Posted By Simon Montford on March 12, 2015
Last weekend I attended one of a series of Intel Hardware Hackathons, sponsored by IBM (BlueMix), Intel (Edison), and RSComponents, which took place at FabLab in London. The event was part of a multi-city initiative by Intel to raise awareness of the IoT among the startup community by bringing together software engineers (aka "Hackers") and connected hardware enthusiasts (aka "Makers"). It is hoped that by doing so, innovative prototypes that use Intel's "Do-It-Yourself" Edison circuit board, will be developed that showcase the UK's talent for all things IoT, as well as the board's capabilities.
As an incentive, "Hackathoners" are provided with free food and drink at each event, as ell as free gear, and the chance to win cash prizes. Each winner will then go through to Intel's grand final.
In addition to "Makers" & "Hackers", each hackathon is also open to non-technical participants such as urban planners (smart city, transport, environment), business people (marketing, project management, strategy), and innovators (ideas, creativity, problem solving). The point of inviting people who possess a diverse range of skills and backgrounds is that empirical studies prove that heterogeneous teams almost always outperform homogeneous teams.
In the absence of a team, I decided to observe instead. If you have attended a software hackathon, this can be akin to watching paint dry. They generally consist of groups of young males gathered around the glow of their screens, tapping furiously away, pausing only for the odd slug of energy drink to keep them in the zone.
Hardware hackathons, however, are a far more enjoyable spectacle, because unlike software, it is possible to see what is being built. My ringside seat enabled me to observe the entire process from conception to delivery, which in this case started with a virgin Edison board, a bunch of sensors, and various other accoutrements. Although a considerable amount of software development had to be undertaken throughout the weekend by Hackers, primarily to push data to and from BlueMix, the real spectacle from a bystander's perspective was watching the furious pace of the Makers.
For me they stole the show, because unlike coders who ply their trade by tapping, touching and swiping, building hardware involves good old fashioned elbow grease. Okay I admit, most of the heavy lifting is undertaken by robots these days in the form of 3D printers and laser cutters, but all manner of human endeavour took place that included soldering, sawing and even some sewing!
Writing software is a process, whereas making hardware is a production, which meant even though I was not actively making or hacking anything myself at any point during the weekend, I can honestly say I didn't get bored, even for a moment. In fact the entire weekend was a blast, and I met some really awesome people.
In addition to all the fantastic participants, I also had a great time with the plethora of mentors from FabLab, Intel and IBM whose expertise was made available to the competitors throughout the weekend. They included our point man Greg Jackson @gr3gario (Intel), Han Pham @designswinger (Intel), Sophie Riches @sophieriches08 (IBM), and Rufus Russell (IBM), Wouter van Verre, Helen Leigh @helenleigh (Mission:Exploreand), and the judges that included Graham Brown-Martin @GrahamBM, to name a few.
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Further photos of the event can be found here.
Other types of DIY IoT kits worth checking out include: Arduino, Galileo, Kano, MediaTek, BananaPi, Raspberry Pi, Micro Bits, Wunderbar, SAM, Spark, and MESH.
#Hardware #Hackathon #WEB3IOT #SocialCycle #FabHack15 #SocialCycle @FabLabLondon @Intel @IBM @RSComponents #DATAFEST #SmartCityHack @FabLabLondon @IntelLabsEurope @mashtheweb @rajeevgm, @sensarisrocks
Day one of the hackathon consisted of a technical briefing that primarily related to IBM Bluemix, which is a cloud platform that helps developers rapidly build, manage and run web and mobile applications. This was followed by a very brief and impromptu ideation process that consisted of participants volunteering to stand up and pitch ideas. Notes and sketches were scribbled on flip charts, and hung on the wall. Everyone then voted for their favourite idea, those that didn't attract a sufficient number of votes got eliminated, and participants were then invited to pick which one they wanted to help bring to life.
In my case, although the idea I came up with attracted a sufficient number of votes, I wasn't able to persuade enough people, particularly those with technical smarts, to join my team. I therefore had to abort the process, and at that point felt rather like a spare wheel!
I later learned that, unlike me, most of the participants were seasoned hackathoners, who had already decided ahead of the "draft pick", which participants they wanted on their team. Additionally, a further problem that made things worse for a newbie like me was that about half of the 60 who RSVPed didn't show up. Although that sounds pretty dire, a 50% no-show rate for free events such as this, is pretty standard. The weather may have also been to blame as the forecast for the weekend was for unseasonably mild weather; sunshine and blue skies, which would I'm sure have been a deciding factor for more than a few!
Projects undertaken during the weekend were "HighFi" a WiFi balloon (similar to Google's Project Loon), capable of deploying connectivity to remote locations in a crisis, or hovering above gatherings such as music festivals.
"Sprokid" was a smart buggy that could charge your phone on the go, provide GPS tethering, as well as motion and temperature sensors to keep your baby safe.
There was a remote operated device called "The Hand", and a frog-shaped sensor called the "Magic Frog" that aimed to make urban populations more aware of their surroundings.
"Soundhound" aimed to identify vibrations, and other mysterious noises in the home, and finally "Happy Commute", a pair of mood lighting headphones capable of matching your mood and interests, and "Social Cycle" which was a hands-free wearable device designed to help cyclists communicate with drivers.
After pitches were done, and presentations complete, the judges awarded prizes to the following:
1st Place went to "Social Cycle" (@billy_harney, @topianguy)
2nd Place went to "Happy Commute" (@julietchen, @candywillems, @SilviaHdez, @semiographica )
3rd Place went to "Sprokid" (@Man0jN, @shlibness @uzupan)
An honorable mention was given to "The Hand".
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