The Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia is a leading academic institution in the biomedical field. In 2008 UVa has contacted our team to build BMEplanet - a collaborative and professional networking web portal that would help biomedical engineers to connect throughout the world in order to share ideas, research, work together on the projects, seek and post job and research opportunities and more.
Although Facebook, LinkedIn and many other social networking websites already existed at the initiation of this project, it required a completely new approach in developing user interface around BMEplanet vision and goals. The project began with UI prototyping using storyboard-scenario methodology where the main focus was on three equally important goals:
- sharing ideas, research,
- connecting with colleagues around the world with powerful CV-like user profiles,
- enabling collaboration on projects, ideas and discussions.
After the in-depth UI prototype was finished, the development phase began. The development phase was broken down into three distinct major iterations or stages and using iterative development model was of a great benefit for everyone involved in the project.
The project took many months of development and as the result today BMEplanet is one of the most powerful professional networking and collaborative web portal ever built. It has over 200 features. Before Facebook switched to Jabber/XMPP protocol, BMEplanet was the first social network portal to include this technolgy in its mix of features.
BMEplanet has a very rich set of features from integration with many third-party systems and websites to mobile-optimized web application and extensive search engine. Here are just a few highlights of the amazing power that hides inside this portal:
- Email Me User Interface. Registered members can easily share ideas, post documents, reply to comments and perform many other tasks by sending just a simple email message. Once such an email message is received, the portal analyzes, tags, and then auto-publishes it to the database and performs corresponding commands on the behalf of the user.
- Mobile Web App. To provide mobile users with a faster, touch-oriented user experience, a specialized mobile web application was built that featured nearly 90% of the full-browser functionality modified to work on smaller screen sizes and with less CPU power.
- Instant Messaging. Thanks to availability of open-source software and open standards, users of the portal were empowered by Jabber/XMPP chat services that were integrated with the main web user interface as well as they enabled powerful users to chat by connecting their favorite chat clients, such as Pidgin, Adium, Coccinella, Empathy, and others.
- Integration. In order to help biomedical engineers to create their member profiles, generate CVs and NIH sketches, post job vacancies, share large files, etc. a wide range of integration features was built into the portal that automated many of these tasks. For example, members could easily pull a list of their publications from specialized scientific databases and websites or auto-populate their profiles by signing in from more then eight different social networking websites.
- Even More Tools. Project and Lab Notepads, Survey Builder, Polls, Articles, Smart Tags, World Maps, Groups, Team Calendars, Project Workspaces, Email, and many other tools were also built into the portal to further empower biomedical community without leaving the comfort of its favorite portal. Teachers could run tests, polls, surveys for their students, students could collaborate with their classmates around the world using collaborative project workspaces.
- Operating System(s): Linux
- Web Server(s): Apache Web Server
- Database Server(s): MySQL
- UI: Member UI, Mobile Web App UI, Administator Console
- Other: Jabber XMPP Server, WebDAV, and many other open source libraries and code snippets
I want to offer my highest recommendation of Alex Avdeyev and his development team. Our vision for BMEplanet – a global consortium of over 270 universities, corporations, governments, and non-profits–was a Web 2.0 portal offering a unique set of tools that would accelerate education, research, and innovation in biomedical engineering (www.bmeplanet.org). Alex and his team impressed in how quickly and fully they grasped our problem and objectives, the domain of biomedical engineering, and the interests of the varied stakeholders for our website. They made excellent suggestions that greatly enhanced the eventual product, demonstrated a firm grasp of Web 2.0 technologies and capabilities, and worked tirelessly to deliver core functionality on time and on budget. I view Alex and his team as professionals in the best sense of the word: they are always pleasant and positive, take pride in their work, and consistently go above and beyond the call of duty. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with the team.
Erwin Gianchandani, Executive Director