AWS Hack Day 2017

I recently visited AWS HackDay 2017 at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) office in Singapore. This is the third year the competition has run, and this time there were 22 teams competing to build projects relating to IoT, analytics and AI, around the themes of healthcare, smart home and the environment.

If you’re unfamiliar, AWS is the cloud computing business unit of Amazon, yes, that online bookstore turned Internet shopping company. AWS cloud is arguably bigger than Google’s and Microsoft’s public “infrastructure as a service” (IaaS) combined.

For this hackathon, teams have 12 hours to deliver a prototype that solves real-world problems using AWS cloud services and various connected devices that they were provided with. The teams did have some online and on-site training prior to the actual hackathon, and they did have the gadgets prior to the big day to develop some ideas. But you could say that most of the work was crammed into just the day of the hackathon.

Each team was provided with an Amazon Echo Dot, an AWS IoT button, an Intel Edison chip with the Grove Indoor Environmental Kit, and a 720p HD webcam.

The Grove Indoor Environment Kit includes various gadgets like:

  • Moisture sensor
  • Light sensor
  • UV sensor
  • PIR motion sensor
  • Encoder
  • Button
  • Temperature and humidity sensor
  • LCD with RGB backlight
  • Relay
  • Servo
  • Buzzer

The kit would enable teams to develop various mechanisms to interact with the real-world, like smart doorbells, for example, which happens to be one of the actual team’s project.

This all sounds like lots of fun to me. I build such toys too when I have the time, though, unfortunately, I don’t always see through to completion. My remote IR blaster to control my aircon, for example, is still unfinished.

The 22 teams that participated in this AWS HackDay include 14 from companies ranging from startups to mid-to-large sized companies, 2 all-girl communities, 2 polytechnics and 2 universities.

What are the winning projects?

  • “4 Musketeers” (of Singapore Polytechnics) won under the student category for a device that reads out medication instructions of their prescriptions in the dialect of their choice.
  • “Exception” (from SingTel) took first runner-up in the commercial category for a visual-recognition smart doorbell.
  • “Dare Devils” (from DBS and Intel Systems) won with their smart farming solution.

What did I learn? Interestingly, even though being an IT person, I was unaware of the comprehensive range of services offered by AWS, in particular those relating to IoT and image recognition services. For example, you can give AWS Rekognition service an image, and it will identify content in them, including to detect, search and compare faces.

I might find myself picking up a project revolving around AWS. (Can’t say if I’ll finish it though…)

 

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