Hacking the Internet of Things at the Liberty Global Appathon

Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome generally welcomes A-listers like Drake and Beyoncé. This week, the venue echoed a different kind of sound: the sweet buzz of laptops, televisions, and set-top boxes. Why? Liberty Global hosted its 2017 Appathon! We were eager to compete, so we sent some of our colleagues from aFrogleap and Oxyma to shine on the main stage.

This year, the theme for Liberty Global’s Appathon was the Internet of Things (IoT). With a special twist: the 18 teams were challenged to unleash the potential of the living room TV as a hub for the connected home.

The Appathon’s stage featured a fully equipped living room with $8000 worth of connected devices. All the usual suspects were there: Alexa, Google Home, smart fridges and ovens, Sonos speakers, a connected fan, Roombas, curtains with WiFi, Nest thermostats, smart door locks, Philips Hue lights, and a whole lot more.

Every team had two days to come up with an interesting IoT-concept and hack it together. By the end of the second day, the teams presented their IoT-demo to a jury.

We’re always up for a challenge. That’s why we teamed up with aFrogleap to compete in the Appathon. Together, we set up a team with Android developer Rafa, innovation manager Sam, back-end developer Jan, and designer Robbert.

Let’s ask our innovation manager Sam from aFrogleap about his experience at the Appathon.

Hi Sam! Why did aFrogleap and Oxyma take part in this Appathon?

“Experimenting with new technologies is always exciting, especially when you have such a short timeframe. In a hackathon, you have to embrace the restrictions, work against the clock, and still turn your concept into a success. It’s a satisfying process.”

“The opportunity to work together with our colleagues from Oxyma is another benefit. As a digital product agency, we usually work on different kinds of projects than Oxyma. Being in this hackathon together, I noticed there’s a lot we can learn from each other’s way of working.”

Can you tell us a little more about your concept?

“Our concept was called GetClose. It uses Philips Hue lamps to let you “sense” when your family will be home for dinner. First, we allocate a lamp with a particular color to each member of the family. When someone starts to get nearer to home, their phone sends out a signal to the Horizon TV set-top box that we use as an IoT-hub. Horizon then triggers the right lamp to turn on. The closer a family member is to your home, the more brightly their lamp will light up.”

“With GetClose, we tried to build something that’s almost invisible to the eye. Our concept allows you to sense information through your surroundings, rather than see it on an app. This way, it’s almost like telepathy.”

How was the atmosphere at the Appathon?

“There was a lot of energy. At the start of both days, our team would gather to discuss the day ahead. During the day, we’d get together a couple of times more to share our progress and update each other on small moments of victory. Aside from that, we didn’t have much time to socialize with the other teams. We were simply too focused on our own project.”

How do you see the future of the Internet of Things?

“IoT will be huge. Putting chips inside appliances is so cheap that at some point, manufacturers will see no reason not to do it. Digital is now a presence in all aspects of our life. Everything that’s still offline will soon be connected. It’s only a matter of time.”

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