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Open Gateway Hackathon: An exciting twist on the typical MWC activity

Two small balls on track slides

Last week’s MWC in Barcelona was filled with the usual telecom industry players highlighting virtual reality demos, launching GenAI-based products, and leading informative sessions on Industry 4.0. But this year’s MWC hosted a unique and very different event: a two-day Open Gateway Hackathon.

Last year at MWC, a consortium of global telecom operators came together with the GSMA to launch the Open Gateway initiative, which has continued to build momentum since then. This year’s hackathon demonstrated just how much interest and value the industry – and more importantly developers – sees in using APIs to program telecom networks to add rich features to their applications.

Sponsored by the GSMA and Mobile World Capital, the hackathon organizers selected 48 application developers out of a pool of 260 applicants to come together in the Talent Arena, adjacent to the Nokia booth. Assembled into 12 teams of four developers with a cross-section of skills and backgrounds, each team built an application to solve a real-world problem taking advantage of the advanced capabilities of 5G networks. Some of the developers came from large companies but most were from smaller organizations where they work as iOS developers, business intelligence analysts, quantum software engineers, and solution architects.

The hackathon vibe was a departure from the traditional telecom environment. Dressed in t-shirts decorated with binary code, sitting in gaming chairs and listening to hip music, a few of the developers commented on the sea of business suits that surrounded them at the event!

The teams spent nearly two days coding before presenting their work in a wrestling ring. The presentations showed the developers’ creativity. Their apps covered a variety of consumer, business, and government scenarios: ensuring connectivity during emergency situations, managing transportation at massive events like MWC, collecting sensor information from elderly patients, tracking pet location, enabling medical assistance across language barriers, sports streaming, monitoring drone fleets, and promoting space tourism to the Moon. Each team explained the purpose of their application, the business model and value proposition, and what specific network capabilities it used. These included network application programming interfaces (APIs) such as location retrieval and verification, device status, and quality of service on demand. Many presentations showed snippets of code.

After the presentations, the teams served as a jury of peers and voted on the top three teams to receive gift card prizes. The criteria spanned business and technical merits: commercial viability, innovation, clarity and presentation, technical innovation, proof of concept, as well as sustainability and scalability. As the awards were presented sparklers went off in the four corners of the wrestling ring and music filled the air.

The winning team created an app called CityCare that enables citizens to report problems around the city such as a broken fire hydrant. People can use the app to tap their specific location and upload photos and descriptions. The team incorporated a gamification logic where app users can upvote and downvote problems to make them more visible to municipal employees so they can prioritize what actions to take. They also proposed several business models such as subscription-based access for governments and monetization of data analytics packages. The CityCare developers described their application and the coding process in the video below recorded on-site with Nokia.

The GSMA selected Nokia’s Network as Code platform as the sole platform for the hackathon. Nokia’s Network as Code enables developers to access simplified APIs and software development kits so they can directly program the network into their applications. By removing the steep learning curve of telecom network complexity, this platform makes it easy for applications to take advantage of 5G capabilities like location precision and quality of service so that end users have richer experiences.

As the telecom industry continues to embrace the digital ecosystem and explore new ways to expose and monetize networks, events like the Open Gateway Hackathon provide an exciting bridge to a future where networks and applications work together to create brand new experiences.

Jean Lawrence

About Jean Lawrence

Jean Lawrence helps communications service providers and enterprises realize the benefits of 5G, cloud and the digital economy by automating and securing operations and networks, gaining business insights through analytics, deploying SaaS, and monetizing new business models.

In her 25 years of tech industry experience, Jean has held marketing, strategy and product development leadership positions at Oracle, Computer Sciences Corporation, Motorola, and T-Mobile. She holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame.

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