Seventy developers spent two days hammering out apps designed for the mountain town
By Gillian Shaw, Vancouver Sun
AUGUST 25, 2014
Mix 70 developers and other techies with a generous helping of leading-edge tech gadgets, sprinkle in lots of data sets, put them in a world class resort and what do you get?
A “hackathon” that churns out 20 innovative projects in two days, all with demo-ready apps and geared to meeting the challenges of a resort village that hosts more than two million visitors a year.
The event, presented by Vancouver’s Wavefront, was part of GROW 2014, a conference that brings together venture capitalists and tech innovators from both sides of the border and this year moved to Whistler after two years in Vancouver.
While in the mountain town, hackathon participants met with Whistler’s key stakeholders, from WhistlerBlackcomb to Tourism Whistler, restaurateurs and other businesses to learn about their most pressing issues — issues the participants were challenged to meet with IoT innovation.
That stands for the Internet of Things and while a recent report by the Acquity Group indicates 87 per cent of consumers haven’t heard of it, the reality is that consumers are increasingly adopting IoT devices.
IoT refers to the notion that everything can be interconnected by unique identifiers and can transmit data over a network. Consumers are most likely to be touched by it right now through devices such as smart appliances and wearable technology. According to an ABI Research report, the installed base of active wireless connected devices will top 16 billion this year, a 20-per-cent hike over 2013. By 2020, ABI forecasts the number of devices will be close to 41 billion. According to Acquity, IoT devices will have a 69-per-cent adoption rate by 2019.
So what can the Internet of Things do for Whistler? Plenty, according to the hackers.
There were apps to identify empty parking spots in crowded lots, apps that could help divert lineups by directing guests to less crowded spots, apps that turn skiing and snowboarding into a game — rewarding players with coupons and other incentives for unlocking virtual gates around the mountains; an app that helps ski patrollers deal with emergencies and one that uses crowdsourcing to let people share meals at local restaurants with people who might otherwise not be able to afford them.
Here’s a snapshot of the judges’ top three picks:
The idea is to combine digital and real-world competition for those thrill-seekers who like to play in the park and the halfpipe. It’s a competition that measures the participants’ air time by using Vancouver’s Recon Instruments goggles — heads-up display technology that delivers performance metrics through your smartphone and JumpSquad uses the data to create the leaderboard and award the winners. The team received a $10,000 cheque from Telus, which sponsored both the hackathon and the GROW 2014 conference.
Whistler Experience App
When you visit a new place, you want to get the best insider information — and who better to give you that than the locals. The Whistler Experience gives guests a way to tap into local knowledge and for the locals who may work in one of the many guest services roles among Whistler businesses, they could get a pat on the back for helping out in the form of discounts or other incentives.
This app aims to deliver immediate feedback on the customer experience so businesses can react right away. Using iBeacon technology, the passport can be used to let participants at an event — for example Whistler’s Cornucopia — see who else is at the event and offer up a virtual coupon book or incentive rewards. It could be giving someone a T-shirt for showing up at four Cornucopia events. iBeacon technology allows for hardware devices — iBeacons — to be detected by smartphones and other mobile devices through apps. It’s short-range wireless technology that can detect where you are through your smartphone, with that information used to send personalized notifications to your phone. In Canada, The Hudson’s Bay has rolled out its own iBeacon shopping experience to deliver targeted promotional and ad offers to customers in stores.