Guest Blog post by Lauren Marinaro, Director of Smart Cities and Developer Engagement, ReadWriteHack. ReadWrite, a leading tech editorial platform for IoT and the Connected World, works to connect IoT thought leaders, influencers, and innovators in meaningful ways, including hackathons.
This year, Amazon Alexa teamed up with ReadWrite for two major hackathons — the IoT for Cities Hackathon at IoT World and the Industrial IoT Hackathon at SEMICON West. Each one connected over 100 developers with the latest IoT technology to create innovative, life-changing products over the course of two days.
"The IoT for Cities Hackathon is a place where developers can innovate around technologies that are actually making a difference in people's lives. We are excited to be part of these kinds of initiatives, as developers are constantly showing us new and valuable ways to use Alexa,” said Paul Cutsinger, Head of Alexa Voice Design Education.
And Amazon Alexa APIs were used in five out of eight of the winning solutions at SEMICON West and seven out of nine of the winning solutions at IoT World, including the Grand Prize.
What is it about Amazon Alexa’s voice service that makes it a favorite among IoT developers?
As we move towards a more connected and streamlined world, we expect more seamless interactions with our devices. For instance, if the person sitting next to you drops to the ground and you need to provide emergency services, wouldn’t you be able to act faster if the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) on the wall was smart and could talk you through saving that person’s life — all while calling the Emergency Response team for you in the background?
That’s what Team Ciklum built, winning the Grand Prize at the IoT for Cities Hackathon at IoT World. They also incorporated three other products from GE, Pitney Bowes, and Cisco to create the ultimate Smart AED. But what stood out in their demo was Amazon Alexa’s voice-activated, life-saving support in a situation where seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
At the Industrial IoT Hackathon at SEMICON West, Team EcoByte took the Grand Prize by creating a pollution awareness service that provides interactive environmental information to enable enhanced well-being. The main selling point: it’s interactive, voice-activated, and hands-free, thanks to Amazon Alexa.
In a hackathon environment, where you typically have little time to create something, the opportunity to actually demo your project can determine if you win or lose.
Developers are not only competing for the top prize, they’re competing for the attention of sponsors, influencers, and decision-makers. This is an opportunity to get your hands on the latest technology, prove your skills and ability to take complex IoT products and platforms and create something connected, useful, and marketable.
Alexa gives competitors a chance to create something quickly (check out their easy to maneuver skills here: and have something to demo, even as a beginner coder. It really helps that Amazon’s team has used the Alexa Skills Kit to build skills on their own. Great Alexa evangelists, like Noelle LaCharite, have created capabilities of their own, such as an in-home voice-activated robot bartender.
Voice command is the interface of the future. Leading developers have figured this out, and that is probably a big reason why over two-thirds of the IoT solutions created for our hackathons incorporate Amazon Alexa’s APIs.
To meet with Amazon Alexa Evangelists and Solutions Architects and start creating your own Smart City projects using the Alexa Skills Kit, be sure to sign up for the Smart Cities Hackathon at CES in Las Vegas, January 7th + 8th. Sign up here.
Feel free to check out some additional hackathon projects that use Amazon Alexa below:
Solution: Pollution Awareness Platform
Team Ecobyte’s pollution awareness platform provides interactive environmental information to enable residents’ enhanced well-being.
Ecobyte’s product leverages air pollution data from pollution sensors placed on lamp posts throughout the city. Their solution provides holistic pollution information to the city and residents through a hosted Bluemix-cloud platform.
To the user, this will be the first interactive, hands-free, voice-activated “Amazon Alexa” for Smart Cities. In addition, they have enabled user-definable alerts via IFTTT integration. Finally, this is enabled by a high performance, low cost hardware leveraging Intel Edison.
Link to Ecobyte live stream pitch here.
Link to Ecobyte Hackster.io Project Page here.
Interview for spot in Wearable IoT World Labs Accelerator
Amazon Echo Device for each member of winning team
Solution: A Smart and Seamless Irrigation System to solve for California’s Drought
Team Leo’s solution monitors temperature, water, UV, and soil moisture from the farm and controls the irrigation from the cloud. Using Intel’s Edison board connected with four sensors (moisture, temperature, UV, and water), you can collect soil information and send to IBM’s Bluemix Cloud Platform to monitor in real-time. Using IBM’s weather insight service to predict weather conditions, your whole system can be operated remotely, virtually, and by machine. For example, if the soil moisture drops below 30%, your irrigation system will automatically turn on the water pump and you will be notified via SMS and a voice alert from your Amazon Alexa Device. Leo also incorporated an augmented reality app into their solution, such that when you scan your crops, it will show where your sensors are and provide their current readings.
Link to Leo live stream pitch here.
Apple Watches for each member of winning team
Pet Climate - WHOmentors.com, Inc.
Solution: A Smart Temperature Control System for your Pets:
Team WHOmentors created a smart temperature control system to manage your home’s internal environment for your pets.
Solution: A Voice-Activated Kill Switch Emergency Button
Team Norway created a voice-activated kill switch to reduce dam ages and report what’s happening in an industrial IoT setting. Using Amazon Alexa voice command, an industrial worker could witness an incident and call out the emergency indication hands free reducing time to action from 10 to 2 seconds. Using Samsung’s Artik Cloud for IoT, the incidents will be recorded and monitored and different rules can be created for specific emergencies and how the machines should react to them. For example, “Code Red” could shut down all machines immediately, where “Code Orange” will slow down the machines to assess how and if they are working properly.
Link to Team Norway live stream pitch here.
M&N / Nightlife
Solution: A Voice-Activated Guide to Nightlife in your Area
Team Nightlife used Amazon Alexa voice control to find and learn about restaurants and bars in your area, providing detailed information on favorite dishes based on your preferences.
Link to M&N / Nightlife live stream pitch here.