Last weekend I attended an airport themed hackathon which was held at Dublin City University (DCU). In case you haven't heard of the term before, a hackathon is basically an open event spanning a few days where developers, designers and programmers get together to collaborate on a particular project. The reason I attended this event is because it was sponsored by a GIS company (Esri in this case) and I was curious about the type of ideas which would come from the weekend.
In typical hackathon fashion, on the first day of the event representatives from the airport outlined the type of business challenges faced on a daily basis. Just a few of the topics included passenger waiting time at security gates, safety and maintenance on and around the runway and the general shopping experience. Participants were then encouraged to apply their skills and knowledge and to 'think disruptively' about the airport.
Apart from the potential for exposure to management, investors and whoever else was in attendance the hackathon was an opportunity to network with and learn from other developers and mentors. My own team got to play around with 3D printers, Intel Edisons, Rasberry Pis and beacons and to explore how each of these can be integrated with location based technology.
Among the many ideas which emerged from the weekend were an audio enabled navigation system using mobile technology, a Lidar system for runway maintenance purposes and a wearable tracking device for children using wireless and beacon technology.
While phrases such as 'GPS', 'routing' and 'geolocation' were being used throughout the weekend there was little use of typical GIS terms such as 'topology', 'spatial joins' and 'geoprocessing' and, in my opinion, GIS wasn't used to its full potential. Nevertheless, I did get a real sense that there is a growing curiosity among developers about GIS and its capabilities.
As well as getting to meet and learn from the other attendees, for me the best thing about the weekend was seeing that GIS is becoming recognised as a toolset for solving real-world and complex challenges.
Bring on more hackathons I say.