Author: Sam Horril
After three successful in-house Hackathons in January and June 2015, and January of 2016, Intelligent Environments hosted its fourth on 21st-22nd July 2016. Ever popular as the Hackathons are, more than 20 people from Intelligent Environments’ two offices in Kingston and Belfast joined forces in Riverview House.
As is usual with the Intelligent Environments Hackathon, each team was made up of a mix technical and non-technical colleagues across a range of departments, from product development to marketing. We have found this mix works well – there’s far more to a successful Hackathon solution than just good code!
The four Hackathon teams – Deus ex Machina, WinTeract, The 5 Budgeteers, and The Echolocators convened in the Kingston office at 9am on the 21st, and soon the office was buzzing with furious coding, mind mapping, and amateur video production.
Each team was provided with Red Bull and chocolate to fuel them throughout the Hack. This certainly paid off – one of the teams (who I wouldn’t dare to mention!) stayed hacking until 1am. Luckily, the Hackathon organising team had planned for such an eventuality, and Dominos pizza was provided throughout the night.
The late nights, 40 cans of Red Bull, and considerable Dominos bill all paid off. The rest of Intelligent Environments in Belfast and Kingston (the non-Hackers, as we participants call them) were treated to four great presentations, where the talents of each participant was evident.
Traditionally a Hackathon solution is judged purely on its technical merits. In a first for the Intelligent Environments hackathon, Marketing and Sales pitches were on the judging panel’s criteria. This was designed to encourage greater creativity from each team’s non-technical members, whose lack of coding knowledge may put them off from participating.
As a result of this change, non-technical Hackers crafted imaginative videos, wrote press releases, and tested their PowerPoint skills, while their technical colleagues were busy coding away. One team even demonstrated their acting skills, improvising a customer service scenario.
It was a closely fought contest, but in the end there was a clear winner: Deus ex Machina. This team, comprised of participants from HR to the mobile development team, developed new software which connects Interact to an AI messenger bot. Customers direct their queries to the messenger bot as opposed to a call centre, which dramatically reduces call centre staff time. The advantages of this solution are clear: improve the customer experience by seamlessly answering their queries instantly, and reduce the cost to the business by easing the burden on call centres.
With innovative software development and a slick presentation – Deus ex Machina captured the essence of the Intelligent Environments Hackathon – a diverse team coming together over a limited period to create an innovative digital financial solution.