Top programmers took on the AirAsia Travel App Challenge during Hackweekend. Who won?
Words & Photography: Irvin Hanni & Hackweekend
They came, they built, they shared! Throughout an intense yet stimulating 24 hours, top programmers from all over the world took on the challenge of building apps with little or no sleep, fuelled solely by adrenaline, excessive amounts of snacks and the determining passion for programming–keeping Hackweekend alive and kicking.
First Of All, What Is It?
Hackweekend is a 24-hour hackathon event that gathers developers, designers, and idea generators to network, brainstorm and convert new product, service, or art ideas into reality. This collaborative initiative was formed by a group of passionate individuals from the local technology community, with the objective of building awareness and enthusiasm in technology and support promising innovators.
“Hackweekend in Malaysia embodies the spirit of innovation–a group of people that are creating a community to rethink the world we are in. AirAsia has always been a pioneer of innovation so choosing to work with these partners has been a good collaboration of like-minded people.” – AirAsia Berhad’s Head of Online Technology Arun Roy Lee Verma
It was a gathering of brilliant minds at its best December 2011, where the second edition of Hackweekend (first one July 2011) kicked off at Alt+Space Café in Jaya One. Determined to outdo themselves at the exciting sequel, the theme “Finally, Getting It Done!” pushes the challenge on increasing productivity and getting things done…finally!
Registration for the event was extremely overwhelming and in the end, more than 70 participants came together to exchange ideas, try out new technologies and hack together working prototypes that could be harnessed and lead to far more socially and financially profitable ventures.
The innovations that sprung up after the intense 24 hours were presented the next day. There’s only ONE rule for Hackweekend: NO POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS! Each team had to present their app with a real demonstration in any forms of a working application, in the most creative ways! 18 application demos were unveiled, garnering enthusiastic reception and response from the excited participants who can’t wait to showcase their 24 hour masterpieces! In the crowd were the potpourri of hackers, mentors, key players in the technology industry as well as special guest Deputy Minister of Higher Education Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullahas.
“Hackweekend is the best place to come and build new products and services over a weekend–you push your limits and are surrounded by really talented people who make things happen. We’re really pumped up to see the kinds of innovations coming out of all our Hackweekends!” – Hackweekend organizing member Kal Joffres.
The AirAsia Travel App Challenge
In the busy hustle and bustle of that dynamic weekend, you’ll spot AirAsia’s strong presence there as one of the very keen corporate sponsors of Hackweekend. Why would an airline be here? Always positioning itself as a pioneer in innovation, Hackweekend provides an infinite potential as a dynamic platform to scout for viable applications, amazing talents and distribution channels. The ‘AirAsia Travel App Challenge’ brings up the challenger in the budding programmers to delve and explore an array of possibilities coupled with practicality and convenience when it comes to mobile travel apps.
As one of the major players and trend-setters in the aviation industry, the 3 time World’s Best Low-Cost Airline by Skytrax winner AirAsia truly believes in the potential of the mobile platform as not only a trend but an imperative aspect when it comes to providing the best service for their guests. The growth of the mobile platform is limitless, and AirAsia is ready to dive right into it by challenging the participants this time round! With the objectives of the challenge to enrich and promote the travelling experience, participants are encouraged to think outside the box and convince the judges that their innovations will make travelling more convenient and exciting!
The Winner: The Taxi Monger
One challenge, one winner, RM2,500 worth of AirAsia travel vouchers – the AirAsia Travel App Challenge brings the competition up a notch as participants were judged in 5 main criteria – Originality, Intuitiveness, Market Development, Further Development and Usefulness.
Shafiu Hussein’s “Taxi Monger” (presented as “Taxi Watch”) rose above the crop of innovative apps, with the original pitch behind the idea gives potential taxi guests the chance to check the ‘reviews’ of that particular taxi they are about to board. In a nutshell, it was the “TripAdvisor” of taxis! Guests can submit the plate number of the taxi they’re about to board to unveil any records, complaints or feedback about that particular taxi and driver. It was pure genius in simplicity!
Coming up with the app was pretty simple, said the 29 year-old Maldives national. “As a traveller who visits Malaysia on a regular basis, I have to rely on public transportation to get around the city. Having been cheated countless of times by unscrupulous taxi drivers, I was inspired to create this app that can be useful not only for us visitors, but for the locals as well. With the Taxi Monger app, people now have the option to do a quick background check on the taxi, to see if there are negative reviews about it”, explained Shafiu.
Since winning the challenge, Shafiu has been consistently working into improving the app and taking it even further beyond just reviewing taxis. The beta stage of the app now allows users to book taxis online! Similar to many ticketing apps commonly found on app stores, the Taxi Monger has progressively evolved into eliminating the need of manually calling the taxi companies, letting users book a taxi simply by logging into the app.
Phew, What A Hackweekend!
Moving forward, mobile phones are becoming even more than a fundamental connectivity device, but a key element to the enhancement of lifestyles and convenience especially in the travel industry. At a swipe of the finger or a push of a button, the world is now opened up to you, yet intricately connected to bring the ultimate travel experience with endless possibilities!
“Generally, I think the mobile travel industry is moving in two directions. The first is about relaying information to users about their surroundings so they can discover and experience new things, and second is to help people catalogue and eventually relive or share their travel experience. At AirAsia, with a leading mobile app, we are trying to be at the forefront of both of these directions.” – Arun Roy Lee Verma
With a programme like Hackweekend that has been proven to be a good outlet in sourcing and producing potential mobile app prototypes, there’s no wonder why even more sequels are expected with the numbers growing exponentially at every chapter. The dynamic environment encourages knowledge sharing and technology exchange, resulting in inspirational apps built over the course of 24 hour by sheer passion and enthusiasm! Most importantly, the participants go home motivated, driven and even more confident to bring their craziest ideas to life (albeit a little tired)!
Emphasizing innovation as the key factor, AirAsia is psyched to open up more opportunities for the current Gen Y generation and beyond to discover their full capacities and talents, and ultimately maximising those potentials in getting things done. Hack yeah!
Hackweekend At A Glance
- It is a series of events that puts together the best developers and programmers to hack up apps within 24 hours.
- The first Hackweekend themed ‘Gamification’ was held in July 2011, with 60 participants working together to present 12 amazing ideas.
- The third one is coming soon, with the theme ‘Make Apps, Not War’.
- With the exception of sponsors’ picks, there are no grand prize winners for Hackweekends as the concept is about sharing and developing ideas.
- Among the big tech brands that have supported on past events include AirAsia, Microsoft, Nokia, Yes and many more.
- Entries are by invitation only, interested programmers can check out www.hack.weekend.my for more info and how to participate on upcoming events.