BattleHack Toronto

A whirlwind of impressive hacks, great food, friendly people, a frighteningly tall CN tower, and beer. Yes, Jamie and I recently got the chance to represent Pusher at BattleHack Toronto! Jamie is a veteran of previous BattleHacks (London and Athens), but for me it was my first one, so needless to say, I was very excited. I had been hearing great things from team members who had attended other BattleHacks (Venice, Berlin, Tokyo), so my expectations were high; as it turned out, I was not disappointed!

Getting started

MaRS building

Photo: MaRS Building

Up bright and early (thanks jet lag!), we headed to the MaRS building; the location of BattleHack, and our home for the next 24 hours. We were warmly greeted by the awesome guys from Braintree, who had already got everything set up for the hackers to get started. We set up on a table with the other event partners (Twilio, Sendgrid, Heroku), and started chatting to hackers about Pusher and handing out our t-shirts and stickers. Our t-shirts were all gone before the event even started; a record!

Start of the event

After introductory speeches by Braintree, and API pitches from us and the other partners, teams formed and hacking began. Right off the bat we found the hackers to be keen on discussing ways that Pusher could be integrated into their hacks. As ideas started solidifying, the atmosphere became more and more focused. The concentration was broken only by the awesome treats we have come to associate with BattleHacks: amazing local food, drinks, and massages. It was my first time trying the Canadian delights of putine and Beavertails; if you haven’t tried these already, you’re missing out!

Coding through the night

We were impressed by the stamina of the teams. Jamie and I ended up crashing around midnight and retreating to our hotel. When we returned in the morning, the hackers were still in full swing, only looking slightly worse for wear, but as determined as ever as the seconds ticked by.

Ending gong

As the timer hit 00:00, the famous BattleHack gong was dramatically struck, and it was on to the presentations. At the end there was a whopping 37 teams that ended up demoing their hacks. We saw an excellent mix of very innovative ideas and great execution.

Our highlights

We saw a some great uses of Pusher for integrating notifications systems into some very slick apps. In particular, FlashPay was a system that allowed merchants to instantly and easily receive payments, and the team behind Pitchin’ developed a funding platform to support athletes.

Quickie was an interesting use case for Pusher. The team created a system that used beacons and a mobile app to detect when users are at events (movies at a cinema for example), and featured automatic payments so that queues could be skipped. Pusher was used to keep a synced total number of participants of events.

Ord.r

Team Ord.r

Our prize (4 GoPros!) went to the team that we believe implemented the app with the deepest Pusher integration: Ord.r. This mobile app could be used in restaurants to split bills. Restaurant owners could trigger events that would prompt customers to pay. The customers could then enter the food that they ordered and would see the total bill decrease in realtime as the others at the table paid for their dishes. There was also a notification system built into the app that allowed the restaurant owners to notify customers of various events in the restaurant, such as it being closing time, or there being a delay to their food. Overall we loved the enthusiasm of the team to make the most of Pusher in their app.

Not Me

Team Not Me

Photo: PayPal Canada

The grand prize of the event went to the creators of Not Me. This app lets users set up an online identity to handle various logins. The service can detect if someone is attempting to log into a user’s account from another country, and instantly notifies the real owner. The owner has the option of blocking access to the account if they believe the login is not legitimate. This app is clearly useful in todays online environment where thousands of accounts are being compromised daily.

The team will get the chance to compete in the BattleHack finals in San Francisco, for the chance to win the $100,000 prize.

The end of another awesome BattleHack

We are immensely grateful to Braintree for giving us the opportunity to attend BattleHack Toronto. For me, it was an excellent first experience of attending a hackathon with Pusher, and I only worry that my standards have now been set too high for other events I might attend!

We cannot wait for the upcoming BattleHack in New York on Aug 8; be sure to say hi to Jamie and Olga there.

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