Retail week hackathon 2016 aftermath

Retail week hackathon 2016 result

Last week at the same time I was at home playing League of Legends to break away from the frustration of losing at the Retail Week hackathon 2016. I was frustrated because I was, well I still am, convinced that our idea was good enough to win. Actually, I wanted to write a post immediately after to express the mixed feelings I felt that day. On one hand, I loved the experience and the excitement of suiting up as my schools days nerd self. On the other hand I hated losing in a way that did not feel fair. I discussed about the outcome of the hackathon around and people felt like we should have won.

I still cannot believe that a system to book an hour in-store discussing with an employee about an item you see online. An employee you whose job is to sell you the said item, especially in 2016. Nowadays we are only clicks away from users reviews from all around the world. You can even have video reviews at least on youtube. I guess it makes more sense to the judges otherwise the Retail Week hackathon 2016 winner trophy would be on Poq’s trophies shelf.

When we first got the idea of the self-checkout we thought that the hardest challenge was having a working prototype. We were so wrong. We had a working prototype 4 hours before the hackathon ended. From there, we spent the rest of the time testing and fixing bugs to ensure the presentation’s success. The presentation did not go perfectly but the idea and the product were there. To be fair, I think that pretty much all the teams had a much presentation for lesser ideas which could be what cost us the gold. When the judges are involved in retail during a fashion event I guess this is key.

The self-checkout idea

We built a self checkout app that allows customers in a store to find items they want to purchase with indoor location using estimotes and geolocation to handle both indoor and outdoor app behaviour. The most interesting part is that you can scan your items so they add to your basket and when you leave the store you get charged automatically. We even built a mini-backend displaying the last paid basket.

We built a solid proof of concept even though there is some security flows that are fixable on the operational side. For the security tags, just add a device connected to the store system against which you scan your order generated QR code  to allow you unlocking the number of items you need to remove the tags from. Even further we can use security tags that would emit the value from the item barcode to enforce that someone is not unlocking something they did not buy. It is a 24 hour hackathon and still we thought about some corner cases.

We did focus on bringing people back to store. I think that we did show creativity and innovation using the latest technology. Maybe we did not manage to pass the idea to the judges but I know that this is the future of retail. Walk in a store pick what you need and go. No more queuing hassle. Basically shoplifting without the criminal aspect.

Learning and progressing

I may go next year if we put up a team again and learn from our mistake. Technical advancement is not the focus, presentation is. Coding the whole night to get a working prototype is not the focus, sugar coat is. Still it will remain a special moment to me because I did have fun. The self-checkout will be in your hands in a few years, I will do my best for it. I went, I saw, I learned, that is probably what I do best, learning. I learned things my whole life, both at school and out of it. Even now that I worked for a few years I still try to learn as many things as possible. Learning is key to evolution, it is the key to become a better version of one self.

A great way of learning is to take part in open source development, looking at other people’s code, taking on challenges. Since a few days now I am helping other developers on community based websites such as StackOverflow and Github. I had an account on both for some time but did not do much with them. The good part is that on one hand I can learn and sharpen my skills by taking on issues and at the same time I help others. Well, there is not much downside. On Tuesday I submitted my first (non-professional) pull request and it got approved and merged pretty much instantly. It was not much but it still feels nice, you can check it here.  And yesterday I got my first upvotes on a few posts on StackOverflow showing that giving time is enough sometimes.

That’s where I will end today’s post before I start spreading on random stuff, thank you for reading.

First month at Poq and Retail Week incoming

Yesterday I completed my first month at Poq and I am quite happy with my decision to join them. It changes from prin pretty much everything. I enjoy Poq for different reasons than those I enjoyed Lodgeo at first. However the most important part is that I can express myself in terms of development. At Poq there is more room for ideas and innovation than I was used to in my previous companies. It is crazy to see that I am 25 and including internships this is already my fifth company.

I learned so much over a short period of time and I brought some of my touch to the team. The only victim so far is my Yoda programming that my coworkers wiped away after a few code reviews. I yearned to come back to C# development in a company ever since my first internship at Itop. And now I really enjoy all the improvements of C# went through since 2010. And C# 7 brings a lot in terms of making a code more concise and easier to review. Working with colleagues with a strong experience in development will impact me and lead me making it to another level.

3027105_Hackathon_VISUAL

Talking about new step, I discovered a few days ago that in two weeks from now I will participate to the Retail Week Buzz hackathon where I will represent Poq with other coworkers. It is a big deal to me as it will also be Poq’s first participation to a hackathon as a company. Actually it will also be my first hackathon which is quite exciting.

Together we will try to figure how retailers can use technology to drive online shoppers into store locations and create a truly seamless customer experience in the process. This is a big challenge considering all the things we can do using mobile and web apps not much is left for the shops. The obvious reason to go to a shop is because good that is either not available online or not working. We will prepare ourselves to bring up an idea that can make a difference in the retail world and deliver on September 15.

Until then I will slow down on my League of Legends side project that I started a few days ago. There is some progress, I have some of the key logic elements in place. Hopefully in a few months I will have a first version available.