Technology

Hack on a Plane: Hack Horizon winners announced

Posted by Lee Hayhurston
Hack on a Plane: Hack Horizon winners announced

Thirty two talented technology developers from 12 countries have gathered in Hong Kong for the first Hack Horizon Hack on a Plane, at 40,000 feet. Travolution’s Lee Hayhurst has joined them and is reporting live from the event.

21.25 (GMT) London Transport Museum, Covent Garden

That’s it, we have our Hack Horizon winners and runners up.

Taking second spot is LuxExpress, the luxury international personal shopping service and the winner is Destination, the in-flight trip planning and booking service.

Judges picked the winner because they seemed to have thought of everything and had created something that was ready to implement now.

Just to underline the cosmopolitan nature of this competition, the winning team was comprised of an American, a Hong Kong Canadian who lives in a Taiwan, a Malaysian, a New Zealander resident in Singapore and an Australian who lives in Hong Kong. For two of them this was their first ever hackathon.

Savalas Colbert (yes, he is named after the TV detective) of the winning team said: “We don’t just want this to stop here. We are interested in building this and getting it out. We did this because we love travel and we came together as a team because we had a similar idea.

“We worked so hard on our presentation to get everything we wanted out of it. What we did was we studied a lot. We felt we at least wanted to come out with some sort of award, to come out with the top award was an honour. It was worth all the hard work. To win was awesome, but to win from among people who were selected to take part is especially awesome.”

21.00 (GMT) London Transport Museum, Covent Garden

There’s nothing the teams can do now after eight very polished pitches the judges have retired to make their judgement.

Amazing how some ideas have developed, even from yesterday morning, and how live demos of working technology with some great front end design have been created for the pitch final.

19.00 (GMT) Monday May 8, London Transport Museum, Covent Garden
So this is it, the live pitch final after 80 hours, a lot of coding, designing and developing and a lot of travelling.

08.15 (GMT) Heathrow Airport, London

Time for a quick break from the. coding, designing and project management for a group shot at Heathrow.

The teams will stay here until lunch before heading into London to take up temporary residence at the TravelTech Lab in the offices of London & Partners on the south bank of the Thames.

So the eight teams that will battle it out to win tomorrow night are:

Airport Buddies – a professional networking service for business travellers

Destination – an inflight destination experience planning and curation service

Avo – a smart watch service to ease people through the airport experience

Airplane Mode – a service for unaccompanied minors that gives parents peace of mind that their children are safe

Tripfloor – a luggage tracking solution that uses RFID and blochchain technologies to give travellers peace of mind that they know who handling their bags

Happi – an artificial intelligence app that promises to ensure the user the optimal experience when flying

Lux Express – an international personal shopper for luxury goods aimed at young Asian women who are prepared to pay a fee or commission for savings on duty free items

07.00 (GMT) Heathrow Airport, London
The eight teams that have formed are honing their projects and clearly the pace has picked up with two days to go before the live pitch final at the London Transport Museum tomorrow night.
Paul Papadimitriou, mentor and founder of travel innovation consultancy Intelligencr, said:

“What I like about  this hackathon is that it proves to Heathrow and Hong Kong airports and BA that something can be achieved in just four days. It makes them realise you can do prototyping very very fast. That’s a good thing for the industry.

“For these guys it’s having access to the datasets. These guys are coming at this with fresh minds so sometimes they come up with stuff that’s not been thought of before in this way.

“People seem to be having fun. They’ve created a bond and I’m sure they will go on and work on other stuff later on.”


04.40 (GMT) Heathrow Airport, London

We’ve landed! Lots of work done on the flight and some sleeping.


22.15 (HKT) Hong Kong Airport

The teams are preparing to board the flight to Heathrow having doe their customer research. We’re 30 hours in, 50 to go, so plenty of time to hone those ideas on the 12-hour flight to the UK.

On arrival at Heathrow there will be a small event to welcome Hack Horizon and then more opportunity for the teams to test their ideas with real customers.

Hack Horizon co-founder Johan Jeager, said he was very happy with the way the teams are addressing all the different customer touch points flagged last night by the likes of Heathrow, Travelport and Hong Kong airport.

“Getting a behind the scenes of Hong Kong airport gave the teams a lot of insights to know what the constraints are within which their projects have to be developed.

“Some really good ideas are on the table due to the fact that the participants are not just great developers or designers but they have experience of the travel segment.

“It’s not just about discovery, most issues for travellers are to do with the back office. That’s why the ideas are really quite exciting and especially with so much time left there’s time for them to get better.”


19.30 (HKT) Hong Kong Airport

Check-in time. Once we’re airside the Hack Horizon teams will be able to do some customer research about their projects.

Sounds like quite a few ideas are developing and maturing from the original concepts pitched last night in Hong Kong.

A few projects have been shelved, but there’s talk of a long, and relatively sleepless night on the flight back to London as the teams work on their ideas ahead of Monday night’s live pitch final.

Here’s what Ollie Haas, a designer and consultant based in Hong Kong and one of the mentors had to say about the ideas he’s seen being worked on:

“Hack Horizon has put a fantastic blend of people in the same room from the old to the young to the experienced and the less experienced, travel executive and non travel executive.

“There’s palpable energy in the room and lots of different ideas, a lot in the space of the end to end experience. If you look at the travel industry right now, there’s a lot of opportunity to innovate even at the small level to make incremental improvements.

“We have been encouraging the teams to think a little smaller than they were and to focus on a key consumer or key issue and say that could be a way to grow to a broader proposition.

“For instance, you may solve a problem for a first time visitor but in the future there will be ways to adapt that to tackle other types of passenger.”


17.00 (HKT) Hong Kong Airport

Everyone’s back from the tour and it’s time to grab something to eat. The Hack Horizon participants were given a rare insight into the inner workings of the airport in its Intergated Airport Centre.

Here everything from the baggage system, gate allocation, security, and even aircraft maintenance logistics are monitored and managed to try to ensure the airport runs as smoothly as possible.

Fortunately there are no major problems today so the centre was pretty relaxed so having 40+ techies, coders and developers traipsing through their work area wasn’t much of a problem.

However, the centre becomes the hub of operations if there is a major disruption like a typhoon and it houses an emergency operation room should the usual facility become inoperable.

Obviously the centre is a pretty sensitive part of the airport operation so although we could take pictures we’re not allowed to make them public.

But if you imaging something like NASA control with rows of control desks tiered and facing an entire wall of screens including a 180 degree view of one of the runways.


15.30 (HKT) Hong Kong Airport

Now’s the time to close the laptops, exit the APIs and join the behind-the-scenes tour of the airport.

Hong Kong’s actually building a third runway so expecting to hear how efficient and quick that process has been compared to a certain other planned third runway to the west of London.

After the tour the teams will expose their ideas to the court of public opinion with some face to face customer research in the airport.


15.00 (HKt) Regal Airport Hotel, Hong Kong airport

The hard work is impressing the mentors who have joined the hackathon for the Hong Kong section.

Kristin Low, partner Brinc Internet of Things accelerator, said: “What we are going to see as the weekend progresses are some things that are really going to reshape the travel experience.

“I think there’s a strong possibility that some very good things will come from this that they could legitimately take forward. A lot of the people here I am sure will go on to work together on stuff because the quality is a lot higher than most hackathons.”


09.00 (HKT) Regal Oriental, Kowloon

Up early for breakfast for the participants ahead of the transfer to Hong Kong airport and the morning’s base at the Regal Airport Hotel.


22.00 (HKT) WeWork Tower, Hong Kong

After a voting round teams have been formed to work on the best ideas and the developers, design and usability experts have started scoping out their projects.

Around 12 got enough votes to go to the next stage and then the job of putting teams together started and the projects formally registered with the Hack Horizon organisers.

It’s all a bit chaotic at this stage as the various project leads vie for the right skills and talent but eventually the teams get together and start work.

Soon it’s all on the bus to the Regal Oriental, Kowloon, to continue the preparation before tomorrow when all the participants will head out to Hong Kong airport for a behind the scenes tour before tommorrow night’s BA A380 flight to Heathrow.


21.15 (HKT) WeWork Tower, Hong Kong

After a series of opening presentations from the likes of Heathrow, BA and Travelport the 32 Hack Horizon finalists have come up with their initial ideas and pitched them to the room before forming groups and deciding which ideas will be developed over the next 80 hours.

Many of the ideas revolve around the customer experience and trying to make it as easy and seamless as possible, especially in and around the airport.

Some have pinpointed specific use cases like an app for unaccompanied minors on flights, another to help people find a ‘Lounge Buddy’, described as a Tinder for lounge users and another to deliver your choice of food for the flight to your gate.

Other ideas involved a talking airport trolley to help people find facilities, a currency service that allows travellers to have local currency delivered directly to them by a local when they arrive in destination and a customer matching service to allow professionals to sit next to people they might want to do business with on a flight.

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