As the Internet of Things continues to grow, reinventing and connecting the world like never before, businesses have adopted more flexible platforms for sharing ideas with entrepreneurs, developers, and enthusiasts. Collaboration and an open venue for makers and idea-driven catalysts are critical for fostering new ideas and forging new solutions. AT&T (News - Alert) has taken the lead on this approach to new technology development. It has focused on maximizing opportunities for innovations by launching a number of initiatives including hackathons, fast pitch competitions, and creating Foundry Innovation Centers.
Recently, AT&T held the 2014 M2M and IoT Fast Pitch in Las Vegas, during ITEXPO (News - Alert) and M2M Evolution, from Aug. 11 through 14. More than 7,000 people attended ITEXPO, and with roughly 35 applicants in the Fast Pitch competition, energy from presenters made the AT&T booth the epicenter of activity at the conference.
AT&T invited several industry leaders to participate in judging and sponsoring the event. Sponsors provided more than $10,000 in prize money and winners received new tablets, plus the opportunity to pursue discussions with AT&T about joining the Foundry Innovation Centers.
AT&T’s Push for Innovation
The AT&T Fast Pitch event served as an opportunity for developers and designers of all kinds, IT consultants, machine-to-machine and IoT enthusiasts to demonstrate innovative ideas to a wide audience. A fast pitch is a high-paced, fast-moving presentation that requires entrepreneurs to share their ideas via PowerPoint in less than three minutes. AT&T’s Fast Pitch 2014 had each participant discuss what role his or her company’s solution plays within the IoT, what problems it solves, provide at least one use case for the solution, how the application can leverage AT&T developer tools, and why it is unique. AT&T Fast Pitch is an open platform for those who can effectively communicate problem-solving applications within the IoT space that are scalable, original, and impactful.
Over the years, AT&T has sponsored several hackathons looking for new ideas or improved M2M solutions. Unlike a fast pitch, a hackathon is an event where programmers and other developers intensely collaborate on software projects, usually within just a couple of days. These hackathons produce quality solutions, powered by passionate programmers and innovators, to solve issues or to improve a solution’s capabilities. Hackathons are about building ideas and fast pitches are about sharing ideas. So at 2014 M2M Evolution, AT&T opted for the fast pitch format to gather more ideas in a compressed timeframe.
Regarding the Fast Pitch competition, Mike Troiano, vice president of AT&T Business Solutions, stated, “Nearly every business today can benefit from the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine solutions, yet the biggest challenges in implementation are not technology at all. [It is] how they must rethink their processes to truly capitalize on the multitude of benefits that a connected business offers.”
Fast Pitch Innovators
Kyle Smith, 13, won this year’s AT&T Fast Pitch. He developed a fire tracking system application, Fire-Fly. Fire-Fly sensors are deployed in forests to detect smoke, monitor temperature, wind speed, humidity, and lightning. These devices rely on Wi-Fi and cellular communication between sensors and a field-hub, relaying information to a hosted fire management system. Kyle’s application will help to minimize damage and water usage, decreasing the amount of time it takes to control fires.
He initially became interested in M2M and IoT after entering a robotics competition in Dallas. Kyle hopes to use AT&T’s M2X Data Service, utilizing its libraries and run-time environment tools as a sandbox to further develop and test his sensors.
Kyle’s father, Dr. Jeff Smith, is CTO of Numerex (News - Alert), a leader in M2M. Jeff was on vacation in Europe this summer when Kyle called him and let him know that he wanted to enter the Fast Pitch competition. When Jeff asked if he needed any help, Kyle replied, “Nope. I got this dad.” I guess he did “get it”, as all judges agreed he had a terrific solution and the only demonstrable ROI in the competition.
Zachary Stovall and Kyle Cornelius represented Storific, a smart ordering companion application, and won the AT&T Fast Pitch People’s Choice Award. Storific is an application that can be used on iPhone (News - Alert) and Android mobile devices, and allows customers to cut out the middlemen, increasing customer satisfaction through customization, and improving a company’s ability to meet customers’ needs where they are. The application will enable companies to maximize opportunities and customer experience, while reducing human errors and wait times. Storific competed in the AT&T Fast Pitch because it was a unique opportunity for the company to display its contribution to IoT.
When asked about what initially drew Storific to the Fast Pitch competition, co-founder Zachary Stovall said it was “because of the exposure it would generate and for the opportunity to possibly partner with a company like AT&T…. We want to build the ultimate customer solution, the ultimate team in customer experience, and we knew this was the perfect platform for us.”
As winners of the People’s Choice Award, Storific will be considered for the AT&T Foundry. Kyle Cornelius, co-founder of Storific, explained, that the Foundry provides “the infrastructure and network capabilities for us to roll out Storific on a grand scale. It’s the perfect marriage between our initiatives and what we can provide to our customers.”
In response to the winning teams, Troiano said, “We put together the Fast Pitch competition with the idea to bring together the makers and developers of the world with AT&T staffers and partners to see what kind of ideas it would spark. I really liked the winning solution from Kyle Smith, it showed great vision of what the connected world will look like in a couple of years. And the Storific guys brought in a great entrepreneurial energy to the event.”
AT&T is Innovation
Through the Foundry program, AT&T maximizes collaborative projects by providing developers, designers, and engineers with industry-leading experts, providing access to the latest development tools, and deep pools of information to produce faster solution development, collaboration, and get those solutions to market faster.
AT&T has invested millions in accelerating the creation and development of innovative M2M and IoT solutions, manifested in the several hackathon and fast pitch competitions, in addition to the establishment of several Foundry innovation centers. AT&T’s efforts to use crowdsourced, collaborative platforms to find new solutions propel the market forward, driving innovation by expanding the talent pool and by providing a space for entrepreneurs and enthusiasts to collaborate on new ideas with industry leading experts.
“We are only limited by our imaginations as to what M2M and the IoT can enable,” continued Troiano. “The Fast Pitch competition served as a demonstration of the art of the possible.”
Look for more events like this from AT&T in the coming years as it continues to advance its leadership position in M2M.
Edited by Maurice Nagle