IPS’ Software Engineers Win First Place at IoT Hackathon

Two of IPS’ software engineers, David Maiman and Asheik Hussain, attended an IoT Hackathon at the Center of Gravity hackerspace in Troy, NY.  After 30 hours of coding, and running on very little sleep, their team won 1st place for Most Likely to Be Commercially Successful and Best Smart Building Solution.

To learn more about their experience, I caught up with David and Asheik to ask a few questions:

Q.) What were your expectations going into the event?
David:  Although Asheik has attended several hackathons, this was my first one so I had no idea what to expect. I also didn’t think we could complete a product. You can imagine how happy I was when we completed this end-to-end solution, and being recognized by the judges made it even better!

Q.) Did you know what you were going to develop before you started?
Asheik: Dave and I had several ideas but didn’t know exactly. When we arrived at the table, fellow hackers Ezafat, George and Eugene approached us. At first we weren’t sure if all five us could work together but we ended up spending the next three hours brainstorming ideas. Then it hit us, what about an IoT fire alarm? From there the idea just kept growing, we realized that it would be great to have the fire alarm point out the location of the people in the building as well as count the number of people in it.

Hacker with his computer
IPS Hacker David Maiman (@prince_david) developing the application for the product, on very little sleep.

Q.) How much of your experience working at IPS do you think helped you?
David: We often work on IoT products and Android/iOS devices at IPS so it helped us tremendously. I was able to use my experience making iPhone apps to quickly develop a solid app. Producing this hack felt just the same as completing a project that we would do at IPS.

Q.) What was the inspiration behind developing an IoT Fire Alarm?
Asheik: I recently watched a news report of a mother and daughter who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a car during the snowstorm. This originally gave me the idea of a carbon monoxide car sensor but although it was useful, we didn’t think it had a cool factor. As we were brainstorming, I looked up at the ceiling and made a joke about the fire alarm being hooked up as an IoT device. We quickly agreed that this was not a bad idea. It fit perfectly into our concept of something that would be meaningful and help people in the real world.

Q.) What skills did you bring to the table?
David: While I have experience in both front end and back end development, the main skill I used was my iOS app development skills. I have spent much time over the past year at IPS developing iOS applications and knew that I could put together a quality app pretty quickly. My experiences developing in an Agile development process also helped to organize the project and team, letting us develop in tangible iterations.

Hacker building
IPS Hacker Asheik Hussain (@Asheik91h) testing the IoT Fire Alarm product.

Asheik: I mainly do backend and embedded programming. I was the only one in the team who had the hardware experience and knew how to read schematics and interface the hardware with software. Also, I’m always one to bring some humor to a hardcore hacking session.

Q.) What challenges did you face?
David: We had a problem with sending unencrypted HTTP communication to the server from the iOS application, but luckily I was able to find a workaround to allow this to happen.

Asheik: Some of the hardware documentation was in a foreign language so I had to reverse engineer the hardware and figure out how to hook it up based on the schematics. I also had some issues reading from the GPIO of the RaspberryPi but eventually found some tutorials. Getting OpenCV to work on the raspberry pi was dicey because it was a large library and we had to compile it from source code and there were not a lot of tutorials on the image processing.

Q.) What was the competition like?
David: Our competition had a lot of great ideas. Someone had an impressive robot that responded to hand gestures and mimicked the person’s hand that was seen on camera. There were also intelligent showers, electrical device monitoring, and even a smart mousetrap! Everyone at this hackathon worked hard and I was really impressed by what I saw.

Q.) What did you learn from this experience?
Asheik: This experience reinforces my belief that success is not dependent on your skill but on how you work with your team to overcome a problem. It makes a big difference when you have a team that you can communicate with and ask questions to without feeling intimidated. It was our fluid teamwork that made us successful.

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