Hackathon win for Northern Ireland pair at Gitex in Dubai

Two talented young developers from Northern Ireland who were representing their companies at GITEX in Dubai, joined forces to win the events first hackathon competition.

James Smyth one of Eventmap's senior developers and product managers, had teamed up with Luke McNeice, innovation lead at Kainos, to enter GITEX's App Hack, a 24 hour hackathon. The aim of their category was to develop an innovative app on the theme of "smart city solutions".

GTX Ignite 2015
James Smyth, Eventmap and Luke McNeice, Kainos receive their prize at GITEX.

24 hours later they walked away with the first prize of AED 20,000 and a package of SAP learning hub training each. Here’s how they explained their winning idea:

Offline is not an error. Offline is a fact of mobile life. Some mobile apps work reasonably well offline but for the most part they don’t – I’m sure we’ve all had this frustrating experience.

The status quo is that the only way to give a user a good offline experience is through a native app – one that you would download through an app store. However, developing for and maintaining the diversity of mobile native platforms is expensive.

The app James and Luke built and demonstrated was entirely web-based, using the SAP Hana platform. It allows Dubai citizens to report faults by taking pictures, recording their position and entering information entirely offline, to be submitted when their mobile device next has connectivity. So whenever residents spot issues with traffic congestion, litter or broken streetlights, for example, they can file a report on the web app that will either send their submission immediately or, unlike standard web apps, seamlessly cache the submission until connectivity reappears..

It was an elegant solution to a common problem faced by users anywhere that lack reliable mobile data and WiFi coverage – which is still the case in significant chunks of the globe. Their idea capitalises on the emerging shift within large organisations from native apps, with their high development and maintenance costs across platforms, to powerful web apps that offer a similar offline experience and functionality but at a much lower cost.

James and Luke plan on using their prize money to develop their idea further, with possible application of the platform at Kainos and Eventmap.

Luke said: “At Kainos we build accessible digital services for the UK government in an agile way for citizens and that means mobile web first and almost explicitly no native apps, therefore the advantages to us of utilising this platform are obvious.

James added: “Eventmap will certainly be following closely, as there are clear applications within many of the technologies we are currently developing for our academic clients, specifically in the fields of data gathering and auditing.

Barry Clarke, Invest Northern Ireland’s Regional Director, India, Middle East and Africa, based in Dubai congratulated Luke and James on their win. “The success of these two young developers further reinforces the message about the quality of technology talent available in Northern Ireland and the strength and the capability of our indigenous technology companies to compete globally. The combination of innovative local companies and the constant arrival of new investors is creating an unrivalled technology cluster that will continue to create innovators of the future and opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship.