Control F1 takes Intel prize at IoT Hackathon

Head of Development Nick Payne describes his time at London Olympia’s IoT Hackathon, at which Control F1 proved victorious, taking the Intel Prize for our team’s “Personal Comfort Monitor”.

About two weeks ago friend of Control F1 Steve Cowper dropped us an email about attending an IoT Hackathon at London Olympia. Having never attended a hackathon on this scale before it seemed like a great idea. The prizes looked interesting and it fitted in quite nicely with what CF1 are doing in the space too.

A couple of impromptu phone calls later, we’d come up with the idea of the “Personal Comfort Monitor” – PCM for short! We were taking on Intel’s challenge of creating an application for the Intel Edison board, together with an Arduino breakout board and a bevvy of Grove sensors. Of course, all plans could change having had the hardware pitched to us on arrival…

Fortunately, they didn’t! Intel has built a Cloud IoT platform, loosely based on MQTT and hosted on AWS (again, a perfect fit for CF1).

The brief told us that there had to be a business case and route to market for whatever we were building. Steve had done plenty of market research and field data collection previously and promptly set out on the documentation for our project (whilst keeping the dev machine oiled with coffee and cake).

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 16.31.20

Control F1 Lead Developer Phil Kendall made light work of the hardware, iterating quickly over the Intel examples to get various sensors wired up and talking to the backend. Meanwhile I configured the backend platform and made sure that the project was registered so we stood a chance of winning, having set up a github repo for the code.

After about five hours we had a board that was able to ingest data from various sensors (with air quality fudged by a rotary switch in true hackathon style) and a mobile application that displayed the data. In short order we also got a red LED lighting up when the derived “comfort level” dropped below 50 (Steve kindly produced an algorithm for Phil to convert into NodeJS together with Excel proof). Time was called on the first day, and we retired happy that we’d achieved a fair amount.

Day 2 arrived and we implemented the LCD display board to give a user friendly read out. After much hacking (and a bit of swearing) Phil converted the Edison IoT agent to TCP sending, as UDP sending messed up the LCD – it turned it off!

Nick embarked on polishing the mobile app (a rewrite followed!) and by the end of the morning it looked half decent. The Intel EnableIoT api was able to be called to give the mobile app what it needed.

With a few hours to spare, we helped a few of the other hackers and checked out the competition. Then, once the presentation was finished, we had some lunch.

The pitches drew quite a crowd at the Expo. We were next to last, so at least we didn’t have too long to wait for the judges to finalise the results.

I’m proud to announce that we won 1st prize from Intel! They were impressed by the amount that we achieved in the time we had, and with the idea and pitch (and maybe that we raised a few bugs for them to go and fix too!)

Many thanks to the organisers, and to Richard Kasteline in particular. The prizes will definitely be used back at CF1 HQ to continue our “After School Clubs”, and who knows – maybe the Personal Comfort Monitor will come in handy at Control F1 HQ – we have three Edisons to play with now, and a Surface 3 to display results on!

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