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TADHack 2015 Chicago - an article by Ivaness Chiong

TADHack 2015 Chicago

By Ivaness Chiong, Illinois Institute of Technology undergraduate computer science student
June 17, 2015

Picture of TADHack 2015 at Illinois Institute of Technology

It's not surprising technology is moving so fast it's really hard to keep up with it. The years of telephone lines and wired network are gone. Now we have mobile phones and web browsers to connect with friends, families, and loved ones anywhere in the world without sacrificing the quality of hearing their voices and stories as well as seeing them virtually. With the combination of emerging technologies and the exceptional programming skills of app developers connecting people through these services, it's starting to feel as if the person you are talking to on the other side of the line is actually in front of you!

So what's the big deal about TADHack 2015? TADHack (Telecom Application Developer Hackathon) is about bringing brilliant people across the world together to take advantage of the rising on-demand services and technologies available around them in order to contribute to the constantly advancing field of telecommunications. The focus of this global hackathon is to challenge developers to take WebRTC to the next level using the developer resources provided by some of the leading companies in telecommunications and software industries.

TADHack is a global event, and the Chicago section was held June 13-14, 2015 in The Idea Shop at Illinois Institute of Technology. Most of the attendees were student developers and industry professionals, but also representatives from each sponsoring companies including Barry Hestermann from Acision; Scott Page from Dialogic; Richard Wang from Oracle; and Amit Bhayani from Telestax. One thing that makes TADHack stand out from other hackathons is each sponsor spent time guiding the hackers throughout the event. The hackers got one-on-one guidance and tutorials from some of the most distinguished individuals in the software industry, and all the essential developer resources needed for their WebRTC applications.

Special thanks to Carol Davids, Warren Bent, Tom Costello, Don Monte, John Owrey, the volunteers, and the entire team of the Real-Time Communications Lab at IIT who organized the event for the sponsors and hackers.

The event began with lunch and a warm welcome from the local RTC Lab Chicago organizers, followed by a live stream video from Lisbon, Portugal where Alan Qualye, Founder of TADHack, delivered his inspiring and motivating keynote speech for everyone. Other keynote speakers during the event were: Jonathan Christensen, Co-Founder and CEO of Wire; Niklas Blum, Product Manager of WebRTC, Google; Anthony Rodrigo, Group CIO of Dialog; James Tagg, CTO of Truphone; and Alan Duric, Co-Founder and CTO of Wire. After the welcoming remarks virtually from Lisbon, the fun hacking began for the hackers.

One group of hackers came up with the idea to create an application that will allow users to have a collaborative conversation with interactive text editors that the users can utilize while having an audio or video conversation. What was their motivation? They wanted to enhance the interviewing process for software developers and potential employers by allowing the interviewer and the developer to collaborate with each other through a web interactive text editor that will allow them to send blocks of code and do a video call at the same time.

Another hacker created an application that allows users to join chat by choosing a chat room based on their interests. For instance, if a user is interested in talking about Education, he or she can just join an existing "Education" chat room and join other people's conversations.

Another group of hackers thought of an app that aims to enhance interviewing process as well through logging into a chat-enabled window with audio and video capabilities.

What’s even more interesting is one of the hackers brought some important functions associated with the Next Generation 911 (NG911) standard into his app. NG911 is an IP-based system that allows digital information such as voice, text, videos, and even pictures to flow smoothly from the caller through the 911 network to emergency responders. Because most PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Points) are not NG911 enabled, he proposed a solution that allows PSAPs that are not NG911 enabled to receive text messages from emergency callers. This app, called BNG911 (Before Next Generation 911), will allow emergency callers to send emergency text messages to PSAPs. These text messages are converted to speech so PSAPs can listen to it and send emergency help right away. The app also has the capability to convert voice to text so PSAPs can respond to their callers. The motivation for this app is to ensure that calls are routed to the right emergency responders, the location is accurately detected from where the call is coming from, the rate of sending and receiving of data is improved, and there is the ability to send responses by the PSAPs to the callers to prolong the conversation if needed.

But of course these hackers did not work so hard for nothing! The hackers’ projects were judged based on the quality and innovative nature of the project, utility of the project, and the compelling use of the sponsors' technologies and tools. There were two types of TADHack prizes given during the event: the Chicago location prize, and sponsor prizes given to individual hackers or groups who demonstrated the best use of their respective developer tools regardless of the location.

The Chicago Location Prize Winner of $1,000: BNG911 (Voice-to-text, text-to-voice 911) by Amed Arnaout | Developer resources used: Bandwidth, Telestax.

Another Chicago team was chosen to receive sponsor prizes courtesy of Acision. The Inter-E-View by V.S. Kashyap and Naveen Srinivasan won $1,000 + an Apple watch for their outstanding use of Acision’s developer tools.

Callaborate by Itua Ijagbone and Chatainya Reddy Chatla also earned local recognition for the hard work they put in to their web app.

Last but not least, a big shout out to all those who participated and presented their projects: Chetan Munegowda (ConnectMe – a shared interest chat using WebRTC); Norman Montgomery (Take Me There – a travel aid app to assist emergency services); and Martin O'Shield (Windy City SDR – a video registering smartphone to Restcomm via WindyCitySdr).

One thing I admire about these people — the hard work they put into these projects. Staying with the hackers overnight and seeing them work hard all night without any sleep just to make their applications work is definitely worth it because you don't get to see a lot of people as determined as them. Seeing them not give up and carry on even though they might have been experiencing technical issues is truly a remarkable attitude that every developer should have. These developers chose to take the challenge to learn something new in 24 hours, and managed to stand up in front of the crowd and judges to demonstrate their work. I saw these people get stuck so many times, and they still never gave up. In the end, they knew it's not all about being perfect — it's about the experience, what they have learned, and about taking the courage to stand up there and be proud of your work.

TADHack 2015 Chicago was truly a successful and fun event for all of the hackers, developers, and sponsors! Everyone had the chance to meet new people, friends, and folks from the software industry; but more importantly, everyone learned a lot of new things from the experience. This is what TADHack is all about. It's about LEARNING, SHARING, CODING, and CREATING incredible things to show to the world! So never doubt yourselves. Learn new things. Share your work. Code something cool. Create something unimaginable. You might be the next TADHack winner to make a huge impact in this world!