PCH hackathon chief: hardware is experiencing its biggest shift in innovation

19 May 2015

Pictured: Katherine Hague, vice president of community engagement and hackathons at PCH

Hardware today is where software was 15 years ago, before it began to eat the world. So says Katherine Hague, vice president of community and hackathons at PCH.

Hague was speaking with Siliconrepublic.com ahead of this weekend’s Dublin PCH Hardware Hackathon in partnership with DCU and Irish Design 2015 at the DCU Innovation Campus in Glasnevin. Intel is also involved as the main sponsor of the event.

Last week, PCH chief executive Liam Casey and AnOther editor Jefferson Hack unveiled a digital-first in Dublin in the form of the fashion bible featuring a moving digital image of Rihanna. This came just a week after PCH held the first-ever fashion show in Silicon Valley.

Future Human

Hague says the Silicon Valley fashion show was sold out and that you had the unique sight of models waiting behind drones holding clothes to go down the catwalk.

She says that PCH is on a crusade to open the world up to the possibilities of hardware.

“My role involves engaging with the start-up community and the next generation of people who are going to create amazing hardware products.

“We are bringing our hackathons to cities where there are no hardware communities yet and we are identifying the gaps and closing those gaps.”

Hague joined PCH last year when her company ShopLocket was acquired by Casey. Combining ShopLocket with PCH created the world’s first end-to-end service that helps start-ups create, develop, manufacture and sell hardware products directly to consumers.

“We have created a ton of resources for this community and now that PCH has acquired Fab.com we have the e-commerce capabilities to support the hardware start-up communities.”

This is a time where anything that can be imagined can be made

Toronto-based Hague said that this is a unique time for the creation of hardware technologies that could change the world.

PCH has been astute in identifying and supporting products that have the ability to make a difference, including Pebble smartwatches and Drop’s intuitive kitchen appliances.

“I would say we are where software was 10 or 15 years ago. A lot of the standards in software that we take for granted today weren’t in place 15 years ago and everything was done from scratch, which is precisely where we are today with hardware.

“This is a new world that is completely open and there are tools available now such as 3D printing that help you to build faster. You can build an app in a weekend but we are at an earlier phase for hardware.

“We are already beginning to see some production standards emerge where you can get to a point where within a weekend or weeks you have something that is shippable created.

“We are starting to see these communities emerge where anything that can be imagined can be made.”

To illustrate her point Hague said that just five years ago the only companies in the world that could create and ship devices from prototype to product in such short time scales were players like Bell Labs and Apple that had the infrastructure and resources behind them.

“That scale of innovation was blocked for many because it was so difficult to get to market. Now we see entrepreneurs test out their ideas and get money together on Kickstarter, for example, and build things that weren’t interesting or possible five years ago. Now it’s possible.

“We are going to see an even more interesting shift where people can test out new ideas in terms of the connected everything or the internet of things. We are going to move to a phase where people will start to feel empowered to tackle bigger problems such as logistics or healthcare.”

Hague says the investment community will also be taking note and will be watching for entrepreneurs who can prove not only can they make the biggest change, but fulfill their first and second product with the support of the wider community.

“It is an interesting shift where more powers are going to entrepreneurs who have the confidence to tackle bigger problems.”

Hague says the value of hackathons like this forthcoming event in Dublin this weekend is in terms of how they bring the entrepreneur and design community together.

“People with ideas and mentors are coming together with first timers and conversations that inspire are happening, skills are being taught and panelists can be questioned and pitches can be challenged.

“It is an amazing crossroads of people coming together to share and learn and you don’t often get that at other events. Hackathons present opportunities for people to meld and learn from each other.”

Hardware hackathon

The next Dublin PCH Hardware Hackathon in partnership with DCU and Irish Design 2015 takes place at the DCU Innovation Campus in Glasnevin between Friday 22 May and Sunday 24 May, and is also open to the public.

The PCH Hardware Hackathon panel discussions will include contributions from:

Sarah McDonald, director/country IT lead, MSD — Sarah has fulfilled the positions of PMO, Sector CIO and head of Information Systems and IT with global companies in the pharmaceutical industry since 1992. At MSD, Sarah is responsible for maximising the business value of IT, through careful management of people, projects, investments and systems, and developing a high-performing organisation with exceptional standards of compliance and competency throughout.

Emer O’Daly, co-founder, LoveandRobots.com — Trained as an architect at UCD and Yale University, Emer loves the idea of empowering people to become designers and innovators themselves. Her passion lies in discovering new intersections in design, technology and business.

Jack Phelan, COO, Drop – Jack is a seasoned technologist and designer in software development and engineering who’s designed and built many custom technological solutions over the years – from cycling robots to home automation systems.

Gaia Dempsey, co-founder, DAQRI – Gaia Dempsey is the co-founder and director of public relations and marketing at Daqri, the leader in 4D experiences. At Daqri, she manages projects including the company’s first hosted conference, VOX; The 4D Summit and the Daqri blog. Gaia also currently serves as the liaison for global educational and art-related partnerships.

Tim Hannon, general manager (computers)Harvey Norman Ireland – Tim and his team travel the world sourcing the latest and greatest technology to bring to the Irish market first. He has played a vital role in establishing Harvey Norman as one of the No 1 destinations for technology.

Niall Austin, co-founder, Moocall Sensors — Moocall Sensors provide calving alerts to any mobile phone. By attaching a wearable device to the cow’s tail, it can send an SMS text alert to the farmer.

Panel discussions on Sunday 24 May will be moderated by Ann O’Dea, CEO and editor-at-large at Silicon Republic, and Katherine Hague.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years