We Won First Prize at Hackover, Bucharest

Inception

It is a known fact that the hacking culture is well developed in Eastern European countries, and Romania makes no exception. This weekend, more than 200 hundred programmers gathered for a 24h hacking marathon at Hackover. We decided to take part as Makan Studios and implement something that has to do with the new notification system on Android. Ka has been obsessing with this for a couple of months now, so, we decided to do something nice for him and play along :D

The setting

I was impressed with the size of the event, more than 200 hundred developers, very good internet wired connection (congrats to the organizers for the decision), food & drinks. There was some press, we did some interviews for RTV & TVR, a little bit of PR for Makan Studios :)

I don’t really understand why the hacking contests start in the afternoon, and run throughout the night and half of the next day, instead of starting at 8 AM and run through out the day. I would love to see this king of hackathon in the future.

And if we are on the subject, I have a couple of myths about programmers that are umm, just myths:

  • programmers work better at night. I think programmers work best when there are no distractions (the night is just one of those times).
  • programmers drink coke and eat pizza. WTF!?! Google, Facebook, Twitter and other big companies give employees healthy, organic food. A lot of programmers are into healthy food.
We arrived at 17:00 and, after some discutions, we decided to build an app using the brand new push notification system from Google that will help car drivers get relevant traffic information on their mobile phones, around their current position. Road Alert was born!

Road Alert

As I said before, we had to do something with the new notification system from Google, or else Ka would unfriend us (me and Mateo) from Facebook and possibly from real life too :D Road Alert was a good fit between a real life problem (how can you find out in real time about traffic problems ahead of you as a driver?) and what technology we wanted to use.

So we set out to replace several habits of drivers:

  • listen to crappy radios (Info Traffic or Europa FM) to get national traffic informations
  • look for flashes from the other drivers that notifiy you about radars or police controls
  • buy an expensive radio station to communicate with truck drivers (popular in Romania at least). This method is also funny because you get to listen to their day to day problems for free :)
Now, we thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a real time traffic alert system on your mobile phone that will notify you only if something happens around you? It would be like all of the above methods without listening to stupid music, irrelevant traffic information from 500 km away or truck driver problems.
Because of the limited amount of time we had, we designed a minimum functionality system that had some cool features like:
  • a user gets real-time alerts only if he is on the move
  • alerts are location aware: you get only the alerts around you
  • if you move faster, you get alerts that are farther away from you, if you move slower, you get alerts that are closer to you
  • alerts work even if you go through areas with limited or no internet connection
  • the app works in background
  • we give you sound alerts, so you don’t have to look at the phone while you drive
  • Road Alert is optimized for small battery usage
We also created a small website for the app: http://roadalert.makan-studios.com
The app is available on the Google Play store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.makanstudios.roadalert

Result

We are very happy to say that Road Alert was chosen the best project of the competition, out of more than 40 projects. We would like to thank the jury for their patience to go through all the projects code and the organizers for a fantastic 24 hours coding experience.

 

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