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OS Wars – Hackathon

On August 28, I participated in a hackathon titled “OS Wars” which was organized by Acehacker. It was sponsored by Accenture. The venue of the hackathon was a co-working space NUMA Bangalore on Church Street. The challenge of the hackathon was to develop a mobile app which is location aware.  The event was based on the Game of Thrones theme, hence it had four houses namely House of iOS, House of Android, House of HTML5 and House of Windows (which were the available platforms). The participants were free to choose the platform they wish to use.

I along with two of my friends Sarthak and Vivek (not the event host) participated and decided to make Android App called TripInIt. What is TripInIt? Let’s park this question for some time and I will come back to this question. Meanwhile, I would like to mention few things about the event. We registered at the event by 8 and the event kick start with a brief introduction about the hackathon by Vivek (event host). The battled ground was auditorium at NUMA Bangalore. The venue was comfortable, even though a lot of teams came in (probably more than the capacity of the hall, which happens at such exciting events). There was a team which traveled overnight from Kerala just to participate in the hackathon (way to guys! what a dedication you guys have). Since it was a day long event, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks were arranged by the organizers. I would like to thank Bhukkad for nutritious Breakfast, Eatfresh for wholesome lunch and Behrouz Biryani for delicious and lip smacking Biryani for dinner. Coffee was provided by True South, through out the day that kept us going.

At the start of the day when Vivek (event host) introduced the challenge, we got confused and thought that our ideation of last 4 days have gone into waste as the app does not fit the criteria (towards the end of the day it turned out we were wrong in our assumption). So what do we do, I came with an idea on the spot called “PickItUp”. “PickItUp” concept was to think about picking up your needs like food, groceries, medicine from the store which is near to your current location rather than waiting for the pre-determine delivery slots of online grocers or waiting for food to be home delivered. Some times you don’t need home delivery, some times you want to place an order in advance and would wish to pick up your order. I quickly explained the idea to Sarthak and Vivek, we agreed on workflow and started working. I started making layouts, Vivek started pulling data and Sarthak started writing the code.

Till 3 PM we were heads down into the idea, came up with basic screen flow and implemented use case of food pickup. Suddenly at 3 PM, Sarthak realized that we should complete TripInIt and take a chance to showcase it. So what is TripInIt? TripInIt is a group location sharing app, that helps group members sync up with each other. Mainly useful for groups or Individual embarking road trip using cars, motor bikes and/or bicycles. The app provides a HUD (Head Up Display) that is drawn over the Google native navigation to provide real-time location update of the group members. Same HUD can be used for showing location based ads. We had already built the basic structure in last few days and during the hackathon, we had plans to implement few features like Head-Up Display, Navigation features etc. So Sarthak spent rest 2 hours to giving finishing touches to TripInIt. At 5 PM, the coding stopped and we took a sigh of relief, we had 2 Apps to present.

Then came the time to line the presentation, the hosts told us that one team can present only one app. So we decided to split ourselves into two groups, Sarthak presented TripInIt and I presented PickItUp. The presentation went well, especially TripInIt, judges were curious and Sarthak did a good job to cover all aspects and answer questions in allotted 5 mins. PickItUp presentation was good, judges didn’t had many questions, infact they had valid suggestions on the business model. Once the round 1 presentations were over, we waited to know who all advanced to finals. Our hearts were racing and a lot of thoughts crossed our mind, when I heard the name of TripInIt as one of the finalists from House of Android, I was delighted.

Sarthak and I gathered ourselves to quickly discuss the presentation for finals. We patiently waited for our turn as teams of Windows, iOS and HTML5 presented before us. There was one more team after us that too was from Android (Android had 2 finalists as the number of teams in Android was huge). Once the presentation was over, Q&A started. We were asked questions on revenue earning capability of TripInIt and one of judge felt it is novelty app. We provided our arguments on how Ads can be displayed on HUD and revenue stream can be built by asking tour operators, bikes clubs etc. to create trips through our app. I think we did pretty well in explaining our app and revenue model. Soon, the host took over and asked us to take a break while they churn the number to arrive at results.

Finally, the moment arrived. When the host announced our app as Second Runner Up, I almost jumped out of joy. Sarthak and I were so happy, delighted, ecstatic and could not believe what we heard. We went to the stage to collect our prize – we got few cool gadgets. What a day it was! Truly thrilling, exciting, exhausting, mind blowing and what not. I was overjoyed, we fought with 50 other teams and stood third. It took me a day for the feeling to completely sync in.

As the day was unfolding, there was another side story going on. During the introduction, it was announced that the person who will be most active on Social Media with #oswars will win a set of Game of Throne books. I wanted the book set and started tweeting as and when I had time. Just before the lunch the host announced that I am in leading position and no on else is close to me, he presented GoT theme coffee mugs for the efforts. Oh God! that started a riot on Twitter. I kept on tweeting while coding, thinking, breaks, lunch, snacks, dinner and when presentations were on. There were few folks who had covered the ground, but I was determined to  get the set of books. After the final results were announced, the host also announced that the result of social media engagement will be announced two days later on Tuesday, August 30. The day came and they announced that I have won the contest, the set of books are on it’s way. Yey!!!

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What is IoT Security?

The activities, design, and processes put in place to safeguard and secure the IoT devices, their communication channel is covered under IoT security.

IoT devices or “things” as they are called have unique identifiers and all most all of them generate data in some form. These devices could be connected to sensors, actuators, mobile phones and/or with could server either directly or indirectly. IoT devices collect a lot of data depending on their usage and domain. IoT devices have capabilities to transmit data when connected to a network or another device. Since, IoT devices can collect data, generate data, process data and transmit data they are prone to attacks from unauthorized  and unwanted users.

Objectives of attackers could be anything from just getting to know how data is collected to intercepting data and changing the data either at collection point or during the transmission. The attack could be to reach to sensitive information about the user of the IoT device or manipulate the information coming out IoT device to benefit the attacker or somebody else.

There are a lot of ways to safeguard IoT devices right from having the right Operating System on the devices to secure device access through strong credentials, from encrypting data for communication to applying various layers of firewalls in the network.

IoT security has many challenges today as the number of IoT devices are growing at very fast pace. There millions of devices already in the market and are used by consumers. Thousands of devices are getting connected to the internet each day, making IoT devices prey for attackers. Security vulnerability could come from many aspects like devices released with old and unpatched operating systems, devices not having the ability to update their firmware or operating systems, users not changing the default credentials provided for device set up.

A lot of advancements have been made in product design, operating system, authentication methods to address various security pain areas but there is a long road ahead. No matter how much we progress security will always be of prime importance for IoT devices.

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What is Internet of Things?

Internet of Things is nothing but a network of physical devices connected to each other on a computer based network. The devices here could be anything like a refrigerator, door look, microwave, lights, fitness bands, phones …just about anything you can imagine. The devices have software, sensors, actuators and microcontroller embedded in them which helps these devices to connect to a computer based network system. Using the sensors, microcontroller and the software the performance and behavior of these devices can be controlled remotely through a computer or mobile phone. The sensors in the devices help to record various data points, the microcontrollers can be programmed to take specific actions based on the data recorded – the data can also be sent to a cloud server for storage depending on the application on the device. IoT devices have application in wide range of areas, nowadays they are everywhere from manufacturing, healthcare, pollution monitoring to flood and environment monitoring to agriculture, animal husbandry to home and more.

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