From 16-18 September 2016, some 500 app designers and coders will be converging on Zurich for HackZurich 2016. Participants will team up to create a web, mobile, or desktop application during a 40 hours non-stop "hacking" marathon. The word 'hack' used to mean to cut with heavy blows, or to gain unauthorised access to a computer system. But today’s hackathons are totally above board and involve big name sponsors: instead of breaking in, participants are given access to special online resources and data sets and asked to work as hard and fast as they can to develop a prototype app based on an idea that could, potentially, disrupt a whole industry.
Swiss Re has been gaining experience in organising and sponsoring hackathons since late 2015. Swiss Re Blue Mix hackathons were staged in New York in December and in Bangalore in January. And we are also on board as a sponsor at HackZurich – Europe’s largest hackathon event.
Framing the challenge
At hackathons, all the participants need to join a team and choose a challenge set by one of the sponsor companies. For Swiss Re, this is a chance to raise awareness of the range of interesting challenges that the insurance industry will be facing in future. Disruption is inevitable, so we want the brightest talents on our side. In future, data from home sensors and the surrounding environment will contribute to making the world more resilient. IBM has built a smart home in Berlin, to explore the topic and will be offering actual data from that home along with access to their Bluemix cognitive platform to HackZurich participants. The challenge will be to create an app that helps users to assess, reduce or manage their risks in the home. Young developers are also being asked to think about how smart home technology could help address the needs of an ageing population.
Fostering talent and connections
Besides positioning ourselves as a progressive employer, we are also very interested in extending our connections within the digital ecosystem. HackZurich boasts more than 39 sponsors not to mention 23 general partners. And the jury is staffed by a range of interesting start-up and technology figures, including Rainer Baumann, Francis Blumberg and Andreas Schertzinger from Swiss Re.
With 40 hours to design and code a new app from scratch, participants need to go light on sleep or heavy on coffee. However, hackathon's aren't meant to result in polished final products. The jury is looking for ideas, skills and teamwork abilities. That's what makes hackathons so interesting for anyone seeking to build professional connections or to spot future talent.
No one knows what the winning app will be like, but one thing is certain, HackZurich 2016 will be an exciting and inspiring event for everyone involved.
More information on HackZurich
Location: Zürich, Switzerland