Author: Richard Glover
I joined Intelligent Environments earlier this year, and it was only whilst preparing for my job interview that I learned what a Hackathon was all about. I had enjoyed watching the videos of past Hackathons posted on the IE website and so when Hackathon #4 was advertised I was immediately keen to get involved.
Following my initial enthusiasm however, it dawned on me that, as an HR professional, I am far from ‘technical’ and still really had very little idea what I was letting myself in for.
We were put into teams at random by the organising committee and asked to come up with a team name and our top 3 preferred problem statements, from a list of previously collated staff suggestions. My team named itself ‘Deus ex Machina’, which sounded great though I couldn’t help wondering if we were setting ourselves up for a fall with a name that rather grandiosely translates from Latin as, ‘God from the machine’ or alternatively, ‘An unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation’. Still, my team mates seemed confident and I knew my competitive spirit would come to the fore once we got going!
The problem statement that my team was allocated was: “Can Intelligent Environments use an AI chat-bot to answer the most common questions for customers in real time?”
At 9am on Thursday 21st July, supplied with a room of our own and a basket full of fruit, energy drinks and sugary snacks, we set off. We began by planning out our concept on a whiteboard and then breaking down the tasks that would need to be done, discussing the varying skills we could each contribute and getting to know one another better along the way. The day whizzed by and fuelled by complimentary pizza and some light-hearted competitive banter with the other teams we worked on into the evening, developing our Chat-Bot.
Friday morning began with a few tired faces but also a renewed energy to get the innovation over the line before the 3pm deadline, we also needed to adequately test it and practice our presentation beforehand. With 7 minutes to demo our product and 1 minute to deliver an elevator pitch to the whole Company, the team really pulled together to produce a slick short film introducing our innovation before I delivered a thoroughly researched (and very practiced!) elevator pitch, before giving our presentation.
Our chat-bot, named ‘Aria’ (ARtificial Intelligence Agent) with a small homage to Game of Thrones, integrates with our platform, Interact, to provide users with a simple, secure and seamless way to manage their bank accounts. Using the latest artificial intelligence technology, Aria is able to understand human language, rather than just basic commands, and will get continuously smarter as she learns from each conversation she has. This means that Aria would enable our clients to revolutionise the way they interact with their customers, and the way their customers manage their personal finances.
All the teams delivered fantastic demonstrations of their respective products, and it was a real buzz to be part of the Hackathon – winning first prize was just the icing on the cake!