In June of 2020, COVID tests weren't easy to come by. Whether it was waiting hours in line, or paying a high price to get your test back within a reasonable time, getting a COVID test when you needed it was confusing and stressful.
Project Beacon knew that in order to get society functioning again, testing affordability and availability had to improve. Created and funded by Google Ventures, F-Prime Capital, and the Broad Institute, Beacon tapped Viget to scale up their software operations and build a functional MVP to ship in October 2020.
I led the product design portion of the project from June 2020-April 2021, (focusing on interface design and feature definition) before rolling off to work on other Viget engagements.
The core goal of the app was to allow both large groups and individuals to schedule and receive tests accurately, affordably, and safely. To accommodate this mission ahead of our initial MVP launch, there were three types of use cases that we were primarily designing for in the app.
Organizations needed to be able to track whether their students or employees coming back into a shared space were negative, based on a set number of tests per week they were required to take.
This could depict a variety of scenarios: students going back to school, employees going back into the office, or nursing home staff keeping their elderly patients safe.
At specific test sites, administrators check-in users with appointments as they arrive to take the tests in person. After a patient completes their test, the admin collects their sample and prepares it for shipment to the lab.
This was the most utilized part of the application: the regular person just looking to get a COVID test. This was the most complex because it had so many variations.
If they're affiliated with an organization, a user can track their cleared status (clearing them to return to their workplace or school), see their recent test results, scan their clearance badge, or schedule new tests.
At an agency, you don't always get the opportunity to iterate on a v1 product after launch. This project was a unique chance to continue iterating on visual polish and working on key features for months after we shipped the MVP.
Pooled testing prioritizes cost effectiveness for public schools by collecting groups of individual swabs and testing them all at once for the same amount of money, rendering a group of students "pool positive" or "pool negative." If a class of students is pool positive, it gave them clarity on whether to continue virtual or in-person instruction.
Beacon began to offer rapid antigen testing toward the end of 2020. Since these tests require 15 minutes to obtain an accurate result, the test site admin would start an in-app timer and alert the patient of the results after the time is up.
In January 2022, Project Beacon was acquired by Ginkgo Bioworks (NYSE:DNA), who maintains the software today.
Beacon has also been whitelabeled by PhysicianOne and Cambridge Innovation Center to accommodate other organizations across the country.
The app continues to scale. As of September 2021, the app reached over 1 million screenings since its October 2021 launch.
As of January 2022, the app has reached over 1.7 million screenings.