The Vodafone Embedded Hardware Hack Challenge


Over the next five years, we’re going to see a dramatic breakthrough in M2M applications as organisations realise the unheralded potential it represents for revenue generation and improved customer satisfaction. Vodafone is working in a number of business sectors in order to develop Global M2M Services to meet the demanding and unique needs of these businesses, who are looking for end-to-end device-managed connectivity and opportunities to improve business processes and generate new service and revenue streams.

The mbed Rapid Prototyping platform provides the tools for efficiently prototyping ARM Cortex-M microcontroller-based designs. The mbed Microcontrollers are a series of ARM microcontroller development boards supported by an online tools platform, which provide a productive environment to build projects with the backing of libraries, resources and support shared in the mbed community. mbed is a versatile platform that enables developers to rapidly build intelligent embedded projects, including ‘Internet of Things’ applications with a interface the physical world.

The Challenge

Create the most innovate and cool embedded hardware hack. This hack should show how an embedded device can be used to connect some aspect of a users life more intuitively to them. It can use any embedded hardware on the market (preferably Mbed) and connect using any wireless or fixed line technology (preferably a GSM, GPRS, or 3G one).

The hack can connect:

  • embedded to embedded;
  • embedded to mobile; or
  • embedded to web.

Examples could be home control, energy saving by monitoring and control, industrial applications, generic cloud based asset tracking, home or industrial gateways and hubs, exposing UI’s of embedded devices for enhanced control, integration with CAN bus on vehicles, embedded safety equipment, sensor networks, telemetry tracking and activation or anything else you can imagine!

Get creative!

The Prizes:

The winning team will receive 2 x HTC One X phones, 2 x k3770 modems, 2 x SIM payt 20 credit, and 2 x mbeds!


  1. Publication to
  2. Publication to


Nicholas Herriot, Vodafone Group R&D speaks about embedded devices

Written by john.wyer on date 17 May 2012 in Vodafone developer backstage.

On a recent visit to Vodafone UK HQ in Newbury Vodafone developer took the chance to catch up with Nicholas Herriot, Solutions Architect, Vodafone Group R&D. During the last year Nicholas has focused his work on embedded devices, energy and the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT).

See what Nicholas had to say below and checkout the short video interview I shot where Nicholas took the opportunity to demo some of his recent work here.

“It’s been a real eye opener to see advancements in micro controllers – and I believe the time is right in two areas for a new revolution which is silently taking place before our eyes.

Those areas being: Wide area connectivity and associated cost to the user. By most peoples standards it’s hard to deny that you can get connected to a network in most populated regions around the world.

The other big change is the relative cost of processors. And the saying “it’s as cheap as chips” really is a beautiful pun. Processor and transmitted ‘bit’ cost are now asymptotically heading towards zero.

For me that means the area of machine to machine (M2M) is now in a growth phase – and by that I don’t mean caused by government legislation, enterprise customers managing assets remotely or large corporations deploying remote systems – which is all true. I mean that this ecosystem is about to grow rapidly via work done by very small and medium sized companies and or individuals. We can see proof of that from the explosion of systems like Arduino – where in 2005 they started from ‘1’ to 2010 over 200,000 units per year.

There are some things that need to be in place to make this ecosystem fly in my opinion. You need to have:
1) A central place where everyone can get a coherent, managed and tested code base.
2) It needs to be open and community based.
3) It needs to grow and develop with that community.
4) In reliability it needs to be as good or better than commercially driven proprietary products.
5) Cost is a factor – it has to be very cheap.
6) In terms of connectivity – it has to be outstanding, it should just work and be easy to connect by what ever access technology.

I do not believe all of those issues have been cracked.  During the last year we have worked on Arduino and Mbed devices – evaluating and deciding what would be a good partner if R&D were to try and assist this community in some area. We decided to help provide and work on a software library for Mbed that would help developers connect those devices to our network.
Our work is not complete, however we are at a stage to show, build and demonstrate prototypes. In this blog article we have submitted a vide, in it we attempted and succeeded to build a functioning door access system using a smart phone, a COTS electronic door lock, a 3G dongle, an Mbed controller and associated power supplies. It took us 3 days to go from nothing, writing the code, acquiring components and showing the prototype. This would not have been possible even 5 years ago.

In the next six months we will be writing articles explaining how we progress with this – what we are doing – what API’s we plan on releasing – and release dates for the library.

We would like to hear thoughts from developers on what we are doing, how we are doing, what things we could do better and what other features we could add to this type of system to make it better for them in developing embedded applications.”