The third annual Internet of Things Civic Hackathon convened hundreds of coders, developers, officials and public safety employees last week in Indiana to find new ways in which technology could be directed toward the public good — focusing this year on solutions for public safety and FirstNet, the dedicated nationwide network for first responders.
The venue for the April 20-21 event — the new Indiana IoT Lab in Fishers, near Indianapolis — won praise from participants, but those interviewed by Government Technology said they were even more impressed by the caliber of ideas generated by roughly 300 technologists, and the close collaboration from scores of firefighters, police and law enforcement officers and public officials on-hand.
Teamwork between first responders and technology creators was baked into the event, which featured a Public Safety Equipment Rodeo during its early hours, aimed at familiarizing developers with the innovation potential in everything from mobile response units and communications vehicles to drones and helicopters. And as developers headed off to the adjacent Launch Fishers co-working space to begin designing solutions, first responders were nearby.
Bill Soards, president of AT&T Indiana, said the event was a good opportunity to flex the innovation side of FirstNet and “pull first responders deeper into the innovation cycle.”
“They’re the ones with field experience. They know the challenges they face. And when you can put first responders [together] directly with very smart software developers, magic happens,” Soards said.
AT&T is the FirstNet service provider.
A preliminary round of judging winnowed the field from 30 entrants to 10 semi-finalists who presented their solutions on-stage during the evening of April 21. First- and second-place prizes of $2,000 and $1,000, respectively, recognized achievement in IoT, mobile and data visualization.
Indiana’s analytics solutions provider, the Management Performance Hub (MPH), provided data streams for participants to tap into, and while it’s yet unclear whether finalists will go on to fully develop their projects, the state’s Chief Data Officer Darshan Shah pronounced the event a critical win.
“Each of these teams delivered a new idea and a different solution that we may not have thought of. The more we can continue to be interconnected with the technology community, the better it’s going to be for the tech community and the state collectively,” Shah said.
The winning solutions were:
“We thought, let’s pre-register them, get them verified as first responders so whenever there’s a need they can check and reach out to these [volunteers] in a more organized fashion,” said graduate student Anagha Varrier, one of four team members and a graduate student in computer science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
“If the light turns red and we realize the car is going too fast and will not stop in time, we delay the green light and the cross-traffic,” said team member Felix Wyss, who leads a group of AI researchers at contact center solutions provider Genesys.
Brian Norris, vice president of data and analytics at OurHealth, which provides primary care services to self-insured employers, was part of a team from the company that took part in the inaugural 2017 Indiana Medicaid Data Challenge in October.
“We found different areas of the state that had a higher Narcan usage than others. That could tell you ‘I need more of a Narcan supply.’ Or ‘I need [more] first responders trained,’” Norris said, noting that the solution will need a bit more robust data set to be completely successful.
“Obviously that’s incredibly valuable. You can imagine a child who may have to stay quiet because something’s going on. And instead of talking, they can just punch a button,” said Sally Fay, communications director for the state’s Integrated Public Safety Commission, which organized the equipment rodeo and is its point-of-contact agency for FirstNet.
“If we could really translate that [fall] into G-force, that will really give people ideas of how much impact and what kind of impact the subject suffered,” said team member Bin Sun, a self-trained engineer who works for Indianapolis medical device company Roche Diagnostics.
Theo Douglas is a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.