Connecting everything at the Dialog NB-IoT hackathon

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First, we saw the company launch Sri Lanka’s first Massive IoT network. Then Dialog announced that it was going to build a lab for NB-IoT products. In between these announcements, there was a hackathon about the Internet of Things as well. Held on the 17th of March, there were 9 teams that participated in the hackathon, which took place in two phases.

Phase One: The Pre-Hack

The Dialog NB-IoT hackathon kicked off with the Pre-Hack, which was held on the 15th of March. This was where the participants were briefed on what they should expect at the actual hackathon. The event kicked off with Shafraz Rahim from Dialog Ideamart taking the stage.

Shafraz Rahim briefing the teams at the Dialog NB IoT hackathon pre-hack
Shafraz Rahim briefing the teams at the Dialog NB IoT hackathon pre-hack

He shared that the roots of this hackathon lied in an initiative that Ideamart began in 2017. Shafraz then moved onto brief the participants on what they should expect on Saturday. Afterward, he shared details about the prizes and judging criteria with the participants. Shafraz concluded by highlighting some of the benefits of NB-IoT devices.

First impressions. Teams playing around with the NB-IoT developer kit
First Impressions. Teams playing around with the NB-IoT developer kit

Following his briefing, we saw Malinda and Tharindu from the Dialog Ideamart team. Both of them briefed the participants about Dialog’s NB-IoT platform. This includes both the NB-IoT development kits and the Dialog IoT developer portal. After this briefing, the Ideamart team assisted the participants in setting up their products.

With that, the pre-hack came to an end.

Phase Two: The Hackathon

Come Saturday morning, it was the moment of truth. The Dialog NB-IoT hackathon had officially begun. Following breakfast, the teams had settled into their workspaces inside the Dialog training center. Afterward, the morning sessions saw two speeches. The first was by Supun Weerasinghe – CEO of Dialog Axiata.

Supun Weerasinghe - CEO of Dialog Axiata speaking at the NB-IoT hackathon
Supun Weerasinghe – CEO of Dialog Axiata speaking at the NB-IoT hackathon

Supun opened his speech by stating that we’re witnessing the fourth industrial revolution. This revolution is all about connecting everything. As such, Dialog is now investing in the infrastructure needed for this. However, he admitted that infrastructure alone will not help. As such, they want to work with the developer community to create applications that solve problems.

Afterward, we saw Jaikishan Rajaraman – Global Head of Technology at GSMA. He opened his presentation by sharing that mobile Internet of Things is growing. It’s expected that by 2026 that the Internet of Things will be worth $1.8 billion. And the APAC region is set to contribute $707 million to this market.

Jaikishan Rajaraman – Global Head of Technology at GSMA
Jaikishan Rajaraman – Global Head of Technology at GSMA

He then described the idea IoT solution as cheap, long battery life, little data consumption, and smart. Furthermore, they must also be scalable. This comes with standardization and infrastructure. After sharing a few case studies, he spoke about the potential of Big Data IoT. Jai concluded his presentation by highlighting the importance of security when building IoT devices.

Moving onto the next phase

Following the morning sessions and lunch, the teams moved into the more spacious Dialog Auditorium. Once the teams settled into their new workspaces, there were two more sessions in the afternoon.

The first was by Damith Wijewardhana – Solution Architect at Ericsson take the stage. He spoke about the different standards available to give connectivity to IoT devices. Having highlighted the importance of connectivity he went onto share that IoT platforms need support to succeed. He concluded his session by sharing a few case studies.

Damith Wijewardhana – Solution Architect at Ericsson speaking at the Dialog NB-IoT hackathon
Damith Wijewardhana – Solution Architect at Ericsson speaking at the Dialog NB-IoT hackathon

Afterward, we saw Dr. Indika Samarakoon – General Manager at Dialog Axiata take the stage. He spoke about Dialog’s IoT efforts. The first of these was a system to monitor its base stations. This system was developed in partnership with the University of Moratuwa. Another system was one to monitor water levels in canals. Having shared these stories, Dr. Indika concluded by saying that they’re looking at exploring other avenues including building their own IoT development kits for developers.

Dr. Indika Samarakoon – General Manager at Dialog Axiata speakign at the Dialog NB-IoT Hackathon
Dr. Indika Samarakoon – General Manager at Dialog Axiata speaking at the Dialog NB-IoT Hackathon

Towards the evening we saw the final session by Kalinga Athulathmudali – CTO of Takas. He opened his session by sharing with the participants how his daughter uses IoT and how it’s become an integral part of life. As such, he believes there are some serious concerns with IoT the teams at the Dialog NB-IoT hackathon should consider.

Kalinga Athulathmudali – CTO of Takas speaking at the Dialog NB-IoT hackathon
Kalinga Athulathmudali – CTO of Takas speaking at the Dialog NB-IoT hackathon

The primary ones being security to ensure the devices don’t get hacked and securely transfer data. Issues regarding these concerns will arise constantly, as such it’s important the teams look at how they release patches. The other concerns Kalinga highlighted were related to interoperability, scalability, and manufacturing.

The final phase of the Dialog NB-IoT hackathon

Finally, as the sun set, the end of the Dialog NB-IoT hackathon was near. Time ran out for the teams and now they had to pitch their projects to a panel of judges. The nine teams pitched valiantly. But ultimately, there was a plot twist when we heard there were four instead of three winners.

Third Place: TrackBit and Drink It

There was a tie for third place at the Dialog NB-IoT hackathon between two teams. One of these teams produced TrackBit. This is a device, which you can attach to your valuables and track them. The devices themselves communicate via the cloud. There is a limited range of these trackers, but other trackers can be used to extend their range.

The teams that won third place at the Dialog NB-IoT hackathon
The teams that won third place

The other team’s product was Drink It. The idea behind this product is to ensure access to clean water, which isn’t available to many even in Sri Lanka. An example the team pointed out Anuradhapura. As such, the team created a device to measure the acidity of the water to check its purity.

Second place: Infant Sleep Apnea Detector

Second place winners at the Dialog NB-IoT Hackathon
1st runners up at the Dialog NB-IoT hackathon

The team that won second place built a product aimed at parents of infants. To be precise, their product is a camera that identifies a medical condition called sleep apnea in infants. If left untreated, it can result in mental issues later in life. As such, the team developed a system utilizing a camera and a Raspberry Pi. The system takes a video of the infant sleeping and then analyses it to diagnose if the baby suffers from sleep apnea.

First place: Grid Analyser

Winners of the Dialog NB-IoT Hackathon
Winners of the Dialog NB-IoT Hackathon

Finally, the winners of the Dialog NB-IoT hackathon produced a system to monitor the electrical grid. They aimed to do so by placing IoT devices on power lines. If any breakdowns occurred, then the electricity board would be informed that they need to send across a repair crew to fix the issue.

The hackathon ends

With the winners announced, the Dialog NB-IoT hackathon officially came to a close. However, that didn’t mark the end of Dialog’s IoT ventures. For in the middle of the hackathon, Supun Weerasinghe – CEO of Dialog Axiata announced that they’re building an IoT lab for anybody interested in building products.

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