On 36 hours of mobile development…

A Guest-Post event round-up

By Julie Gould, Citizen Cyberlab

Image you are asleep in your home, comfortably wrapped up in your duvet, oblivious to the burglar that is making their way along your drive.

Also imagine your dog is deaf and your burglar alarm has stopped working, how would you raise the alarm?? How would you know there has been a break in? How would you scare the intruder away?

The answer comes from the Nottingham University coders team at this year’s Over The Air event (27th and 28th September), an overnight Hack Day. Their solution: your bog-standard (a-ha) toilet.

Using an accelerator like the one in your phone, you can measure the ripples in the toilet bowl water, which are created by vibrations. If the ripples are sufficient to raise an alarm, the accelerometer would tell another device to automatically flush the toilet, leaving the burglar to think that you are awake and in the house, and hence frighten them away. Obviously.

This is just one of the weird and wonderful creations to come out of last weekend’s event at Bletchley Park.

Bletchley Park3Bletchley Park, a beautiful country house just a few hundred meters away from the rail tracks is the birthplace of modern computing. Seeped in code-cracking history, what better place than here to host a hack-fest weekend.

Dan Applequist, one of the ‘Three Hackateers’ that organised the event described OTA as “a celebration of software development as a creative discipline.”

OTAOTA is a combination of a traditional developer conference, with sessions led by people from within the community and an overnight Hack Day competition. The talks were about all sorts of things: relevant issues that the developers can use over the weekend, for example building applications on a Windows phone, or  something a bit more futuristic like white space radio, a new radio technology that might replace the wi-fi and GSM that we rely on today.

Groups of computer coders, hard-ware coders, soft-ware coders, tinkerers, gamers and more come together to learn, play, and work. And the results are quite unique.

I’m not a computer tinkerer myself, I understand how to use one for what I need it to do, but those that attend this event understand the ins-and-outs of modern technology, and can make it do some great things.

3D LED Cube 1One hacker put together a 3D LED cube that he could control using a roller ball. He had brought all the materials with him, soldered it all together, and then built some software on the day.

Another used his phone network to give a light instructions as to which colour to shine.

A third made a tracking device for a house pet so that the owner would know which room of the house the pet is in.

Air Pollution meter5An other group put together a device that would measure the level of pollution in the area you are in. You could combine this with a bike ride and GPS tracking system, and them know which areas you’ve travelled through have the highest levels of pollution. You can thus avoid the route to work with the worst air pollution, or provide your local council with more information on levels of pollution at different times of the day.

These are just some of the wonderful things created at the 6th edition of Over the Air. You may be thinking, what is the point? Why not make something financially viable? Well,that’s exactly opposite to what the event is all about. Although the things created at OTA may not become the next lucrative app for your phone, they may one day develop into something people will use every day. OTA was the first place where phones were turned into “light sabers”, which can now be found on many apps and games.

So who knows, maybe one day your toilet may become your bulgar alarm! But for the meantime, I would recommend a dog, or you know, a regular one!

Whilst I was there, I thought I would hack together a bit of a podcast about it. You can find it on the Pod Delusion episode 207 (4th October 2013).