Hackathon sees industry challenges tackled by student problem solvers

Hackathon sees industry challenges tackled by student problem solvers

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept that continues to rapidly transform the way we live, work and learn – from revolutionising simple day-to-day errands to enabling the re-creation of cities.

(L-R) First-time hackathon participants Sean Beattie and Errol Hale of team 'Supernova'. Image: Kiralee Greenhalgh

IHS forecasts that more than 30.7 billion devices will be connected to the Internet of Things by 2020 and 75.4 billion by 2025.

In fact, emerging technologies could constitute one-third of global GDP by 2025.

With these astonishing figures in mind, and in response to this tremendous growth, RMIT and LEAP recently brought together Australia’s brightest minds to tackle some tough business challenges, leveraging the latest technologies in IoT and Augmented Reality (AR).

Showcasing the important and growing role that IoT and AR continues to play in Australia, the hackathon formed part of the Digital Innovation Festival (DIF), and was officially launched by the Minister for Innovation and the Digital Economy, the Hon. Phillip Dalidakis.

Dalidakis congratulated the RMIT teams on their dedication and highlighted the tremendous opportunity that they had to “experience real-world problem solving” with industry using new technology and tools.

“Even if you don’t succeed with the task that is before you, failure is part of the journey. It’s not a destination,” he said.

Business Development Manager for the School of Engineering Mark Raphael said AR was poised to enter the mainstream, with spending predicted to hit US$60 billion globally by 2020.

Minister Dalidakis tests out the technology

Raphael said RMIT was training the IoT and AR experts of the future for the fastest-growing IT and Engineering sectors, and noted that these technologies were set to impact organisations across every industry.

He said by superimposing digital data and images on the physical world, AR was able to close a gap and release “untapped and uniquely human capabilities”.

“By putting information directly into the context in which we’ll apply it, AR expedites our ability to absorb and act on it,” Raphael said.

“It is going to transform how we learn, make decisions, and interact with the physical world…it will change how we serve customers, train employees, design and create products, manage value chains, and, ultimately, how enterprises compete.”

With connections and data, the IoT is now so advanced that it can even solve traffic congestion issues and reduce noise, crime, and pollution.

Consumers are still coming to grips with the value of IoT data, and while industry may be aware of the potential benefits, skills gaps have continued to stifle uptake.

According to the 2017 Mercer Talent Trends study, roughly 8 per cent of organisations globally believed they were digital organisations, with 77 per cent stating they were on a ‘digital journey’.

“We continue to partner with industry to lead in the rapidly evolving technology space – in line with our ongoing commitment to prepare our students for the future world of work,” Raphael said.

Breaking down long-held assumptions that IoT and AR were confusing, expensive and complicated, student hackathon teams were invited to use the PTC ThingWorx IoT and Vuforia Studio AR platforms to take on real-world problems presented by nine industry partners including Lendlease, City West Water, Wilson Transformers and SEA Electric. 

Other real-world problems that were tackled over the two-day hackathon included using AR to reduce assembly times; monitoring laser cutting machine conditions; validating and testing products; and leveraging machine learning solutions for predictive maintenance.

Raphael said teams “moved beyond vanilla IoT to drive high-value solutions” that integrated real-time IoT data with Augmented Reality (AR), advanced analytics, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

In their ‘Supernova’ team, final year Bachelor of Engineering (Aerospace Engineering) students Sean Beattie and Errol Hale were tasked with building a product testing and validation management process for Nova Systems using AR.

Hale said the hackathon had given him a taste of industry and a better sense of what he might want to do when he graduates.

“As I’m coming to the end of my degree, it’s about getting us much experience as you can,” he said.

“I have friends in the industry using this technology to solve problems, so it’s definitely a real part of that world.”

First-time hackathon participant, Beattie, agreed with Hale and said that AR would help to streamline product development.

“This is the next logical step,” he said, noting that organisations were still using pens and paper when the technology to solve problems more efficiently and make life easier was already at their fingertips.

Along with their team mates Nilkumar Shah, Stephen Hardiman and Sebastian Lin, Hale and Beattie took out first prize and nabbed $7,000. 

Team Lendlease came in second, taking home $4,000 for their work building smart documents, analysing contents and delivering results via AR. Third place and $3,000 went to team City West Water for their vacuum sewer system servicing solution.

The hackathon was representative of real-world team environments and involved 54 participants across 10 multi-disciplinary teams and 100 connected Things.

Each participant was provided with preliminary expert industry-level training in the use of the ThingWorx and Vuforia platforms and was coached on how to examine problems, build sound and compelling business cases and deliver solutions that delivered real commercial value.

Judging criteria included the value that the solution delivered; adaptability to other use cases; integration of advanced analytics; effectiveness and useability of the AR and relevance of the solution to the core industry problem.

IoT is the connection or networking of physical devices, buildings and other items through electronics, software or sensors, to the Internet or to another device.

ThingWorx and Vuforia are best-in-class Industrial Innovation platforms for developing industrial IoT applications and augmented reality (AR) experiences. ThingWorx and Vuforia contain everything required to securely connect devices, collect and analyse data, build high function apps and create insightful user experiences.

Story: Shelley Brady

31 August 2018


31 August 2018


  • Student experience
  • Science and technology
  • Future World of Work
  • Business
  • Industry

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