Minnesota Makers Unite At The Fourth Annual IoT Hackday

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By Rich Yudhishthu

What do tech giants like Amazon and Google, Silicon Valley startups, and Twin Cities’ makers have in common?

Each is driving emerging technologies like connected device, computer vision, voice, and UAS into the mainstream as seen at the 2017 IoT Hack Day, where all of these technologies and more were on display.

Packed into Minnetronix’s St. Paul headquarters, thirteen project teams assembled last weekend to brainstorm and build products for hours on end.


Now in its fourth year, the event brings together more than 100 individuals from around the region. Event co-organizers Patrick Delaney, Justin Grammens, and Dan Feldman observe the increasing sophistication of projects every year.

“It’s interesting to see how projects have evolved,” noted Patrick. “A few years ago, many were about remote control, turning lights on and off, etc….now, that mainly happens in the kids educational area we host. Teams are incorporating serious technology with really cool applications.”

The event judges were equally impressed. Previous IoT Hack Day winner Sameer Kumar (whose team grew into the startup HabitAware), CEO of smart building provider 75F Deepinder Singh, and local “tiny doors” artist Mows carefully evaluated each project’s pitch.

“The range and creativity of the groups really impressed us” Singh said as the judges announced winners.

Winners and runner ups were announced across three categories. Overall winners reflect the projects with strongest business potential. Judges also looked for those which with the strongest artistic, community, or creative appeal. Public attendees to the event also weighed in on the crowd favorite.

Rockin’ a Sweet Seat’s smart car seat, the overall winner, reflects the shifting nature of IoT products. Successful experiences deliver a true benefit – in this case, peace of mind for parents, and critical data that supports both the parent and manufacturers. Rockin’ a Sweet Seat’sdoes this by providing temperature and location alerts to parents while enabling manufacturers to use data to continually improve the product and guide parents to use the car seat safely.

Other novel projects included:

Drone Equipped Home Security – the overall winner runner-up, built by a team of recent graduates from Prime Digital Academy, featured a smart drone that would thwart home intruders

Project Deep See – the art and community runner-up, featuring both computer vision-equipped glasses. Vision impaired users could use a voice to interact with Alexa to “see” their surroundings

Internet of Trees – captures pictures of trees infested with invasive species, uses vision APIs to analyze growth of these species, enabling more efficient tracking of population movements

Some teams hope to grow their efforts into businesses. Colette, a team of University of Minnesota students, hacked the skeleton of an anti-theft smart purse. “This is a great opportunity to push forward on our prototype and create awareness for our team,” commented Joan Dao, who founded the company after her mother was robbed two years ago.

Other event stakeholders, like lead sponsor Digi International, seek talent.  Rob Faludi, Digi’s Chief Innovator, engaged with teams throughout the day. He remarked in his closing words that “We continue to be amazed at creativity here in the Twin Cities.”

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