The hackathon was structured as a mini-startup experience, using Lean Canvas techniques to solve business and customer problems. The approach allowed teams to focus on not just technology, but how it can be applied to make things better for customers. Lean Canvas enables this by integrating critical success factors like cost structure, revenue models and unique value proposition from the outset.
Product architect and Theta research and innovation lead Jim Taylor, who was a member of the winning team, says the Genesis Energy hackathon’s customer focus set it apart.
“Other hackathons I’ve been involved in have been quite technology-centric. In this one, we had people in customer facing roles working alongside creatives and technologists. This changes the approach, and I think that showed in the solutions we worked on – they were useful, with real market potential.”
Daniel Tai, Theta research and innovation consultant and a member of the team placed second, adds:
“It was fun and interesting to work with people in different departments. We had team members who worked with customers all day and they really understood user problems so could explain the reasoning behind adding different features. And people who understood the business side had a good understanding of how much money they could save by reducing customer calls or increasing customer loyalty.”
Solving problems with technology
Jim was excited to work with Microsoft HoloLens, a self-contained, holographic computer that lets you engage with digital content and interact with holograms in the world around you via augmented reality.
His team used HoloLens as part of an overall solution including more conventional web and mobile interfaces as a tool to help customers see and manage their energy consumption in a different way.
“This was a brand new technology for all of us. So we had to figure out what it could do and how it worked, and I think we came up with an interesting way of using the device that captured the judges’ imaginations,” Jim says.
“If we had more time I would have liked to explore more options around how to design for the technology and interface. Now that Theta has a HoloLens for development, it will be interesting to work with a more dynamic and less constrained user interface. We’ll need to make use of the entire cognitive services stack, and how best to use video, speech to text, spatial recognition and more.”
Other Theta participants worked with technologies they knew well. Bots and machine learning were harnessed to develop solutions that could help consumers understand their energy habits, understand how they compared to others in similar households and inspire change.
All enjoyed the experience of working in a business and customer focused team, and having a chance to think about problems from a customer’s point of view. Says Theta data scientist Umair Khan:
“I chose to work on a team where I could use my machine learning experience, and that was useful, for sure. But I also really enjoyed getting out and talking to consumers – we went to Sylvia Park to do some market research – and learning to tackle problems from a customer’s perspective. I got to step outside of technology, and contribute to the team in other ways too.”
Feedback was uniformly positive and enthusiastic. The hackathon was a great event to be part of. Thanks Genesis Energy for the opportunity!
Congratulations to the winning team!