THacking in China: iBeacon tracking, gesture control, route optimization, SMS itinerary manager and more

THack China, Tnooz’s first ever hackathon in the country, attracted over 100 developers to build 23 working products based on mobile, social and wearable devices.

The event, produced in association with China Travel Daily, took place at the headquarters of Alibaba Group in Hangzhou between August 29 and 31.

Developers were given four different problems to try and solve:

  1. Mobile-based solution for outbound travellers
  2. Multi-modal transport solution for domestic travel
  3. Personalized social travel app
  4. Explore domestic travel

We also made available APIs from five travel brands: Travelsky, Amadeus, Taobao Travel, China Eastern Airlines, Ctrip and Toursforfun (a Ctrip brand).

Developers were also encouraged to use any publicly available APIs.

Participants came a broad selection of companies, such as China Southern Airlines, Ctrip, a Chinese PMS company, Jinjang, China PNR, and a number of startup companies.

The demo day on Sunday attracted an additional 150 observers.

After a strenuous 48-hour of coding marathon the teams presented their hacks to a panel of three judges:

  • Sherri Wu, senior director, Alibaba Group
  • Melissa Yang, co-founder and CTO, Tujia
  • Chris Lai, partner, Innovation Works

The majority of the teams created a hack to actually solve more than one of the challenges, with 21 out of the 23 hack teams building a mobile-based solution.

Every team demoed a working product, and the vast majority took time with over the design as well as the actual functionality (fun fact: over 80% of the developers were using a Macbook).

Three winning teams were selected by the judges. In addition, Amadeus, Taobao Travel and Travelsky gave away their own prizes for the best use of their respective APIs.

Below is a summary of the winning hacks:

THack winner & Amadeus API winner (two prizes)

This team from Jinjan Ecommerce built a hack, known as Cygnus, to cover off the first three of the challenges.

Once a user enters the budget and travel date in the mobile app they are presented with destination recommendations based on the Amadeus API.

The recommendation engine takes the user’s sleeping pattern also into account. With the new iOS 8 health monitoring technology, the app follows the sleeping duration of the user and recommends flight schedules.

For example: If the user hasn’t slept properly in the last two days, then the app doesn’t recommend a red-eye flight.

The trip recommendations are categorized into three sections: economy travel, flexible travel and relaxed travel.

The app has a group trip planning feature that allows users to book the itinerary once its approved by group members.

Also, the app can track (up to 100 meters) the user’s baggage in airport or it can track friends using iBeacon technology.

THack winner: Itinerary manager

This mobile-based hack is similar to Trip It. Instead of asking users to email their trip confirmation emails (as Trip It does), this hack app scans the SMS inbox in mobile, picks the booking confirmation SMSes and constructs a travel itinerary.

In China, travellers rely heavily on short messaging services like SMS, WeChat, Weibo, etc.

Travelsky API winner

This team built a mobile-based multi-modal travel solution for domestic travel.

Once a user selects a destination, the app lists all local attractions in the destination, and then user can build a day by day itinerary by selecting attractions from the masterlist.

Once the itinerary is ready, and when the user selects a travel date range, the algorithm displays an optimized route along with flight and hotel options.

The optimized route can be saved in the app for use offline.

Skyscanner and Amadeus APIs were used for flight options, Room2rio and Google Maps APIs were used for route optimization, and Travelsky API was used for hotel options.

Taobao Travel API winner

This is a mobile-based social travel game inspired by the recent Ice Bucket Challenge.

When a user travels from destination A to destination B, the app lists all attractions and restaurant options between the destinations.

Also, it enables the user to capture photos, description about point of interests and other notes to finally create a trip journal.

When the user reaches destination B, the user can nominate his/her social media frineds to travel to any destination of their choice, and the relay-travel continues.

With every trip, the app creates a trip journal. Taobao Travel API was used to pull in a list of attractions, with the Toursforfun API showing hotels, local tickets and food recommendations.

People’s choice: Film Trip

Interestingly, this hack is not mobile-based, instead built for televisions.

While watching a movie, have you ever wondered about the destinations the movie scenes were shot at? (for example: New Zealand for The Hobbit).

And, have you wished to know more details about that destination so that you could travel to that destination?

Then, this hack will help you do that. The TV app allows users to select a movie, view pictures of key destinations where the movie was shot at, read reviews about each destination, and view route plans to that destination.

The hack was built using LEAP motion, a device which enables users to select options on the TV using hand movements (gesture controlled).

Pictures from the event (more on our Facebook page)










Gesture control



Winners sharing the total prize fund of 55,000 RMB ($7,600)

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Karthick Prabu

About the Writer :: Karthick Prabu

Karthick was general manager for Tnooz in Asia until September 2014.



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  1. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

    Probably the first time we have seen this level of engagement in a real hack. Still some problems with several of the core assumptions that generated the results.However the results show that with a little tutoring that valid travel system designs are more than possible even in a market that has had little access to service based technology. Congrats to the teams. This should be a lesson to other markets to think about how they should perform.

  2. Nicolas Hauviller

    Congratulations to all the participants! These Hacks look very interesting: explore how new device and travel technology could work together to provide a unique experience


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