of food but these places are most often inconvenient to reach as it takes and extra journey to get there. Therefore, it seems to be easier to throw stuff away instead of sharing it with people in need.
Anthill is a new way of sharing inspired by the way ants transport goods. Ants make use of surplus or objects that still have a value. High frequency routes enable ants to transport their goods efficiently and temporarily store them in places until other ants pick them up. So why cannot we make use of this behaviour to make sharing and using surplus a mainstream activity?
Our life evolves around places which we visit on a regular basis: supermarkets, shopping malls, etc. . The idea behind Anthill is to make use of these places as they have a high frequency of visitors. So why not facilitate sharing in these places.
The idea behind Anthill is to make sharing surplus and unused valueable items as convenient as possible. Therefore, you just need to put these items in a so called sharebox, tell the system what is in the box by using either a smartphone app, web app or tablet app and drop it off e.g. on your next shopping trip in the nearby supermarket. Staff at the shops then put these items in a share shelf where people can take them and check them out at the cash desk as they do with regular items.
Anthill defines three user roles: facilitators, givers and takers. Facilitators provide the necessary infrastructure which includes a drop off station, the possibility to get empty share boxes and a share shelf within the shopping area. Givers share their surplus and valuable items. Takers make use of the items. It is important to note that we want to facilitate the paradigm of “giver-takers” which means that everyone can be both giver and taker at the same time thus eliminating the stigma.
Finally, as the system knows what is in the boxes you can also browse and search for items among all available facilitators via a web interface.
The drop-off station has been prototyped with the help of a native iPad application and a computer. The computer runs some simple php scripts on a web server to communicate with the iPad application. A usb bar code scanner is attached to the computer and as soon as a bar codes gets read it stores this information on the web server. The iPad application continuously polls data from a php script on the server to see if a box has been scanned.
Filling Share boxes can be done with the help of several client applications. Each Share box has a unique barcode which identifies it within the warehouse system. Our prototype includes a native iOS App that is able to read bar codes by using the ZBar SDK, to receive user input about the box content and to upload the data in JSON format onto a web server.