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August 27, 2014 | Tom Ballard

Variable’s “global hackathon” focused on exciting next generation

Variable-Technologies-2By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

“We want to get the next generation excited about programming mobile apps that work with connected hardware,” Variable Inc.’s Alex Lavidge says in describing a recent competition the Chattanooga-based company launched.

The three-month “global hackathon,” as it is described, is also designed to help Variable sell more of its Node+ wireless sensors. Take a quick tour of the company’s website, and you’ll find applications utilizing the Node+ that range from an infrared thermometer to a wireless barcode reader, a thermocouple probe, and a color referencing system.

Looking at the Node+ from a different perspective, you see industry sectors that cover food and beverage, education, academic and scientific research, several manufacturing areas (plastics, paint, coatings and textiles), health and recreation, government, and transportation and logistics.

Get the picture? In essence, there are endless possibilities to develop sensors that take advantage of the Node+. In fact, Lavidge notes that 33 use cases have been published on how the NODE is being used.

“The app is part of what sells hardware,” George Yu, Variable Founder and Chief Executive Officer, explains. “Mobile apps explain to the end-user how specific problems are solved with the NODE+.”

An important part of the competition is to mix and match interchangeable sensors in unique ways.

To help incentivize participation in “Hackanode 2014,” Variable will distribute $16,500 to winning app developers in a dozen categories. Deadline for entering an app is September 24.

The categories and prize money are:

  • Best smart glasses integration prize – $2,500
  • Supply chain management award – $2,500
  • Barcode scanner award – $2,500
  • Better world award – $500
  • College student developer award – $1,500
  • Academic research award – $1,500
  • High school developer award – $1,000
  • Visionary award – $500
  • Best female app developer – $500
  • People’s choice award – $500
  • 48-hour integration award – $500
  • Color referencing award – $2,500

More information is available here.

Judges include a number of local leaders in the entrepreneurial space plus Tom Studer, President of MobileGov, Amar Kona, Android Evangelist at Intel, and Nick Arnett, the Under 20 Community Development Manager at The Thiel Foundation.

Lavidge, the Knoxville native who relocated to Chattanooga to serve as Business Development Manager for the company, said that there are about 1.2 million apps available in the Google and Apple stores.

“In 2008, there were one billion devices connected to the web,” he noted, adding that predictions for 2020 range from 26 billion to as high as a trillion thereafter.

With that anticipated growth in connected devices and the Node+ already being used in 37 countries, sponsoring a competition for more and better apps just makes sense.

Lavidge and Variable Chief Operating Officer Greg Compton will be presenting use cases for supply chain management as well as partnership opportunities for mobile app developers and entrepreneurs from 6 to 7:30 p.m. September 10 at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.

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