The Urban IoT Hack is an opportunity for local innovators to explore urban challenges in a #SoNewy theme and engage in rapid prototyping of Newcastle IoT integrated solutions.

But what exactly are HACKATHONS?

For all of us that have never attended, participated or even heard of one...we find the best definition is this: a hackathon is a rapid brainstorming and prototyping session with a focus on discovery and taking ideas to action & early traction. It's generally a very short event (24h - 48h) that gives participants a chance to pitch an idea, form a team, and build a concept or working prototype, whilst getting exposure and access to new technologies, teams and problem owners.

Have no experience and still don't understand? Don't you worry, we have you covered! The event organisers have delivered and competed in many hackathons, testing techniques and various Challenge topics that stimulate new ideas for stubborn they are there to help, and you can always ask the organisers and mentors or experienced hackers if you get stuck. Hackathons are amazing events that excite and deliver early stage solutions to address challenging topics in a very short time-frame. So gear up, don't be shy (we know you have it in you!) and be ready to present your idea, form a team with other curious, talented people and select technologies to address the Hack's challenge topics!

Hackathons are well-established events that amplify entrepreneurship skills and local innovations. They have been key parts of incubators, accelerators and University programs for years. We know there's a huge need to boost the innovation game in a hotly contested marketplace of ideas, fast-paced tech change and smart investment. Hackathons are used to stimulate the startup ecosystem and help prepare us for the transition to sustainable and environmentally-friendly solutions to catch up with faster moving countries and economies. On this front, Australia is lagging and needing large scale acceleration.

Hackathons are very hands-on exploration missions for accelerating innovation within and between teams and companies, helping them to create new products or solve persistent challenges with short, sharp bursts of focused effort.By ensuring focus on worldwide Challenge topics that inspire action - SmartCities and IoTCityAccessibilityRenewableEnergyRegional TransportHealthCare - we deliver impactful change, quicken the digital pulse of our communities and generate results for contemporary problems.

And we know what they're not.
Hackathons aren't an official and formal, highly-organised Incubation or Acceleration experience- but they can definitely give you a taste of it. There are a range of great companies who utilise hackathons as rapid idea generators rather than incubation+acceleration. However, a hackathon can be a great start to the incubation journey: it helps you develop an idea, form a team to build and test it as well as validate its usefulness with audiences within a short deadline. If afterwards you feel like you still have an appetite or unfulfilled desire for more, check out more in-depth incubation programs.

Hackathons aren't deep, complex Intellectual Property generators - but you can build potential. Innovation involves long periods of experimentation, discovery and confirmation, but it also takes money and sometimes sophisticated equipment. Let's not kid ourselves - there's only so much you can achieve in a weekend with strangers. However, a hackathon is the sort of event where you'll find pioneering spirits and a diverse mix of talents that you can team up with, and you might in the future generate some serious IP. Be open to the experience, to new possibilities and to the ideas of others, as well as their skills and expertise; just let the magic happen (mostly it is a mix of adrenaline and caffeine, followed by satisfaction at surviving and then exhaustion). 

They are not Fundraising events - but they can expose you to potential investors.We've seen people growing their appetite to explore innovative solutions after attending hackathons. Winners typically receive a prize and/or in-kind services that can progress a concept into something like a minimum viable product or a prototype. The novelty cheques are a fun reward, that can pay the bills, but can also help kickstart a bigger journey - it's entirely your choice to make!

Hack events are diversifying and improving.
Hackathons are designed for sharing knowledge, building new ideas and experimenting. Hackathon organisers, mentors and judges provide technical support and share their wealth of experience so that participants get the most out of these short events. It's all about strengthening entrepreneurial skills in our communities.

There are more and more hackathons on the horizon.
Larger companies are increasingly utilising hackathons to stimulate innovation, aiming to predict the future and prepare for it. Businesses and Governments alike are learning the value of smart innovation and the need to test ideas and fail fast to maximise effective capital use.

So by now you should have a fair idea about what a hackathon is all about, but what do we mean by an Urban IoT Hack?

Let's start with the acronym sitting right in the middle - IoTis short for the Internet of Things, which describes the network of internet-connected devices. These can be anything from your smart watch where you check your texts while you're out in the surf to your smart fridge that automatically orders milk when you're running low. More and more devices are coming online, with an estimated 20.4 billion devices connected to the internet in the next two years alone. The potential economic impact of IoT is significant - in Australia, IoT represents a $30bn opportunity in the next 5 years.

What about Urban IoT? Think about internet-connected devices across cityscapes, like tiny sensors that monitor available parking spots and dashboards that show you exactly how many minutes until your bus arrives. It's amazing how many diverse ideas you come up with once you start thinking about integrating modern technology into the city and combining it with data that's already there! Newcastle has already started experimenting with IoT, like with remote monitoring waste levels in public bins and soil moisture in plant beds. Want more inspiration? Check out this cool visualisation of the incredible world of IoT.

Our Urban IoT Hack “SoNewy” aims to bring creative people of all skill and expertise levels to rapidly build IoT solutions that improve our urban environment. We're seeking curious minds with backgrounds in IT, Design, Business, Sociology, Engineering and Environmental Science to form teams of 3-5 members that will compete for attractive prizes. Interested? You can find more at the Eighteen04 Urban IoT Hack website.