Mobile App Hackathon – Innovating Like Champions

5 min read

Mobile App Hackathon – Innovating Like Champions

IBM Watson IoT and AT&T once again put on a Mobile App Hackathon at the University of Notre Dame in September this year. Similar to the event last year, student developers from the South Bend, Indiana campus created applications and projects that truly show what’s possible with the Internet of Things.

The Hackathon

The Hackathon

The Notre Dame students learned about IBM Cloud platformWatson Cognitive Services, Watson IoT Platform and created some fantastic applications in a time compressed hackathon weekend. John Walicki, IBM’s “Developer Angel” spent the weekend with the students, helping them create inspiring projects.  John was reported to chuckle at that title, but appropriate considering “Touchdown Jesus” was right over his shoulder outside the window of the Notre Dame IDEA Center.

The innovative projects conceived, built, and presented by the teams truly showed, not only their creativity, but their focus using IoT to help people.

The Results

The Results

The prize for best use of the Watson IoT Platform went to Fluffle Mattress Tech (they brought an actual mattress!). The goal of Fluffle is to improve every aspect of the sleep experience – lighting, temperature, music, security. A good night’s sleep is so closely related to well-being, productivity, and general good health.

For some, though, it can be more serious, even fatal. For those who suffer from epilepsy, a big concern is seizures occurring while they sleep. Three thousand deaths occur each year from seizures while sleeping. The team at Fluffle showed a prototype of a sensor tag placed in the mattress, homed to a nearby mobile phone, which activates the sensor, collects data, and pushes it to the cloud. When the sensor detects a seizure, Fluffle’s technology places a call to the listed emergency contact. If that fails, then IBM Watson calls 911.


The prize for Best IoT Application overall was awarded to SeeCheck. They young people at SeeCheck say they are the future of studying. What can be more frustrating, and less productive, than trying to find a quiet place to study? In a large university setting, this can be quite a problem. The team from SeeCheck, though, has a solution:  an app that checks the availability of seats in the library, detects and ranks each location based on noise level, and locates the user’s friends within the library. The goal is every parent’s dream: the student maximizes study time!

While this app certainly doesn’t save lives, it sure does help reduce students’ stress levels, and can have many commercial applications – restaurants, coffee shops, airport lounges – and could even be tied in with other apps that recommend such places.

Another app that focused on safety was from the team at Look Up! Elephant!.  Imagine walking down the street, knowing that you and the other pedestrians can safely look at your mobile phones. That would be a big change from today, when emergency rooms treat 1,500 injuries per year from mobile phone use while walking!


The team used an ultrasonic distance sensor, connected to the cloud and to the user’s mobile phone, which would notify user by text message when the sensor detected an obstacle within a pre-set distance. The team cleverly blended Watson Text to Speech  (Look Out!) into the prototype, which gained everyone’s attention.

Each team had fun, and in the spirit of innovation, shared their ideas (warts and all) with the group in the room. While the presentations had humor, the problems they set out to solve were serious. It’s amazing what is brewing in our Universities and innovation centers today, and how many diverse problems can be solved with IoT technologies. Here’s a great recap of the entire event and all the winners!

The Wrap-up

IBM and AT&T both sponsor hackathons, developer workshops, and showcase events that demonstrate the power of IoT to make people’s lives better. And we can’t wait to see what young developers create at the next events!

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