Servify at VIT Hackathon 2019

vit-hackathon-2019

Hackathons. Those marathon hacking sessions aimed to bring out the creative juices of the most talented technology focused young minds. Servify was delighted to be invited at this year's VIT Hackathon event at their Vellore Campus. And boy, what a campus it is, spread over 300-acres of land which is immaculately maintained.

However, we were there to tap the brightest minds in the field of technology. By presenting them with a challenging problem statement which was given to the teams beforehand, so they could prepare their approach.

Opening Keynote

The Hackathon itself was scheduled to begin from the 21st of September, but on the evening of the 20th, there was a keynote which was delivered by two of our key members from technology. Ratnesh Vijayvargiya (or RV, as we call him) who is our Head of Engineering, along with Satish Suggala (aka Sattu) who is our General Manager for Product and Growth.

The keynote gave a glimpse of what kind of problems was Servify trying to solve, how we identified key areas which needed improvement, and how our journey has been about empowering the consumer experience.

Hackers: Assemble!

Saturday morning rolled over with a palpable excitement in the air. The auditorium earmarked for Servify’s hackathon was quickly filling up as students from all within the campus as well as from other parts of the country began coming in. Satish took centre stage before the students got underway with a quick presentation of our Problem Statement. In short, the students had to build an app which would allow end-users to:

  • Add devices to an app by Object Detection (using AR)
  • Add all devices by scanning the network, to the same app (using ML)
  • Unique Device Identification Algorithm for Android 10 

The first two statements were easy to understand: users can have a great experience on a device platform by first adding them to their ‘device wallet’. But we want to make this process simpler, going forward - rather than manually searching and selecting, users can simply point their phone camera to a device, which uses Machine Learning and predicts the product name, or the app can scan the local Wi-Fi and see every device connected to it, identify it and add it to the ‘device wallet’ of the user.

The third statement was for students to figure out how, in Android 10, can a unique identifier be assigned to devices since reading IMEI was no longer an option. This was a real world issue affecting several businesses. And to come up with a working solution would probably take a lot more than 36 hours, but we were more interested to see the approach that each team would take to try and solve this.

Easier said than done, right?

The students then got down to work, working with Firebase and were told that they will be graded on the quality of their code and functionality of the app. A nice UX will get bonus points.

The Marathon Commences

The first few hours of the Hackathon saw teams settling in and drawing out strategies on exactly which team member will tackle what part of the challenge. Once everyone knew what they were going to do, they began. Doubts were attended to by our tech team members and the right path was shown if our experts felt the students were straying.

The next few hours saw the students really giving shape to their code and cross-checking which bits work and which won’t. There were already some interesting ideas floating around the hall to tackle the problem statement. From AR models that can be shown, to unique sound signatures of each device to a whole lot more. While ‘concentrate on fundamentals’ was the brief our tech experts were repeating, some teams were really thinking out of the box to come up with viable solutions.

It was heartening to see so many curious minds building great algorithms that were hopefully going to impress us the next day. A last round of assessments was conducted late at night and the final round of queries for the day were answered. The next morning, you could see everyone was in top gear. Students really needed to hunker down and begin preparing their finalised version, which would be bug-free and elegant.

The Judging Round

Judging such hackathons isn’t an easy task. But since we’ve built a platform that is transforming the after-sales experience, we know what to look for. What questions to ask. What to ignore. And what really to evaluate within a given set of codes.

To say that each team put in their best effort would be an understatement. Moreover, it was great to see two all-girls team (one who called themselves Estrogen Express) fighting it out with the (traditionally) guys-dominated technical event.

As the teams came up to our judges to present their working solutions, the evaluations began simultaneously. However, these were initial evaluations which needed a further follow-up discussion once every team had presented their project. 36 hours later, we had zeroed on in our winner.

And it was a team that called themselves ‘BottomsUp!’
2nd prize went to Team ‘Stone Colders’ while 3rd was bagged by Team ‘BugLife’.

Onwards and Upwards

Through the roller-coaster of emotions and the effort needed to keep working on a problem for 36 hours, the students assembled at VIT Hackathon 2019 were incredible. You can already see a glimpse of the future tech leaders they will turn out to be.