A Hack to Remember: TADHack Sri Lanka 2014


hSenid’s Mobile’s TADHack Sri Lanka was very busy. In fact, folks, that’s an understatement. Some 14 teams coded through the night of 6th June, powered by Redbull and Cioconat lounge coffee. Here’s the list:

Express Way E-ticketing

The goal of this project is to simplify the process of ordering bus tickets and by extension reduce the waiting times at bus stands. The system works with you simply placing an order for a ticket via your mobile for your route for a specific time and then you receive a reference SMS which you use to get your ticket.


In addition to mobile ticketing, the system would also offer an analytics system as a web interface to the bus operators for them to identify information such as number of passengers getting on a route, etc. The primary partners for this system would be the bus operators themselves and mobile operators.

As the team admitted, the idea is born from a local perspective – but they’ve done their research and the system is designed according to the team to be one that can work in any country.

However, the question on our heads is: how easy would it be for a bus operator to use the analytics system? While it’s unlikely that those in developed countries would have any issue, developing countries like ours where IT literacy isn’t very high is what we are uncertain about.


Here’s a project that aims to simplify M-commerce with vending machines. It works like a typical m-commerce application where you place the order via ussd code on your phone. You then receive a PIN number after paying for it with your mobile account. Once you give this PIN number to the vending machine located at the shop either on the day you place the order or the next day, you get your product.


As the judging panel suggested, it’s a good idea to implement a voucher system where the order can be place beforehand but have an expiry date and when customers arrive at the vending machine they pick it up to ensure no product is stuck in order limbo.

Could this be the app that makes vending machines mainstream in Sri Lanka? We have no idea, because first we’ll have to get to a stage where we actually have a few vending machines operating around the city. Modern vending machines (like those you can find on the streets of these first world countries) cost anywhere between $3000 and $5000.

V Connect

Hailing from the University Of Colombo School Of Computing, this team is creating a system which aims to improve the connection between farmers and customers by cutting out the middle men involved and thereby give the farmers more money

The system works with customers placing their orders on a web interface and then farmers receiving a notification of the order via a USSD app. It’s that simple. Well in theory at least, in practice we can’t be sure because while farmers can easily use an USSD app, we couldn’t have an in-depth look at the web interface which is the key part of this system. In practice, it might take a long while for this to uproot the middlemen, especially when you consider that the middlemen are everything from boutique vendors to Cargills.


Offerhut sounded more promising. This project for shop owners is an advertising platform for them to publish and advertise the latest deals they have, whereas customers can use this USSD app to find out the latest deals around them.


As the team said in their pitch, this is their solution to eliminate annoying marketing SMS messages that are constantly being sent by retailers. We hope retailers adopt this system because as consumers we definitely would prefer this over being constantly spammed by marketing SMS messages.

Digital Irrigation Automation

This project needs little explanation with it’s name. The goal of this team is to improve irrigation systems and save one of our most valuable natural resources: water.  Their system does this job by automating the process of configuring sprinklers as their name suggests.


Once a special device known as the DIA device is attached to the sprinklers, you can turn them on or off with a simple SMS. Additionally the system also has a web interface for scheduling sprinklers to activate as and when you need it. It’s unlikely that the average Joe will ever need this system – the team target was farmers with the equipment to match.

Waste master


Here’s another project aiming to improve the environment. Waste master isn’t aiming to redesign the wheel: rather it’s plan is to take existing waste management technologies and improve their efficiency. In simple terms, it’s kind of like a mobile trash trunk hailing system. Once a user signs up for the service, they get notifications of when a trash truck is nearby. Miss a trash truck? No problem, you can simply send an SMS and the trash truck comes to you. Additionally, subscribers also receive information on environmental protection plans as well as dumping locations.

At the end of the day, the effectiveness of this app solely rests whoever is in charge of waste management, but it it works out, it’s a great concept.

City Info


Here’s a telco app with a local flavor. This app allows you to find the contact details of important places in Colombo, such as embassies, hospitals, police stations, etc and lets you determine exactly how far you are from the location in question.

Yes, it’s essentially a phone directory app. If you use a feature phone this can be handy, somewhat like a USSD version of Google Maps – which apparently is 90% of Sri Lankans with mobile phones according to the facts the team shared during their pitch. For smartphone owners, Google Maps still sounds like a better service unless your device has issues connecting to the internet.

The team has promised that more cities in Sri Lanka will be covered in the future; after all, you can only gather details of so many places within a few hours. However, with the smartphone market at saturation levels in developed countries, and with developing countries like ours slowly but surely replacing feature phones with cheap smartphones, one wonders how viable this is in the long term.

Mobile Internet Plan Manager

As the name implies, this app is aimed at being your manager to bring you the best internet plan to fit your needs.  The app carries out 3 tasks: simplify the process of entering 12 digit recharge cards by automating the process, shows you the different data plans your operator provides and for a mere Rs. 1 allow you to switch data plans.


While the team’s pitch had a very strong local perspective, with a few (if necessary) modifications and partnerships with mobile operators this might be a handy app for those data heavy downloaders whose phones eat data faster than they can get it.


This project is by students from the Sabaragamuwa University which aims at easing the wait we all suffer at bus stands by delivering the information as to how far the bus is to your location by delivering the ETA of said bus thanks to a simple GPS device (which costs around Rs. 60,000) that would be installed on the bus.


To bus drivers, the app would tell bus drivers how many customers are waiting at bus stands along the route and any other buses along the route along with a ticketing machine on stand-by for when customers finally get on the bus.

Yes, you read that right, folks, bus drivers have an app. We’re not sure what the results were from testing but a bus driver playing around with an app especially while driving sounds like a recipe for carnage. On the passenger side, though, it might be a bit of a boon.

First Aid Kit


Here’s a project by students from the University of Kelaniya. First Aid Kit aims to help you save a person’s life during a medical emergency by teaching you the proper first-aid you should apply until the professionals arrive.

It works with you simply asking a question as to what you should do in *insert emergency here* and then the app gives you an answer as to what you should do.  There’s no set structure for the questions either, you can simply ask in natural language and it works according to the team. It sounds like a very handy app to have on your phone, no matter whether it’s a Nokia 1100 or a top-end smartphone.


This project by students from the University of Jaffna is a project that aims to save lives of injured people with the power of QR codes. So how does it work? Well picture a scenario where someone gets injured. You rush over to save said injured person who has a card with the QR code. This QR code which contains basic medical information of the person such as age, blood type and so on is scanned by you.


After you scan the code, your location is identified and a message is sent to the nearest hospital informing them that a situation occurred and they need to rush an ambulance along with the relative of the injured person getting a message saying that their relative got injured. Once the ambulance is dispatched you can either stay and apply first aid, perhaps with First Aid kit providing instructions if you aren’t sure or just move along if you think you’ve done enough.

QR-aid isn’t the first of it’s kind, however if basic medical information can be passed quickly to first respondents then it provides them with valuable information they need to save a person’s life.  Thankfully we didn’t have an incident where we would have seen this app in action but we are still interested in taking an in-depth look.

Red Drops

Another project  by students from the University Of Jaffna is aimed at simplifying the process of blood donation. If an emergency occurs and a donor’s blood is required then the blood bank sends a message to the operator who in turn would send messages to donors with the required blood type.


Currently the team’s goal is to save a million lives within four years but we hope they save more. Like the other health based apps before we couldn’t see it in action, though at this stage we can’t help but wonder what would be the outcome of all these three health apps combined. We see the possibility of one big app that could save lives in the event of medical emergencies.

Job wallet


Here’s a project by students from the Rajarata University. Job Wallet allows daily wage workers to find jobs and also for employers to not only post jobs but also find the most suitable employee for the job by checking out their profile and rating along with their location.

How useful would it be to daily wage workers? Well according to a video the team shared with us (where they interviewed daily wage workers and a few employers asking what exactly they thought of the idea behind Job Wallet), the respondents replied positively. Looks like there’s a market for this app: hopefully the team will capitalize on it.


This project, as its name describes is a Do It Yourself telco app which allows you to develop simple apps on top of it in a drag and drop environment. These aren’t complete standalone apps however; you’ll need to visit a URL to use it so you’ll need a web browser. As for what services it supports the list seems to be well everything according to the team. As part of their testing, the team built an app which would retweet everything under the hashtag: #TADHack. How did it work out? So well that their account got temporarily suspended for too many retweets!


Now how easy is it to develop apps with it? Well to quote one of the team members Pasindu De Silva, “It’s so easy even your grandfather can do it”. A bold claim indeed: if our grandfathers were in Colombo we just might have put that claim to the test.

You’ve read about the projects the teams developed. You’ve read our comments on them. Now onto the part you’ve been waiting for: finding out which of these lucky teams had their pitches uploaded to Youtube and to be judged in Madrid at the official and international TADhack event.

Cue drumroll.


The lucky 10 winners are:

  • DIY

  • Track-M

  • QR Aid

  • Job Wallet

  • Digital Irrigation Automation

  • Red Drops

  • VConnect

  • Waste Master

  • M-pay

  • OfferHut

Three of these ten teams were declared the winners of TADhack Sri Lanka. The lucky teams are:

  • Offer Hut in 3rd place

  • M-pay in 2nd place

  • DIY being the winner at 1st place


You can view their pitches on Youtube here. If you want to see what we are going up against in other parts of the world, check out the official TADhack Youtube channel.

Now to quote Chris Daughtry, it’s not over. Ideamart‘s announced a Rs 500,000 prize for the three apps to earn a revenue of Rs. 50,000. Good luck!


  1. […] A theme in some of the hacks was WebRTC, it was like a gateway technology. A hack would start with WebRTC as its a popular and an accessible technology, then from there developers would explore other telecom APIs and capabilities that can reach any of the 6B people connected by a phone. The diversity at TADHack is reflected in many ways; across the solutions to the problems faced in the different markets, the ages of the developers involved, the composition of the teams, the way the hack was created etc.  Check out this great review of TADHack Sri Lanka. […]


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