Mashery Developer Blog

Curated lovingly by the Mashery Developer Outreach Team

1400 Developers Storm LA Hacks

1400 developers stormed LA Hacks last weekend.  This three day collegiate hackathon located at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion brought together hackers from around the nation, and across the seas from as far as Asia.  Members of the MLH (Major League Hacking) defending championship team, Terrapin Hackers from the University of Maryland, arrived to the event as competitors and volunteers, true champions indeed.  LA Hacks was poised for groundbreaking innovative excellence with a much anticipated surprise keynote speaker, leading industry mentors, speakers and guests, and a fun learning component known as LA HackCamp, a special track at La Hacks focused on teaching passionate beginners how to code.

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LA Hacks transformed Pauley Pavilion into a concert like setting with an enormous video screen and stage for Friday night’s opening ceremony.

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The mystery keynote speaker was none other than Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snapchat.  The crowd greeted him with a thunderous applause.  His keynote message emphasized the importance of human relationships formed through passionate conversations.

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MLH co-founder Jon Gottfried served as the event’s host, outlined hackathon details to attendees, and gave the green light to begin hacking.

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The Pauley Pavilion floor was filled with developers working on their projects.  As I made my way through the hundreds of hackers, I met many familiar faces from previous hackathons including HackTECH, BoilerMake, and HackPSU.  

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It was awesome to meet the international team Jiffi, comprised of members all the way from Singapore and Canada.  

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There were so many attendees eager to learn from my workshop “Building a Mobile App with the Mashery API Network,” that I made it a mentor mission of mine: “To teach all, and leave no hacker behind.”  

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LA Hacks and LA HackCamp attendance for my Mashery workshop grew from tens to hundreds. Attendees built their very first mobile app using the Beats Music, World Weather Online, Rotten Tomatoes, and CrunchBase APIs (all part of the Mashery API Network), and successfully used the mobile app builder tool, Intel XDK to create their app in just minutes. It was an amazing experience.

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West coast representatives from Microsoft, Nokia, DVLUP, Gracenote, Sendgrid, Leap Motion, and others also mentored and awarded prizes to participants best using their technologies.  

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The Mashery sponsored prize for the “Best App Using The Mashery API Network” was the DiscoRobo “Dancing Robot.”

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   A whopping 224 apps were submitted for judging.  The Mashery prize was awarded to “Ask Andy,” the voice controlled assistant for the home created by an awesome two member team from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and San Jose State University.

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This software and hardware hack (using the Rasberry Pi) informs users of the weather (invoking the services of the World Weather Online API), automatically sends email and text messages, and changes the channel on your television simply from the user’s voice.

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Tinder CEO, Sean Rad awarded the $5000 grand prize to “Tread” a virtual reality adventure experience in which a users is secured into a treadmill wearing the Oculus Rift Headset and special shoes, and is immersed into another world.  This winning app, created by a three member Terrapin Hackers team also used the Arduino micro-controller board and Unity game engine to create this visually stunning, virtual reality experience.

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I want to thank the LA Hacks team led by Hadar Dor for giving hackathon participants the opportunity to express and challenge themselves through app building.

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And thank you participating volunteers and sponsors for making LA Hacks an incredible event.

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See more pictures from LA Hacks here

Bitcamp - Home of MLH Defending Champions

In the words of Bitcamp organizers via their website -

"Camp is a place for creation, exploration, and imagination. At Bitcamp, you’ll have 36 hours to combine your curiosities and wild ideas with code and gadgets to make something awesome. Throw in world-class mentors and hundreds of peers from around the world, and you’re in for an amazing time. See you by the bonfire!"

That’s precisely what Bitcamp was.

Bitcamp - home of MLH defending champions

Fact: University of Maryland won the inaugaral Major League Hacking season last fall. Here’s the trophy they won with the bigger one up for grabs this year.

Quick Look

  • Over the weekend of 4-6 April 2014, University of Maryland hosted the debut version of Bitcamp.
  • Held at the beautiful University of Maryland campus, Bitcamp was indeed a place where great stuff got built by students from various colleges.

  • Much like HackPrinceton that took place the week prior, Bitcamp was held at the University’s Sport complex, which was awesome. In fact, if I had to choose a perfect setup from a venue point of view, this would be it. It’s good to see that almost all college hackathons seem to have a concensus that having all developers in one big room is the way to go. Given that most of these hackathons now host north of 500 developers, Gym/basket ball stadiums surface as excellent options.

  • Over 700 developers attended from various colleges.

  • 5 Mashery hacks built using APIs from the Mashery network, including Jambase, Beats Music, Crunchbase APIs.
  • Over 100 hacks were built in less than 36 hours.
  • Science fair style demos for the 100+ hacks built. Top 8 got to demo.

  • Lots of fun activities were arranged to make the whole experience engaging, including - Ice Cream Social, Campfire Stories, S’mores, and COLORWAR!

  • Even took us on a Collider and Startup Shell Tour, which is an student run incubator at UMD.
  • The organizers did a great job at planning and executing what I would call a fantastic first ever Bitcamp. Take a bow - Mackenzie, Jeff, Brent & the rest of the Bitcamp team!

Best app built using Mashery API Network

Gig Genie: An app that lets you discover the music concerts coming up around you using the Jambase API and then allows you to add the tracks of the bands playing to a playlist using the Beats Music API. A really useful way to allow users to listen to new bands and artists before deciding if the concert’s worth going to. It allows you to find Events, buy tickets, and most importantly get a playlist featuring top songs from each performing artist.

bitmatch An iOS app built on top of Hacker League that allows college hackathon attendees to find and build teams. You register via Github, enter your skills, skills you’re looking for, and, if applicable, an idea, users are presented with the profiles of potential teammates and collaborators. It uses the Hacker League API and Google Places API to get information about planned hackathons, like identifying which hackathons are closest to the user.

Leave you with this fun video that was shot by our friends at Major League Hacking, featuring the hackers at Bitcamp!

HackPSU: 36-Hour Collegiate Learning Hackathon

Students from Carnegie Mellon, Rose-Hulman, Kent State, schools as far as New York, and many others travelled to Penn State University for last weekend’s HackPSU, a three day collegiate learning hackathon about code learning and app building.  

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The event included workshops focused on app design, app store marketing, and app building with APIs. These activities were intended to provide students the tools necessary in building great apps and to encourage them to submit their apps for judging. I, along with many other mentors wearing blue bandanas led these workshops.

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Eli Kariv, HackPSU’s organizer kicked off the event at PSU’s Cybertorium.  This was a first hackathon for many.  After welcoming participants, Eli introduced the sponsors which included Mashery, Capital One, Sendgrid, Videon Central and many others.  

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I introduced the Mashery API Network and revealed the Mashery prize for the Best Use of a Mashery Powered API: up to (3) Red Beats Studio Headphones.  In my presentation, I spoke about Hacker League which powered this hackathon.  By a raise of hands, I discovered many Swift (one of Hacker League’s founders) followers in the crowd, realizing Swift and Hacker League’s strong visibility in the collegiate hackathon community.  

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The Tag app team (formed at a previous hackathon) gave an inspiring presentation sharing their experiences and struggles getting their app to market, and now celebrating their success and valuable opportunities afforded to them from this experience.

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My tech talk proceeded shortly after. I was welcomed by a classroom full of fun students eager to learn about building a mobile app using the Mashery API Network.

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All 21 students built an app using a Mashery powered API during this workshop. I was fortunate to make this happen by first introducing the Mashery API Network and asking for a volunteer to help me demonstrate the Mashery Network API key retrieval process.  Students followed our volunteer Connie (through my direction) and we all obtained our Beats Music API key in just minutes and invoked it’s services through the Beats Music Playground, again in just minutes.  

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I then helped attendees setup their laptops with Intel XDK (HTML5 app builder) and directed Connie and the PurpleDragons (the name we branded our class) to reenter the Mashery API Network and obtain their Rotten Tomatoes API key on their own. In the end, they built their own app using Intel XDK invoking the Rotten Tomatoes API services with their own API key. Great job PurpleDragons!

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Twenty-five HackPSU projects were submitted to Hacker League.  The Mashery prize was awarded to a two person PSU team that created “Fast Read” an iPhone app that allows users to read articles as fast or as slow to their choosing, one word displayed at a time. This team used the ESPN API for optional reading articles and the OpenSpritz API for the one word at a time reading experience. I am proud to announce that this same team also won the overall 3rd Place HackPSU medal and were part of the PurpleDragons class of 2014.

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An honorable mention goes to EzRide, the taxi cab locator app which won the Sendgrid prize and used Intel XDK. 

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Special thanks goes to all the Hack PSU volunteers, you organized a great learning hackathon! 

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Thanks Eli for your strong and passionate leadership. 

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And congratulations to those attendees that learned new app building skills this past HackPSU weekend.

BV IO 2014: Bazaarvoice Tech Conference and Hackathon

Bazaarvoice’s first public technical conference and hackathon known as BV IO 2014 took place last weekend at the Norris Conference Centers in Austin. The goal of the event was to inspire participants from the Austin community and Bazaarvoice representatives to innovate in the social commerce space and build great things.imageThe conference started Wednesday morning with an introductory presentation about the event by Bryan Chagoly, Bazaarvoice Director of Engineering and BV IO organizer.  Bazaarvoice CEO Gene Austin took to the stage to welcome attendees, and was later followed by talks from Bazaarvoice representatives and other leading industry professionals including Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation at the University of Texas at Austin who spoke about “After 40 Years of Ethernet,” and Greg Brockman, CTO of Stripe who shared his startup experiences in a talk entitled “How We Scaled Stripe From 4 To 94 Employees.”image

imageLater in the evening, Bryan entered the stage to kickoff the hackathon. Contestants eagerly listened to Bryan and the many sponsors offering prizes.  image

I represented Mashery as a sponsor and announced to attendees the Best Use Of A Mashery Powered API prize: up to (3) Red Beats Pill 2.0 Speakers.image

I asked for a volunteer to join and help me on stage in demonstrating the Mashery API Network.  My volunteer Victor (with a little of my Mashery guidance) navigated through the Mashery API Network, registered for a BeatsMusic API key and used his new key to make a live BeatsMusic API call entirely in front of our audience.  A round of applause followed and contestants continued working on their projects.imageThe next day, I met with both Bazaarvoice and Austin community developers in helping them obtain their API keys from the Mashery API Network for use in their apps.imageOn Thursday evening, several contestants took a break from developing their projects and engaged in a fun “Call of Duty" head to head team tournament.image

imageContestants submitted their apps for judging to Hacker League, twenty-four in all.  Nina Reinert from the Mashery Sales Team suited up in her red Mashery “Salute to Developers” shirt and presented the Mashery prize to an awesome three member team that created “Come In Store,” an app providing users special offers on products based on their location near retail stores.  The team invoked the services of the Best Buy API.imageAn honorable Mashery mention goes out to the four member “Waterloo Intern Team” that created “Pinpoint” the beautifully designed web app that allows users to browse aggregated product reviews and feedback data (provided by the Bazaarvoice API) by location using the TomTom API.image

I want to thank Bryan Chagoly and the BV IO volunteers for organizing this fun event and special thanks goes out to Nina Reinert for helping me award the Mashery prize and taking pictures with our Mashery prize winners, “Come In Store.” image

imageSee more pictures from BV IO 2014 here and check out the submitted projects here on Hacker League.

HackPrinceton - Spring 2014

I wrote a recap post “Princeton’s got talent" back in November 2011, when I represented Mashery at Startup Weekend Princeton. I ended that post with -

Really awesome hacks got built out over the weekend. The quality of the hacks was simply mind blowing. Here’s a shout out to all teams that participated. Great stuff!

This year was no different, except that Princeton’s got a lot of hardware talent as well now, plus their love for APIs is ever growing.

Having missed out on the fall edition of HackPrinceton last year, I was pretty excited about attending the spring version this past weekend.

Quick Look

  • On 28 March 2014, Princeton University hosted HackPrinceton at their campus.
  • The hackathon, including the science fair style demos were held at the University’s beautiful Jadwin Gym, which was an excellent venue choice because it made sure that everyone was in one building, except the people building hardware hacks, who were at Princeton University’s hardware labs.
  • About 250 developers attended from various universities
  • Intel’s J.D Patel and Bryan Mackenzie gave a talk explaining the benefits of Intel XDK and developing with Galileo boards respectively.
  • Stephen Wolfram of WolframAlpha fame gave a talk on Wolfram Alpha’s new cloud technologies.
  • Some really cool hardware hacks were built including AirBike and Twitchy.
  • 5 Mashery hacks built using - TomTom, USAToday, Bookshare APIs.
  • Over 90 hacks were built in less than 36 hours.
  • Science fair style demos for 91 hacks built. Top 20 got to demo.
  • 5 Apps were built using APIs from the Mashery network.
  • 3 Apps were built using Intel XDK.

Best hacks built using Mashery API Network

  1. SmartCar Assistant: An iPad app that allows the cars to be “smarter”, by providing turn-by-turn navigation, real-time navigation and traffic information powered by TomTom API, Lane departure warning, Collision avoidance and blind spot detection using OpenCV line detection algorithms. Four ultrasonic range sensors wirelessly update the soundings of the vehicle for Collision avoidance and blind spot detection.

  2. **Guru Genie* An email based service that provides answers via trigger based emails. It allows you to get the latest news (via USAToday API), books info (via Bookshare API) and also answers to mathematical equations by simply sending an email to inbound@guru.bymail.in along with a keyword that acts as a trigger for the query. For example, put “integrate sqrt(x)*cos(x) dx from 0 to 10” in the body of your email. Ask for “give me some current news”, query for “books harry potter” to search for books with harry potter in title.

Other notable hacks

  1. AirBike (1st place) A fantastic bike sharing system which uses a wireless electronic lock and an iPhone app to enable hubless, decentralized bike sharing. Deservedly won the first prize under the hardware category.
  2. Echocast An application that lets you send information wirelessly over high frequency sound. Data is encoded in a sound file which can be played by any common speaker and then decoded by any common microphone. Echocast uses frequencies above the human hearing range, so the transfer is silent. The application does not need any additional hardware - it works with the speakers and microphone that come with any laptop or smartphone.
  3. Twitchy An acrylic laser-cut hexapod that has twelve degrees of freedom. It is powered by an Arduino that takes input from an Electric Imp, which is in turn connected to a Twitch server, so you can control him over the internet — it’s Twitch Plays Twitchy, where you can make it walk forward and backward, turn left and right, and wave.

The Voting Information Project hackathon took place on March 28th and 29th in San Francisco, organized by Pew Charitable Trusts and Google. The hackathon focused on building innovations around helping voters find out about elections, including where and when voters can go to vote, and for whom they can vote for.

On Friday, Jared Marcotte (@jungshadow) from @PewStates kicked off the Voting Information Project hackathon. After Jared gave everyone the low-down about , a couple of companies got up and gave some quick technical talks, including @Mashery, @Microsoft and @Azavea. Hackers got talking, ideating and hacking until the late hours of the night.

On Saturday morning, Jay Nath (@jay_nath), San Francisco’s Chief Innovation Officer, gave a very engaging talk covering the various projects his group is working on.

The rest of the day was dedicated to networking and hacking. At the end of the event, six projects were demoed on stage, including:

  • Weather2Vote - Dave didn’t have enough time to finish developing his idea, because he came up with it just hours before the deadline, got up and discussed his idea of a simple and fun app — mashing up weather from the World Weather Online API and elections data to surface interesting correlations between weather and voter turnouts.

  • Poli-Tinder - an app for creating political awareness in a very fun way — mashing up Tinder’s swiping with industry segments and special interest groups. With data from OpenSecrets.org, users can be matched with candidates that fit their Poli-Tinder preferences.

  • Txt2Vote - SMS for voting information, capturing the what, where, how and when. Powered by Twilio, this app allows the user to easily navigate voting information by intelligently caching user information, such as ZIP code. Even though the app wasn’t specifically for accessibility, the demo was run by Jennifer Sutton (@jsutt) who is blind, using an iPhone (which was not her own device). 

  • Vote DC - Leah hacked together a nice app using @Esri ArcGIS, the WMATA API, and VIP data. Her app showed off polling places, nearby public transit stations, and other interesting points of data.

For a complete list of apps, visit the event’s Hacker League page.

Big thanks goes to Katie Hale (@kthale), Jen Tolentino (@jentolentino_) and Jared Marcotte (@jungshadow) from Pew Charitable Trusts (@PewStates). This event definitely sparked ideas that will likely spread and light some fires in the hearts and minds of concerned hackers and citizens around voting rights and information!

APIs + IoT = SXSW 2014 at the #cmlounge

The Mashery API Management team took SXSW Interactive by storm two weeks ago with our 6th annual Circus Mashimus API + IoT demo lounge. The goal of our SXSW demo lounge every year is to demonstrate the power of APIs and IoT using showcase demos built with our customer APIs

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Mashery API Management customers Beats Music, MapMyFitnessathenahealthEDGAR Online, Edmunds.com, Hearst Magazines, Brivo Labsand FoodEssentials showcased demos ranging from IoT sensors opening a refrigerator of Red Bull using Google Glass to heatmaps of wearable device activity around the SXSW festival in Austin to Beats Music launching their public API and curating the playlists that made our lounge jukebox a SXSW crowd favorite in a festival famous for its music scene.

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Developers are always VIPs at our demo lounge, and this year was no different. We rolled out the red carpet with our inaugural API Challenge @ SXSW. Nearly 1600 people of the 10,000 visitors we welcomed to the lounge answered API puzzles using documentation and live call responses from the APIs represented in our lounge. Developers who were able to answer the increasingly difficult challenges received more points in our prize raffle of a 13” Macbook Air, Beats by Dre headsets and Beats Pill speakers provided by lounge sponsor Beats Music, a Mophie case provided by Edmunds.com and other awesome prizes from other lounge partners.

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Of course it wouldn’t be SXSW without great parties. @PayPalDev, @Twilio, @Mashery and @Uship all hosted great parties, while Mashery customers @BeatsMusic, @RdioAPI, and @TouchTunesAPI all participated in the SXSW Music hackathon using Hacker League. Congrats to Team Moot, the Austin locals who walked away with the $10K Grand Prize from @attdeveloper for building a killer integration with Beats Music.

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The DevO crew (pictured left to right: @delynator @chestondev @sarahjanemorris @mansilladev @amit) will see you at next year at SXSW when the Circus rolls back into town!

IoT, APIs and Developers @ MWC 2014

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Meetup < Conference < Expo < Congress
What’s the largest conference you’ve ever attended? Some very big ones that come to mind are Comdex, CES, Dreamforce, and JavaOne. But none of them come close to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona with over 2.6 million square feet of exhibition space housing more than 1,700 exhibitors. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting that bigger means better. I’m merely pointing out the fact that the MWC footprint is that of several large airport terminals, complete with shuttle buses and movable sidewalks.

What is MWC?
GSMA Mobile World Congress started way back in 1987 and has become one of the largest global trade exhibitions for the mobile industry. It has been held in Barcelona, Spain since 2011, and will continue to be the site for the conference until 2018. More than 70,000 attendees come to MWC from more than 200 countries around the world to discuss and discover the future of the mobile economy.

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Demo of mobile app built on Intel XDK that controls AR Drone. The drone was programmed to react to the color/pattern of this shirt.

Developer Focused at WIPJam
This year, Intel was a lead sponsor of the prominent MWC developer event within the event, WIPJam – a developer-focused track of content and series of hackathons. There were several fantastic sessions at WIPJam, including one by Dr. Genevieve Bell (Intel’s resident anthropologist) who gave an inspiring talk about what she believes the future has in store by looking at the past. You can get a taste of her talk here. Intel’s Joe Wolf gave a dramatic action packed session with lights, smoke machines, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, and a drone. His team was showcasing what can be done with Intel’s XDK, APIs and an AR Drone, including programmatic flight patterns, flips and tricks.

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Developers getting their hands on the Intel IoT dev kit.

Hackathons: IoT and APIs
A big theme of MWC was the Internet of Things (IoT), and this was also true at the WIPJam Hackathon. Intel launched the IoT Developer Program at MWC and came fully loaded with hundreds of IoT developer kits for the Galileo hackathon at WIPJam, where developers were given with their own kit to start building hardware hacks. The kit included a Galileo board, sensors (temperature, humidity and light), displays and much more. The Intel team had prepared a boatload of getting started guides and code samples – many of which you can find here.

The Mashery API evangelist team (including myself and @Amit) also hosted a hackathon at WIPJam. The challenge was to build the best app using a Mashery Network API and the Intel XDK. The grand prize was a MacBook Air for each team member of the winning team.

The Hackers
The majority of developers onsite were from Barcelona and surrounding areas. Of those developers, a good number were college students also looking for job or internship opportunities. You may have heard that unemployment in Spain is fairly high — more than 50% for those less than 25 years old. Several students corroborated the severity of these numbers, discussing their inevitable post-graduation flight to other nearby European countries to seek job opportunities.

On the flipside, Barcelona sounds like an extremely ripe market to tap for technical talent. For spoken languages, the locals know Catalan, Spanish and English. For programing languages, the locals lean toward Java, C++ and HTML5/JavaScript. #recruiterlove

Los hacks que nos gustó!
There were over $25,000 in prizes to be had at the WIPJam hackathons (12 prize categories). Sony was giving away Xperia smart watches, Amazon awarding Kindle Fire HDX tablets, Nokia had devices and cash. And as I mentioned earlier, Mashery/Intel’s grand prize was a MacBook Air for each team member. Here is a list of the winners that we selected: 

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  • Catch and Win by Miquel Tolosa, Adrià Garriga, Marcel Farrés Franch, and Quim Llimona – these four college students built a mobile game with the Intel XDK. The game is similar to assassins, where you need to find a target person – and when you catch them, you take their photo or enter in their personal code. They mixed in Apache Cordova for device camera functionality, and also used Node.js, MongoDB and WebSockets. They also mixed in a bit of the Klout API (http://developer.klout.com) showcasing social influence scores and topics. Catch and Win caught our grand prize, which was a MacBook Air for each member of the team!

 

And here is a list of other notable hacks that we really enjoyed:

  • Real Trip by Team Gfnork (Qiong Wu and Patrick Wieth) – when you’re planning a road trip, this team’s app will help you find interesting places along the route. They utilized the TomTom Places and MapToolKit APIs (http://developer.tomtom.com) and built a very nice set of map views, including heatmaps of places that are relevant to your interests.

  • CrunchyStartup by David Gonzalez Shannon, Cristina Rodríguez, Víctor Grande, Raúl Muiños and David Pérez Camacho – this team built a mobile interface to the popular CrunchBase web site. They utilized the CrunchBase API (http://developer.crunchbase.com).

  • HouseFinder by Valentino Ciccarone and Alessandro Bellu – these fellows built a Nukia Lumia Windows 8 app, and ended up winning in the Nokia prize category. However, they also used the Mashery customer API, Zoopla (http://developer.zoopla.com), for real estate listing data. Their app was really well done, helping home-buyers investigate crime rates and public transport utilities in the map view.

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The packed crowd at the WIPJam awards ceremony.

Putting on the Wide Angle Lens
MWC is not only large in terms of square footage, but content as well. Of course, there was the expo component – large showroom floors with many elaborate booth displays from thousands of exhibitors. The multitude of session content included keynotes and workshops. But there were also some conferences within the conference, such as App Planet, an expo that focuses on mobile applications, and WIPJam, which we covered above. With this much content to take in and experience, attendees were likely to have a much better MWC experience if they took the time to plan out their four days.

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Intel CCF demo. That’s a laptop riding on a Lego robot.

More Devices, More Connectivity, More IoT
Search the web for “MWC 2014 Roundup” and you won’t be disappointed. More chips and more devices were announced at MWC than I even dare list on this post. With this continual connected device explosion, one of the most discussed topics at MWC was the Internet of Things.

So, if you’re a developer and think that IoT is just more buzzword soup — take a look around. It’s already happening. Check out Wolfram’s Connected Devices Project for a growing list of connected devices. Some connected devices may communicate over the Internet, but operate in walled gardens. For a more greenfield IoT development experience, pick up an Intel Galileo IoT dev kit, plug in sensors, motors and actuators to control whatever you like.

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Sulamita Garcia showing us a hardware hack she built using the Galileo board, mashing up the World Weather Online API.

My Developer Takeaway from MWC
It’s both mind-blowing and at the same time conceivable, that by the end of this decade the planet will have over 30 billion Internet connected devices. Connected devices with sensors everywhere — for industrial applications, in our workplace, in our homes, on (and inside) our bodies – is inevitable. Everything about this inevitable technology shift, including what we love, value, fear and despise, will be shaped in large by the platforms and apps that developers build.

PennApps Spring 2014

A couple of weeks ago, that time of year was upon us… PennApps time! Now let’s cut the chase and get straight to the point - “How was PennApps Spring 2014?” Quite simply…

…The Best PennApps, ever!

PennApps continues to amaze every one each year. It’s almost a routine, to be honest. This time though, they took it yet another level - 1. in terms of the sheer quality of the hacks produced 2. it was the best run PennApps I’ve ever witnessed. It takes a village to organize and manage a hackathon of PennApps’ scale. The UPenn kids now have it down as an art.

Quick Look

  • On February 14th, 2014, UPenn hosted their 8th PennApps hackathon.
  • API Demos held at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, which needless to say, was epic.

  • It kicked off the 2014 Major League Hacking season.

  • Yes, it was over the Valentines Day weekend. Yes, it was awesome. Trust the kids at Penn with creativity and turn something that might’ve been a donwer to their advantage.

  • Over 1000 developers from various colleges around the world attended.

  • Over 200 hacks were built in less than 36 hours.

  • 10 Apps were built using APIs from the Mashery network.
  • Apps were built using Intel XDK.

  • Thanks to API sponsors brought under the MLH umbrella, only sponsors with APIs actually got a chance to demo. Previously this has been a bit of a drag with demos running well over 2 hours. Kudos to the PennApps organizers for learning from previous experiences and doing the right thing.

  • The quality of the hacks continues to amaze one and all. Here’s a look at some of the hacks built at PennApps -

Mashery Hacks built

  1. Crowd a Movie: A website that comes up with a list of suggested movies to watch for a group of friends based on their movie tastes and preferences using Rotten Tomatoes API.
  2. Wing It: Search for flights/hotels by price, rather than destination, using Hotwire API
  3. StrawDrate: An arduino powered straw that connects to an android device and tells the userif they need to drink more water and keep hydrated based on location (temperature and humidity using World Weather Online API ), age, weight, gender, and physical activity. If they don’t, the device will give off an alarm after a certain amount of time of being within a warning state. Very cool hack. Winner of Best App built using the Mashery API Network.
  4. Emacs Google Now: allows you to access and edit (in real time) your Google calendar and current location right inside Emacs! Also, you can listen and control music (using Rdio) right inside the text editor.
  5. Mosaic: A Graphic User Interface for Google Glass that supports widgets and launchers. Mosaic takes having the internet at your fingertips to the next level, providing an immersive Augmented Reality using World Weather Online API and Rotten Tomatoes.

Top 10

  1. Homework Help  (1st place) Homework Help is a hardware hack which can read simple math problems, and then write out the answer in your handwriting.
  2. PipeTeX (2nd place) is syntactic sugar for LaTeX. PipeTeX lets people type equations in an intuitive way, using just parentheses and slashes rather than LaTeX’s arcane functions. It also drops a lot of the boilerplate.
  3. Googolplex  (3rd place) lets you use integrate other apps with Siri, without jailbreaking. Their demo involved changing the lighting on a Hue. Check it out at betterthansiri.com.
  4. Commodisense : fetches prices for stocks and commodities whenever you text it.
  5. WebNES : is a mobile web-based NES emulator built by a bunch of high schoolers. Check out my profile of WebNES here, and play WebNES here.
  6. Evolve:  is a tool for Android developers which lets them deploy code without going through Google Play or asking users to download an update.
  7. What I Cook Up : Built by a team from Zurich, What I Cook Up lets you take a picture of a plate of ingredients, and will suggest recipes based on those ingredients.
  8. Trump is an iOS app that lets people play Cards Against Humanity (Apples to Apples) with pictures. Check it out at trumpyourfriends.com.
  9. Divvly : an iOS app that makes splitting checks easier. It runs OCR on receipts, lets people claim their items, and then settles the check using Venmo. Check it out at divvly.com.
  10. Pebmo : a Venmo client for the Pebble smartwatch. It checks Foursquare to see which of your friends are nearby, and then lets you send them payments with Venmo.

Edmunds’ 2nd Annual Hackomotive & Innovation Workshop

Twelve teams were preselected out of many to compete for $35,000 in cash prizes at Edmunds’ 2nd Annual Hackomotive, a three day product building competition located at the Edmunds headquarters in Santa Monica, CA.  These teams were selected to participate in Hackomotive because of their innovative ideas relating to the event’s theme, ”making car shopping easier” and were challenged by Hackomotive to build their ideas into actual products for the automotive market.
imageEdmunds' CEO Avi Steinlauf started the event welcoming participants, introducing guest speakers, and giving an introduction to both Hackomotive and the Innovation Workshop.
imageThe Innovation Workshop, which coincided with Hackomotive, brought together an exclusive group of industry professionals to learn innovative practices through Trend Session talks and hands on training.  The workshop also provided attendees, like myself, an opportunity to observe the Hackomotive activities.
imageDuring the first day of competition, contestants pitched their ideas, not once but twice. They presented their first pitch to attendees for open criticism and pitched their ideas a second time to industry professionals.  These professionals were then paired with a team for mentorship and coaching throughout the event.
imageHackomotive emcee, Matthew May led the Innovation Workshop’s “Trust By Design” training.  In this training, participants learned about product building, innovation, and market analysis.
imageEdmund’s Ismail Elshareef gave the Trend Session talk about the Edmunds API.  He explained the importance of APIs and the ways Edmunds succeeded in leveraging APIs into their business. The Edmunds API is Mashery DX certified, which passed the Mashery certification program for improved DX (developer experience).
image A “Tradeshow Challenge” was revealed to Hackomotive competitors on the second day of competition. Contestants hurriedly set up their product booths and prepared their sales pitch for customers.  The team that earned the most simulated money for their products from visiting customers won the challenge. Team “Au.to” the bigger, better, faster, smarter car search engine which implemented the Edmunds API won this challenge and was awarded Edmunds’ professional video services to help produce their product’s commercial.
imageThe $35,000.00 prize winners (1st Place $20,0000, 2nd Place $10,000, and 3rd Place $5000) were determined by Hackomotive judges after final presentations on the third day of competition.  
imageThe 3rd Place $5000 prize was awarded to “Showroom,” the car finding and buying app with a visceral user experience (used Edmunds API).
imageThe 2nd Place $10,000 prize was awarded to “Au.to” the bigger, better, faster, smarter car search engine (used Edmunds API).
imageThe 1st Place $20,000 was awarded to “CarCode.me,” a plug-in communicator for automotive related websites enabling SMS text messaging for car customers and dealers (used Edmunds API).  
imageAn honorable Mashery mention goes to team “Beacon" for it’s innovation in combining the Edmunds and Carvoyant APIs for use in their car test-drive, anywhere and anytime management app.  
image  A second honorable Mashery mention goes to team “I’llBuy.It" for their inspiring and passionate product presentation.  The I’llBuy.It app uses the Edmunds API to provide a time-saving and convenient car buying experience.
imageSpecial thanks to Edmund’s Ismail Elshareef and the entire Hackomotive team for organizing this awesome event, and congratulations to the twelve qualifying Hackomotive teams.