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Holiday hack: developing brilliant software solutions for industry

December 29, 2015
GE’s second Industrial Hackathon, held on a December weekend in Melbourne, blew Santa’s elves out of the big-league gift game. Participants checked the GE customer wish list twice, coded all day and all night, and came up with considered solutions to industrial-sized dilemmas. Here’s the wrap!
Remote workers are frequently out of mobile-phone range—how can you reach them in an emergency? GE’s customers, in mining, oil and gas, power management, water treatment and healthcare, need to be able to alert farflung employees to dangerous situations, and to make sure they’re safe. The winning team at GE’s Melbourne Industrial Hackathon in December, came up with a system that will snap onto a mobile phone, but uses satellite communications to relay alerts and responses.

This is the industrial realm where product-development opportunities are more plentiful than pine needles in a forest of Christmas trees.

GE posed just four challenges for the two hackathons it hosted in 2015: how to keep remote workers safe; how to store up-to-date licensing data for healthcare engineers; how to optimise energy usage for large industrial operations; and the creation of a hands-free automated audio system to assist rail-maintenance engineers in their work.

The Melbourne Hack, held two weeks after Sydney’s event, took place at Carlton Connect Initiative and drew 60 participants organised into 16 teams—who were well mentored by 32 industry experts.

Emma Milburn, a program leader in GE Corporate IT who helped organise both events, says Melbourne’s three major prize-winning teams stood out for seeking comprehensive solutions to the posed problems. “They quickly grasped the real-world challenge, came up with a solution and then said, ‘What else can we do? What else is around this problem that we could fix at the same time?’ A lot of them went home on Saturday and coded all night. They worked really hard!” As it did in Sydney, pizza proved a key driver of creativity. Get a slice of the action.


Sponsors of the GE Industrial Hackathons, provided not only thought-leading mentors and inspiring, incisive judges for the events, but sustenance and prizes.

As platinum sponsor, Tata Consultancy Services was responsible for the steady flow of catering to participants.

The top three teams at each event were invited to choose their prizes from an incredible Santa sack of options:

  • Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) offered $5,000 in hosting services at each event.

  • Optus presented Samsung Galaxy S6 phones to each member of two place-winning teams.

  • GE provided Microsoft Surface 3 tablet computers to each member of two place-winning teams.

In addition, both the Melbourne Accelerator Program and GE put up the ongoing mentoring services of IT leaders in their organisations, to help the first-placing teams further develop their ideas.

Participants agreed that the experience of working with the mentors and judges, and with their own team mates—many teams were formed for the first time at the Hackathons—was the money-can’t-buy takeaway from these events.

Inspired by the quality of ideas presented, GE has planned four Industrial Hackathons for 2016, with the dual aim of driving participation in the truly game-changing possibilities of the Industrial Internet, and helping GE customers to solve problems and boost productivity. Call it coding for big kids. Call it entrepreneurship on a massive scale. Whatever you call it, solving industrial-strength problems could make all your Christmases come at once.

Subscribe to GEreports for details on GE Industrial Hackathons in 2016.
Lead image: The winners of the Melbourne GE Industrial Hackathon—team 'Corvus'—are congratuated by Terri Butler, Federal Labor Member for Griffith, Queensland.