The IOTA Hackathon took place from Nov 17 to Nov 19 in Gdansk, Poland. Software developers from all over Europe came together to put to test the IOTA Platform with various use cases. The event was sponsored by IOTA, Baltic Data Science (blockchain and big data service), Datarella (blockchain and big data consultancy) and Bright Inventions (mobile app development). Four teams of developers and software experts formed around various use cases and competed for the prize money of 4,200 IOTA. Here in „Part 1″ we summarize the idea iteration process for the contest’s winning team „PlugInBaby“ and the associated pivot that took place while defining the project topic. Part 2describes the development and design of the project in more detail.
Defining the Need
We started the hackathon with a group brainstorming session followed by some informal voting and group building around the topics generated.
After narrowing the focus down to the topics, „Autonomous Agents“ and „Decentralized Stack“ the group focused on idea generation. Any potential topic needed to utilize the special characteristics of IOTA (scalability, speed, zero transactions costs) while avoiding limitations such as the lack of a Turing complete language and smart contract capabilities.
Initial brainstorming considered applications in manufacturing, autonomous transportation, supply chain management and distributed sensor technology. Eventually the basic idea of using IOTA as a distributed database allowing individuals or autonomous agents to identify free parking spaces in cities and also search for those spaces crystalized out of the brainstorming process.
After several hours of work on the concept and the potential implementations, we found structural problems with the plan. In our initial approach, the team imagined that individuals or autonomous agents/smart cars would identify free parking spaces, notify others of their presence by writing to the tangle and potentially be compensated for the service. A number of important questions were however left open with this topic.
Critical Questions that Lead to the Pivot:
- Why should a system for finding free parking spaces be built using IOTA?
- Wouldn’t another technology be more appropriate?
- Why not use a blockchain which allows for smart contracts?
- Would people really use such an app?
Pivot to an open car charging network
After several hours of discussion, the team still couldn’t adequately answer the above questions so we turned to another idea. Instead of logging free parking spaces, we would provide a link between an IoT network of decentralized charging stations and traditional or autonomous cars needing charging services.
Currently, electric charging infrastructure is almost always mediated by large corporations and organizations. This project seeks to change this. The team drew inspiration from ElaadNL which built a Proof of Concept (PoC) Charging Station for electric cars running fully on IOTA. Their charger is built using off the shelf tech and could be adopted by individuals who wish to offer electricity from their private microgrid or solar installations. What’s missing in the ElaadNL implementation is a user-friendly way to select and navigate to the charging station.
The ElaadNL PoC app works on a „Pull“ basis where the user has to enter a charger code to search for the status of a particular charger. The team wanted to design something that would work on a „Push“ basis and push the location of open chargers to users within the familiar confines of a google map interface.
The team envision a world in which individuals could take an open-source IoT charger kit and set up an IOTA-based charging station wherever they have access to power and a parking space. This could open up a whole new layer of community-based decentral charging.
The project, so conceived was well matched with the strengths of IOTA. Scalability and transaction speed would be needed due to continual improvements in the speed of charging and the fact that the search mechanism of the system would have to operate very quickly to guarantee a good user experience. A system with zero transactions costs was also judged to be appropriate for the type of microtransactions that need to occur between a car and a smart charger enabling real-time pricing for electricity.
We owe a shout out to ElaadNL for their PoC. The existence of such charger allowed us to think in a modular fashion and abstract away the charger component to focus instead exclusively on the building a system to find the chargers and transact with them.
Here is an overview of all reports on the IOTA Hackathon’s projects:
…describes the idea and the pivot of the project
Team „PlugInBaby“: Open Car Charging Network (Part 2)
…describes the technical level and provides resources