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Cola.CU (I): A bet against hoarders and resellers

cola-cu-icon-rSince September 1, 2020, the Cola.CU application has been operating in the capital, aimed at strengthening order in the stores of the Caribe and Cimex chains. The automated system records purchase history and makes it possible to identify the frequency with which people visit these facilities, as well as the products they purchase.

The idea -which arose in the midst of covid-19- was promoted by the Union of Informatics of Cuba and developed by the Eureka Scientific Group of the “José Antonio Echeverría” Technological University of Havana (Cujae), led by Professor Joaquín Pina Amargos.

The pilot test began in Playa and Marianao, and based on the positive results, it was generalized to the rest of the municipalities of the capital.

In what context does Cola.CU arise?

Due to the shortage of essential products in Cuban chain stores, caused by the global crisis due to the pandemic and the tightening of the United States blockade, hoarders, coleros and resellers increased in the country; figures whom the government set out to eliminate.

“Foreign and Cuban software that allows queue management does not have the ability to specify the products offered and to alert the organizer if a customer has recently registered in any other queue according to the number of days declared by the local government. ”, Joaquín Pina Amargós, also president of the Union of Computer Scientists of Cuba in Havana, explains to Cubadebate.

Precisely, these two functionalities are the main advantages of Cola.CU, software that consists of two versions, mobile and desktop, to achieve integrated queue management in a given region.

According to data offered by the development team, Cola.CU has worked daily without interruption since September 1, 2020, with more than 1.25 million different people registered and more than 250,000 beneficiaries who have been able to buy thanks to the detection of recent buyers.

How does Cola.CU work?

In this software system you can specify the products that are offered and alert the organizer of the queue if a customer has recently registered in any other queue. It consists of two computer applications that work offline (in this first version) but are synchronized daily by exchanging files.

For its part, the version for Android mobiles, Cola.CU Apk, allows the daily management of the queue for a given store. On the other hand, the desktop version Cola.CU App, allows unifying all the information of the stores where it is established that the same person buys only once during a certain period.

Thanks to its flexibility, it is possible to establish specific work rules that are dynamically approved by the Defense Councils of each municipality, for example, the frequency of the purchase of a certain electronic product or those with a high consumption cycle such as chicken or detergent.

The parameters are configured from the desktop version so that all mobile applications synchronized with the first one have the same information.

In a second version that is developed from a Computer Engineering diploma thesis, the possibility of connecting to the cloud is incorporated to achieve the exchange of information without the need for physical files.

A hundred students, professors and volunteers from the Joven Club of all the municipalities of Havana and other entities of the Fight Against Coleros (LCC) operation groups have joined this task.

This application can be applied in the future in any region where several establishments are concentrated and people are free to buy from them.

Economic, social and environmental benefits

“The main novelty of Cola.CU is that it preventatively limits, in situ and without the need for a connection to the mobile data network, coleros, hoarders, resellers and illicit commercialization that may be carried out”, explains Professor Pina Amargós.

Based on the products that a person has bought, based on his purchase history, the queue organizer can reject this customer, informing him of his situation. In this way, it allows access to other people who until now had not been able to acquire them.

Likewise, Cola.CU allows realistic queue management as the organizer can mark those who buy, abandon, rejoin, go through a certain priority, or are rejected for having registered or bought in other recent queues. “This enables real-time operational work,” I added.

Also, the software guarantees the registration of all people because the primary key is the number of any of the existing identity documents: Identity card, military card or passport. “The identity is verified by means of the date of birth and the control digit, providing greater reliability of the identities.”

Optionally, the municipality of residence of each client can be added to be able to carry out a demographic analysis of mobility, says the professor.

Among the main functionalities is that of exporting, importing and adding data from other queues, including the possibility of integrating data from nearby queues to achieve better control on the same day.

In addition, taking into account the rules established by the Municipal Defense Council, the apk allows the entry of the same person to be limited to a set of stores during the time that is set. Control of the movement of people and the demand for products is also achieved, allowing CDMs to make decisions about distribution adjustments.

In Cola.CU there is a scanner system created, but it is not yet deployed in all stores (only half are reported).

According to Fermín Rivas Sotomayor, one of the developers, there are interesting data but they are not yet used by the authorities to direct the distribution, take measures with the hoarders that are detected and unite with the data of the oficodas.

Among the plans of the application development group is the deployment of a dashboard on the web that includes the main reports and helps managers in decision making. Also, develop a version of the application for iOS devices.

Main figures of Cola.CU

More than 2 years of exploitation in all the municipalities of Havana,

+540 thousand people benefited from the detection of others who have made recent purchases,
700 stores,
+130 thousand queues,
+20 million records,
+1.5 million different people

(By: Thalia Fuentes Puebla/ cU)

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