PCH Hardware Hackathon awards Bluetooth measuring tape €3,000

25 May 2015

BlueTape, winners, PCH Hackathon Dublin, May 2015. Photo: Luke Maxwell

As 11 teams competed to build the best, most innovative product over one weekend, it was Team BlueTape that measured up.

The Innovation Campus is such a fresh addition, Dublin City University (DCU) hasn’t even had a chance to draw breath and start shouting about it, but there’s been no stalling in getting this campus ready for makers to get to work generating exciting new ideas.

In fact, the DCU Innovation Campus is so dedicated to hacking together new products that an entire floor of the building in Glasnevin is dedicated to hackathons.

DCU Innovation Campus

The entire third floor of DCU’s Innovation Campus is a dedicated Hackathon space

“We haven’t even marketed the campus yet and yet we’ve over 30 companies, over 300 employees here. Siemens have moved the bulk of their Irish operations in here, Veolia are now here as well, and it continues to grow and grow. God knows what will happen when we start marketing it officially and publicly,” said DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith.

PCH Hackathon prizes

On Friday 22 May, makers, collaborators, designers, engineers and entrepreneurs from Dublin’s hardware start-up ecosystem gathered for the opening of the third PCH Hackathon in Dublin. The first evening was abuzz with pitches from individuals with ideas in need of others to make them reality, and out of this came 11 teams vying for the top prize.

The hackathon winners were set to win €3,000 towards turning one of these ideas into a company, plus four months’ free office space at the DCU Innovation Campus, and a free service design workshop with UX design consultancy Each & Other.

With all that on offer, teams had just two days to bring their project from brainstorm to prototype and pitch to a panel of judges on Sunday evening.

Those tasked with the big decision were: Dublin’s commissioner for start-ups Niamh Bushnell; Frontline Ventures partner Shay Garvey; TNS co-founder Ivan Eustace, and Pete Dice, director of technical marketing and innovation for Intel’s Internet of Things (IoT) Group.

Intel was a fitting sponsor for the event considering its Galileo boards are built to power IoT products, while the event was also partnered with Irish Design 2015, putting a spotlight on the importance of design when it comes to making great hardware.

Hardware highlights

Hackathon hardware demonstrated on the final day included modified bedpost castors that could monitor your weight; a graphene-soaked rubber band that made an inexpensive heart and health sensor; a smart lure for fishing at particular temperatures; an eCall solution to alert emergency services after a car crash, and a shoe to help triathletes transition quickly from swimming to cycling.

PCH Hackathon Dublin

The Zero triathlete shoe, which can open and close around the wearer’s foot using a Bluetooth remote on the bike’s handlebars. Photo: Luke Maxwell

Under the watchful eye of PCH marketing executive Gwen Elliot, projects were pitched in just three minutes before judges convened to weigh up their merits. During this time, the audience and competitors were treated to a panel discussion with entrepreneurs Jack Phelan (co-founder, Drop); Emer O’Daly (co-founder, Love & Robots); Niall Austin (co-founder, Moocall Sensors), and Gaia Dempsey (co-founder, DAQRI).

PCH Hackathon Dublin

Ann O’Dea chairs the entrepreneurs panel at the PCH Hackathon in DCU’s Innovation Campus. From left: Niall Austin, Moocall Sensors; Gaia Dempsey, DAQRI; Emer O’Daly, Love&Robots; Jack Phelan, Drop. Photo: Luke Maxwell

BlueTape seals the deal

Returning with the result, the judges commended the high standard from the 11 competing teams, but it was BlueTape, a Bluetooth-connected measuring tape that could be used to ensure online shoppers get the right clothing for their size, that impressed the most.

While it started as a product for consumers to track their weight, the idea pivoted during its accelerated incubation and became a B2B product aimed at minimising the number of online returns.

Essentially, retailers could gift these BlueTape gizmos to their customers, who would then take their own measurements, which, through Bluetooth connectivity would update an online profile. Then, when shopping online, customers could be assured that the items they choose are the right fit for their size.

Katherine Hague, PCH

Katherine Hague, vice-president of community engagement and hackathons, PCH. Photo by Luke Maxwell

Dublin’s maker movement

The PCH Hackathon team was not only impressed with the participants and projects, but also the Innovation Campus. Katherine Hague, vice-president of community engagement and hackathons at PCH – who was fresh from a London event and jetting off to another in Tel Aviv as the Dublin session came to a close – said that she had never seen anything like the dedicated hackathon space at any other venue around the world.

In a previous interview with Siliconrepublic.com, Hague shared PCH’s mission to open the world up to the possibilities of hardware and, following three hackathons in the space of nine months in Dublin, a fourth is already in the works.

Pivotal PCH connection

The benefit of getting on PCH’s radar for BlueTape – and the other hackathon entrants – can be pivotal for further success. Jack Phelan, co-founder of Drop, knows this all too well.

Phelan’s company, founded in 2012, is bringing beautifully designed hardware to the kitchen, starting with the Drop Kitchen Connected Scale, which can rescale quantities, offer in-recipe tips and share baking photos.

A graduate of PCH’s Highway1 incubator, Drop has benefited greatly from the PCH connection, which has brought the company to San Francisco and Shenzhen, and – as a result – the world stage.

Drop Kitchen Connected Scale

Drop Kitchen Connected Scale. Photo via Drop/Facebook

What Drop is most complimented for is the beautiful industrial design of its flagship product – and deservedly so, as design is at the heart of this company’s approach.

“Our four co-founders all come from design backgrounds, very different types of design but all appreciate design and practise design. And, I think, if you don’t have that in your start-up, really try and bring that in or figure out a way to make it really part of what you’re doing,” Phelan advised.

PCH Hackathon Dublin

Laser-cut wood and 3D printers were on-hand at the PCH Hackathon to help project teams ensure their products looked good. Photo: Luke Maxwell

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.