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Global Hack Day 2015

Systems & Tools 20 March 2015 | 5.02pm

On the 26th of February we hosted our second global Hack Day. 70 participants in 16 offices around the world joined in to tackle some of the issues and opportunities present in office environments.

Our first global Hack Day was held back in 2009. Participants were given total creative control and were free to work on any ideas they liked. You can see an example of one hack here -­ http://fieldsofactivity.com/the-secret-lives-of-projects/

This time we decided to give the Hack Day a different focus and asked participants to consider the challenges and opportunities they faced day to day with office work and prototype solutions for them. Many of our office have undergone refreshes recently which have brought with them a new set of challenges and opportunities.

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We used our Office Realtime as the common platform for all hackers and set up an environment where they could hack the sustainability monitoring platform and extend it further towards more encompassing office data monitoring and analysis.

Given the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT) and increasing use of measuring and sensor technology in the built environment, we felt that Office Realtime was a perfect focus for the Hack Day as it would help our staff to become more familiar with the connection between the physical and digital environment.

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We also tried to make the event educational. We wanted to give everyone around Arup a chance to get involved and see firsthand how our digital products come to life. From project inception to sharing code and working in development environments, we exposed participants to tools we use for coding such as JIRA, Git repositories and Confluence.

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The day was begun by teams on Australia’s east coast. Offices in other regions joined the action as the day progressed and the event was seen out some 30 hours later by the San Francisco team. Teams stayed in contact with those in other locations through video link and questions, tips and progress were all captured in a dedicated Yammer group. Even the activity on social media was followed using a tag board and the hashtag #ArupHackDay

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In the short 30 hours, teams produced some brilliant working hacks ranging from live monitoring of new types of office environmental data to tracking the location of hot-desking/Activity Based Working (ABW) staff. Some teams chose to use their time to brainstorm and develop concepts of functionality they’d like to see integrated into Office Realtime, giving the digital.Arup team great insight into what users want from the platform.

Events like the Hack Day are important for Arup as they help promote the culture of innovation and develop our staff with skills to rapidly turn their ideas into working prototypes. This leap from concept to testable product is often the most difficult part of the innovation process and a hurdle that we are trying to minimise.

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The feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive. Not only did everyone have fun, but they also got a glimpse into the world of software development.

Work has now begun on integrating a number of these hacks into the Office Realtime platform and streamlining the installation of the platform for new offices.

Stewart Bird

Melbourne, Australia

“I am Project Manager for the Arup Digital group where I help manage the development of projects from innovation right through to commercialisation. I am also Programme Manager for Arup University helping to develop different ways Arup can sharing and advance it's technical knowledge.”

View all posts by: Stewart Bird