I recently ventured down to Mexico to participate in an Internet of Things (IoT) hackathon organized by Laurie Pattison’s (@lsptahoe) Apps UX Innovation Events team with some of my fellow AppsLab members, Luis Galeana, Tony Orciuoli, and Osvaldo Villagrana.
Being the lone non-developer, I wasn’t sure how much I would be able to contribute—but I had done some research pertaining to our use case, so I felt I had at least that much to offer.
Our rather illustrious use case pertained to a perennial workplace problem—lines to use the bathroom. In MDC, there is a preponderance of men, and so apparently waiting can be an issue. Some of my research has found that elsewhere, where there are more women than men, lines to use the women’s bathroom in the office place can be a serious annoyance.
Thus was born what was originally playfully titled Bathroom Management (BM), though we ended up with Presence, which would work more generally as a presence management system that could also handle conference room reservations, among other things.
I had never been part of a hackathon, but I definitely found out the appeal. As a lover of deadlines, and my own experiences coding at night (definitely the best time for coding), it seems just right for this sort of thing. Free snacks and beverages, food carts for lunch and dinner, and a beautiful view from the MDC office 9th floor, it was an excellent setting.
I was able to help intermittently with thinking through some of the logic of our scheduling system, and with our pitch at the end, so I did feel I added something, even if the lion’s share of the work was done by the other three. Being a two-day hackathon, we had one late night, which I stuck around for, and ended up reading about and playing with Python, in the hopes it might come in handy. It didn’t, but there’s always next time.
Our presentation of Presence garnered some good laughs, which we didn’t quite expect, but at least everyone was engaged. We had a great demo showing our scheduling system for bathroom stalls, which included proximity sensors, sounds, and displays in the stall, and a web interface for scheduling, as well as IM, phone, and watch notifications when the stall you reserved becomes free.
We came in third, after two other solid entries, and took home the People’s Choice award, perhaps because our solution filled a real need in the office! I did learn a lot from the other winners, particularly on how we could have pitched it better to highlight the enterprise applicability. So again, there’s always next time.
All in all I found it highly favorable, and hope I have another chance to do it again in the future.