THack Bangalore: Winners – waitlist predictor, social travel and trip planning
For the first time in India, a travel vertical focused hackathon (THack) took place in the country’s own Silicon Valley – Bangalore.
THack Bangalore was planned to be slightly different from the other THacks we have been doing for a few years.
In our regular hackathons (recent ones in SFO, Boston, Sydney), we make travel APIs available to developers in advance. Participants are given eight (sometimes more) days to build hacks/products on top of the APIs and, finally, present at a showcase on the final day.
However, THack Bangalore (hosted at Cleartrip‘s Bangalore office) turned the idea around, with no travel branded APIs made available – rather, a 48-hour, open hackathon concluding on midday Sunday 12 pm on November 10.
The event attracted 60 developers forming 22 teams. One team among the 22 included students, the remaining 21 teams were developers and engineers working at various companies.
Participants came from a string of organisations including Amadeus, Nibodha Technologies, RedBus, C-soft Technologies, TripThirsty, OLA Cabs, Cleartrip, Yahoo, Armor Technologies, FindMyCarrots and PayPal.
Amadeus had two teams involved in the event – one developed a service which alerts a traveller about local events during his/her travel. The other team developed a trip recommendation engine based on user’s social media data.
The team from Armor built NFC-based use cases for the airline industry. For example: A traveller browsing and buying inflight products and food using NFC technology.
Yahoo hackers built a marketplace for finding information regarding destination related souvenirs – browse, read, customize and buy souvenirs.
Teams from RedBus built crowd-sourced location tracking engine for buses and cars. A number of travel planning hacks were also built in the event.
The judging team – Mahesh Murthy, founder of SeedFund; Ram Badrinathan, CEO of GlobalTHEN; Mukund Mohan, head of Microsoft Ventures – focused on four areas: creativity, originality, technical proficiency, and business purpose/revenue scope.
Every team was given four minutes to present their final product to the judges and fellow participants, followed by two minutes of Q&A (these turned out on a number of occasions to live consulting sessions).
The third place was shared by two teams.
Hack 1: This team of three from Nibodha Technologies built a trend-based travel opportunity creation engine. Depending on a local trend, the engine creates automatic posts with travel content in it that can be posted to a company’s social media pages.
Example: Sachin Tendulkar’s last test match (before he retires) that is scheduled to happen in Mumbai is a local trend. The hack engine picks this trend, validates a travel opportunity, and creates a post something like this – “Travel to Mumbai to watch Sachin’s last test match, hotels in Mumbai starting at $50, book here: <a link>”.
Hack 2: This team of two from OLA Cabs built a personalized destination recommendation platform by retrieving data from Facebook friends. The team says:
“We were developing Facebook app for the first time. We spent nearly half the event time in figuring out auth-token and FQL. Best thing we did was we kept going, kept the spirits up. We didn’t know then, but others were struggling as well.”
This team of two from RedBus built a real-time group trip planning service – bringing people who wish to travel together into a closed group where they can discuss their travel ideas, share details, and create a travel plan.
All searches and destination suggestions by people (in a group) gets pinned to the group’s wall. Each pin can be upvoted or downvoted by group users. All of these activities happen realtime so that group users get an update.
The team used technologies like Node.js and Redis to enable real time communication between users. Also, Wikipedia pages were scraped and Google APIs like search, images, maps, places were used to aggregate a lot of information into pins.
The team also wrote an algorithm to find the best possible order of locations in cities to help users who do not have much knowledge about the location.
The team says:
“This was our first experience in a hackathon and it was a memorable one. From sleepless nights to Redbulls to long hours of coding and designing, it was fun and a good learning experience. We interacted with other teams and were able to understand and learn a lot. Also we got to know about a lot of interesting ideas that we never thought could help solve problems in travel.”
All three judges unanimously picked Salil Panikkaveettil. Working on his own, Panikkaveettil built a prediction service which will work out if an Indian railway’s wait-list ticket will be confirmed or not.
The Indian Railway is the fourth biggest train network in the world. Considering this fact and the technically challenged railway reservation service, there exists a good chance for a user to end up in wait-list status.
Panikkaveettil built PNR.me, a service which tells in advance whether a waiting list ticket will be confirmed or not with 75% accuracy, (a kind of Big Data hack). Panikkaveettil works as an online marketing analyst at BankBazaar.
Panikkaveettil was awarded Rs 50,000 for winning the THack, the second team was awarded Rs 30,000, and the third place teams were awarded Rs 10,000 each.
Judges pointed out that a number of the products had very good solution developed as hacks, but they lacked a real business problem which needed solving
They also pointed out that a hack always need not result in a big product/company, and only 2% of the hacks developed make it to become a big company.
Few pictures from THack Bangalore:
A portion of hackers + demo participants.
Tnooz CEO Gene Quinn briefing developers.
Shoe-less Sangharsh still managed to win third place.
Team from Cleartrip that had five bean bags stacked up.
Team from Armor Technologies showing a NFC chip stuck in paper, and scanning it to demo airline use cases.
Mahesh Murthy, one of the judges during Q&A.
Nitesh Sethiya from Amadeus takes a break.
More THack Bangalore pictures can be accessed – here.
Karthick was general manager for Tnooz in Asia until September 2014.