On Dec. 4, a group of seven Brandeis students released the Branda app, a mobile application that “connects the students of Brandeis with essential campus services,” according to the app’s website. Its features include quick access to BrandeisNOW articles and the campus events calendar, a Branvan tracker, a laundry tracker, a campus map and an updated list of which dining locations are open at any given moment. 

The release of the app is part of the Community Enhancement and Emergency Fund, which is managed by the Student Union. $100,000 of its $250,000 fund is dedicated to student-led initiatives that enhance the Brandeis community, according to its website. This is a valuable program for students, by students, and we commend the Union for continuing to support it. Additionally, this board appreciates the extended efforts of the undergraduates — Benjamin Segal ’20, Sam Stern ’20, Anat Kleiman ’20, Reese Farquhar ’22, Ash Tabe ’21, Aseem Kumar ’20 and Brandon Musto ’20 — involved in the development of the Branda app.

The news, hours, calendar and map features work well, and it is useful to have them all in one convenient mobile application. However, as Branda’s website explains, it is “a two-sided platform,” accessible to two or more different kinds of users (e.g. students, Facilities and Branvan drivers) and its two-sided aspects have generated mixed reviews. The laundry tracker, designed to display a list of available machines and the remaining time for the machines in use, is often inaccurate. Branda’s creators cannot be faulted for this because they get their data from LaundryView, a source subject to the whims of the card swipe machines. The shuttle tracker has a similar issue  although it is arguably better than Rider, if van drivers fail to activate their GPS systems, they will not be visible on Branda’s map, nor anyone else’s. What Branda’s developers can do, however, is include the Joseph’s Shuttle tracker, which is a widely-used service by students.

The app does have a number of user interface glitches, including an issue with the News tab; the slideshow does not make it clear which page the user is on because the indicator disappears. In spite of the problems, the app has and does everything its website (www.branda.app) claims and it is generally user-friendly and helpful. Branda also allows students to contact emergency services, as well as Facilities Services. Students can even snap a photograph of the broken object for Facilities Services and attach it to a work order via the app. 

While the Branda app does include many useful features, there are additional features that we would like to see incorporated into the app. Branda could provide dining hall menus, weather information, WhoCash and points balances, emergency alerts, and University updates, to name a few. Many of these functions require their own apps, such as the Sodexo “Bite” app for dining hall menus. It would be far more convenient to include all of this information in the same app.