The Hackathon was kicked off on Saturday morning by e-Zest CEO and co-founder Devendra and myself. After some set up, the teams began coding for the next 24 hours. We had about 80 teams/200 developers which produced 75 Blockchain projects.
After a few hours of coding the project themes started to emerge. Most projects were looking for gaps or inefficiencies in the marketplace and filling them with a blockchain solution. The developers were working very hard and only had a few breaks for food. Us organizers were equally as busy as we had a seminar, startup pitch event, and CIO roundtable going on at the same time. After a few hours my hosts brought me outside to relax with some refreshments.
After a long day of coding, around 9pm, we needed to spice things up and get the blood flowing. A local band came and played for about an hour to allow everyone to wake up with a little dancing. This is a very effective way to take a break at a 24 hour hackathon.
People worked though the night, but the sleeping bags were provided so people can grab a nap. By early morning everyone was back at work and the first judges arrived on the floor around 6:30am.
At about the 23 hour mark, we went back to a conference room and started to whiteboard all of the teams and look for themes and shortlist a group to present for the prizes. There were a bunch of projects around problems in the Indian market, but all have some relevance globally. Judging was biased towards systems that used the blockchain for the right reasons. So we were looking for problems that needed a distributed solution, operated in a trustless environment, and were transaction based (as blockchain is just a ledger of transactions, not an inventory management system.)
Here are the top teams/projects:
Using blockchain to manage the custody/supply chain of blood donations. (This was the winner) In India there is a big problem around fraud and counterfeit blood donations. In true Indian style, this team did not use any public or open source blockchain, they wrote it themselves.
Identity management using distributed identity. Alternative to Facebook Connect.
Certificate validation of HTTPs sites using blockchain. This is a very developer centric solution, but a big global issue.
Criminal records via blockchain. At first I thought this would be a private blockchain run by the police, but it would be open for say hotel owners, shop owners, etc to enter data related to a crime or criminal investigation. Responding to a failure of the public sector (a common theme this year and last year.) A similar team had a chain of custody blockchain solution.
Voting records via blockchain. There were several teams doing something similar, again responding to a public sector failure.
Securitization of Solar Energy. Instead of having the grid buying your excess power, you would be compensated in tokens. Renewable energy/pollution was a theme of several companies.
Insurance smart contracts via blockchain. Had a focus on the sharing economy as well.
Hyperledger was very popular, a handful of teams (including the winner) spun up their own blockchain, and the Ethereum blockchain was very popular with any smart contract team.
As always the hackathon was an amazing experience and I’m already looking forward to next year!
After we did the opening and set the ground rules, e-Zest CEO Devendra and I had to go and personally sign the 250 certificates of completion for the attendees. It took a while for us to sign all the certificates, but we had a lot of fun doing it. We joked and said this is what it must be like when the president takes office and immediately has to sit down and sign a bunch of stuff.
As the day started to turn to night, I went to visit as many of the 100+ teams as I could. The standout teams to me where:
Emergency response: increase ambulance and police response time via location services, GPS, etc (the goal was to get an ambulance faster than an Uber)
Job and skill learning/improvement using machine learning (ML)
Augmented reality social media like Pokemon Go for social activists
Crop health app via image analysis of drone photos
Car lane sensor and software for the masses
A Firefighting robot
Wheelchair automation and navigation
Governmental services for the masses
Solar power installation chatbot
Farming automation and instrumentation via Industrial IoT
As you can see there was a healthy mix of software and hardware solutions. The trends were around some of the major problems in India: traffic, farm yields, competitive job market, and governmental services. It was great to see the Laudato Si’ values being implemented at a Hackathon in India.
We have a problem with not enough women in IT jobs in the United States. That is not the case in India: about half of the Hackathon participants were women. 50% of the winners at the Hackathon were women as well.
About 12 hours after we started, the developers started to get tired. That is when we took a break and had the live band come out and play. We temporarily turned the office into a nightclub.
After midnight the sleeping bags came out and some people crashed for an hour or two. I was struggling with jet lag and cheated and went back to the hotel for about 4 hours of sleep.
At 6:30am the judges started to arrive and talk to each team, taking a few hours to narrow the field down from 100+ teams to a short list of about 10.
The final teams made their presentations and we chose the top three winners. While there was a lot of impressive hardware, all the shortlisted apps were software apps with the themes of: farming, social activism, governmental and emergency services, and traffic.
Besides having a lot of fun, we have three goals for organizing another Hackathon in India:
· Engaging with the developer ecosystem
· Learning about new technologies
· Seeing the Laudato Si’ in action
Engaging with the Developer Ecosystem
Spending a weekend side by side with the most motivated developers in an ecosystem for a weekend is best way to engage. We did the same last year and learned things that you can only learn by hanging out with the developers (what technologies they like, what technologies their customers like, how Agile is embraced, what companies are the best to work for, what companies are based in an area that is hard to get to, etc.) Looking forward to the full emersion experience again.
Learning about new technologies
Last year, we learned a lot about the bot market and hope to learn just as much as last year. This year the tech theme is a little more focused on Cloud, so we are excited about what kind of applications 150+ Indian developers will unleash. I usually find the most creativity at Hackathons and expect the same here.