"You can lean far outside of your comfort zone at the Hackathon."

At the 5th SKIDATA Hackathon in Salzburg, 13 teams from Austria, the USA and France developed thrilling new concepts and prototypes for future products and solutions.

Once again there were three days of busy soldering, sawing, 3D printing and programming, filled with moments of panic if a laptop suddenly failed, and moments of relief at finding a workaround for a problem. Essentially, the fifth SKIDATA Hackathon in Salzburg was a resounding success. 55 participants from SKIDATA locations in Austria, the USA and France developed product or application innovations, in small teams and then presented their resulting work to an audience and jury.

As it has functioned previously, the hackathon had several different phases, "At the start, it was very chaotic and loud. Ideas were exchanged and developed as the teams came together," reports Bernhard, the Head of Software Development in Salzburg, as well as the returning organizer of the hackathon. "The second day was quieter. You could almost hear the keyboards clacking away and the buzzing of 3D printers." Day three was dedicated to the presentations. "The excitement builds because everything had to be finished in time to present." There were hardly any restrictions, "At the hackathon, you can lean very far out of your comfort zone," explains Bernhard. "The ideas might be dedicated to future access solutions – SKIDATA's core business – or it can be more general and create added value for SKIDATA.”

Two months before the hackathon, the organisers opened a portal on the company intranet for all interested parties to enter their ideas and form teams. Activating inventors, thinkers and hackers from hardware and software development, user experience, product and project management, customer service and all departments. "Interest is always very high," says Bernhard. "Everyone can participate, though our focus is on technical development. We had 18 ideas submitted, 13 of which were selected for development in the hackathon, including, for example, furthering of facial recognition for access solutions, as well as an application based off of the concept of escape room games for the SKIDATA Experience World at headquarters.

The hackathon aims to develop a prototype for new products, services or features. Resulting prototype might be code, hardware or a concept, like a mock-up for a new app. The participants get a taste of how to advance the development in a short sprint timeframe. At the end, the teams present their results in a three-minute pitch on day three. After the presentations, the best ideas receive awards. There are three possible prizes: the audience prize, the jury prize and the prize for best innovation.

The six-member jury was made up of representatives from management and selected SKIDATA employees. The jury had four criteria for evaluating the prototypes: Innovation, Business Value, Usability and Progress. This year, two winning teams were then selected from the final pitches.

The teams put "a lot of heart, soul and passion" into what they developed and into their pitches, Bernhard observed. "That's why the applause at the end is so satisfying, it adds to the fun and boosts the team's confidence." Further, from the past five years of hackathons, some concepts and prototypes have found their way into SKIDATA's product range or are used internally.

After the development sprint and the award ceremony, there was time for a final party where participants could get to know each other better and explore their ideas further. "I heard a lot of conversations between colleagues exchanging ideas about the hackathon challenges, until late in the evening, giving each other feedback," says Bernhard. He also listened for feedback, because he’s already planning the next hackathon, scheduled for 2020. "We have one year to find out what we can do better in organizing the coming year to reach even more people."