“Smart Public Life”

24-hour hackathon at Deutsche Telekom

The hacker working-groups hard at work at “Smart Public Life”.

Bonn. The idea: Make life more comfortable for people living in cities - “Smart Public Life.” Developers, designers and newbies met at Telekom headquarters for a 24-hour hackathon aimed at building an intelligent city.

What if trees could talk?  It might sound crazy but this could become real in a city of tomorrow.  Several hackers immersed themselves into this idea and the meaning of it in a 24-hour hackathon held at Telekom headquarters on September 19.  They were just one working group of the Hackathon 2017 “Smart Public Life”.

A hacker is not necessarily a criminal.  “The term is often used incorrectly,” said Mark Nierwetberg, one of the organizers of the hackathon. It’s much more about trying out new things - constructively.  Hacking away at something until it either works out or it doesn’t.

“If you have never failed, then your idea was not big enough,” said Nierwetberg, quoting a saying from Silicon Valley.  That’s why three top managers from Spartan Technology and Innovation came to report on concepts they had that never took off.

One has to see what will happen with the trees: “"They only make oxygen. This is much too boring for today's generation," said Thorsten Fugmann. "It would be nice if they could recognize people," added Alexander Rohr about their idea exploration.  In concrete terms, that means a tree caretaker could learn when its charge needs water.  According to Patrick Herber, it is about increasing awareness of trees and that there are more of them in the end. 

Few women participants

Park benches with sensors to show when someone is sitting on them - this may sound wacky.  “But when the sensor goes on in winter frost at 10 pm, it could be a homeless person,”  explains Nierwetberg.  Or take potholes for example.  Currently, people are needed to drive around and make an assessment.  “Garbage trucks are driving around all the time,” he says.  One just needs to install cameras on them.  Another practical innovation would be if stoplights could read how many cars were waiting in line and changed signals according to the need.  When these clever ideas could be realized in a manageable way, these could be positive developments. 

“It’s fun being one of few women amongst the men,” says Melina Mascolo.  The 19-year-old is studying business informatics.  Friederike Rümelis (23), studies Industrial Design Engineering in Eindhoven. "I think a lot will change," she said with regard to the digital future.  In Germany, people are more conscious of data than elsewhere.

Wednesday, 8:30 am:  Everyone is awakened by loudspeakers that say “Good morning, sunshine!”  The overnight supplies of coffee and energy drinks have been exhausted.  In the end, the group “Smart City Hub” won with an idea for online citizen services, an App for placing official applications.  "They want to pursue their idea with Telekom," said Jennifer Busch from the company.  Second place was about locating people - which could be a big help for those with dementia.  Third place was the “Pollution Butler” which measured air pollution.  The tree group received applause for their efforts. (Orig. text: Richard Bongartz. Translation: ckloep)