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January 4, 2018

IoT Hackathon Apps Coming Soon

Students, faculty and staff in Donald Bren Hall (DBH) will soon have access to apps stemming from the first IoT Hackathon held in the School of ICS. Last June’s event challenged students to develop apps that exploit data for a “smart” campus while preserving user privacy. Organized by UCI Postdoc fellow Roberto Yus, the focus on user privacy stems from the TIPPERS (Testbed for IoT-based Privacy-Preserving PERvasive Spaces) project, which is part of DARPA’s Brandeis program.

Two of the four Hackathon teams selected to advance completed their prototypes:

  • ZotBins is a waste-auditing app that monitors trash levels and helps users locate trash and recycling bins (developed by Joshua Cao, Derek Feng, Marshall Nguyen and Owen Yang).
  • CoffeeTime (previously the Schedule Optimizer Assistant) helps users find the quickest cup of coffee on campus (developed by Zhaofeng Li, Yathish Gangolli, Zihan Chen, Tianyi Yang and Junlin Wang).

Yus says that each team will receive the $2,000 cash prize, noting that both came up with useful apps. ZotBins aims to increase recycling, optimize work for janitors and help identify where more trash cans are needed. CoffeeTime can estimate your walk and wait times for three campus coffee shops and could eventually be extended to include restaurants.

Furthermore, Yus highlights the fact that the teams developed the apps with an emphasis on user privacy. “Apps often collect and store everything, but these two teams collect and process only the information they need, and then they discard it. They are very conscious of the privacy of their users.”

In addition to these two apps, students in the Information Systems Group (Sumaya Almanee, Sameera Ghayyur, Eun-Jeong Shin, Dhrubajyoti Ghosh, Rushabh Shah and Karthik Gajulapalli) developed four other prototypes:

  • Concierge is a smart assistant that can help you find people, rooms and events in DBH.
  • Noodle is a smart meeting organizer that lets you select cameras or microphones to record your meetings.
  • Self-Awareness tracks your DBH interactions so you know where you spend most of your time and with whom (it can even track how many flights of stairs you’ve climbed).
  • Building Analytics analyzes DBH occupancy by floor, region and room, which should help administrators identify peak hours of use.

The apps leverage information about the location of people in DBH from different sensors installed in the building, but Yus emphasizes that by default, the apps don’t share any of that data. “We’re focusing on privacy by design,” he says, so the user has to set up permissions to determine who can access the information.

All six apps are currently being tested by a group of 30-40 users. Yus hopes to launch the apps to everyone in DBH toward the end of the month, so stay tuned for more information. He also plans to host another IoT Hackathon this year, again focused on privacy in smart spaces. Participants will have access to privacy technologies developed in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University, the University of Massachusetts and others through the Brandeis program. More information will be available on the TIPPERS website in the following months.

—Shani Murray

ICS held its first IoT Hackathon in June 2017.

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