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Blockchain Hackathon: turning current parking policy upside down!

19 April 2018
Overview Hackathon
Overview Hackathon

From 5 to 8 April, Groningen hosted the largest physical Blockchain Hackathon in the world. Over 700 participants from 20 countries came to De Voormalige Suikerfabriek to try to solve some common social problems. The participants were divided into 64 teams and given 48 hours to come up with solutions using brand-new blockchain technologies.

Text: Ilse Jansen / Photos: Rutger van Zuidam

One of the Hackathon teams comprised a partnership between the municipality of Groningen, Hanze UAS Groningen and the University of Groningen (UG): New Kids on the Block. The eight members of the team set to work on the current policy on parking. For this article, three members look back on a very special weekend: Freek de Bos, parking policy worker at the municipality of Groningen, Johannes Hongelin, student of Business IT & Management at Hanze UAS Groningen and Alex Walker, student of Computer Science at the UG.

Let’s refresh our memories: what is blockchain?

Freek: ‘Blockchain enables people who don’t know or don’t trust each other to carry out transactions without the need for a central party. Bitcoins are a good example.’

What made you decide to take part in the Blockchain Hackathon?

Freek: ‘It was my idea. Much of the city of Groningen is currently packed with parked cars. Residents pay a fixed annual fee for unrestricted roadside parking near their homes. This could be organized differently. You could allow people to trade in parking rights, for example. Only paying for your parking space if you’re actually parked there, might be an option. It would motivate people to park in a free car park outside the city if they aren’t planning to use their car. The new blockchain technology makes a system like this possible. To enable me to take part in the Blockchain Hackathon and test this system, I ‘borrowed’ IT expertise from students from the UG and Hanze UAS. Our team showed that we really can change our ideas about parking.’
Alex: ‘Blockchain is hip; it’s definitely the technology of the future. As a budding computer scientist, I thought taking part in the Hackathon would be a fantastic experience!’
Johannes: ‘To me, it was the ideal opportunity to put everything I’ve learned at Hanze UAS into practice and make a real contribution to society.’

What did you develop during the event?

Alex: ‘Using the blockchain, we developed an app that simulates a parking meter. The parking meter allows you to buy and sell parking rights. You can indicate when you want to start and stop parking, and the meter calculates the charge.’

What did you learn?

Johannes: ‘We learned how to work in a professional setting and get high-quality results in a short time. The pressure of time forces you to get the best out of yourself.’
Alex: ‘Absolutely! The event was a chance to apply our knowledge in a practical situation. It was a great experience to see an actual product evolve from something you’ve programmed: a real prototype that people can use!’
Freek: ‘I don’t know anything about programming, but I learned to put trust in the students: they know exactly what they’re doing.’

How was the collaboration?

In unison: ‘Perfect.’
Freek: ‘We had such a diverse team: students from the UG, from Hanze UAS, people with experience of industry and people from the municipal authorities as well. We all had our own area of expertise, but we spoke the same language. This made the partnership relaxed and effective.’
Johannes: ‘Unlike some of the other teams, we didn’t only have technical expertise, but also people with corporate knowledge on our team. It doesn’t matter how good you are at programming, you won’t get anywhere without a solid business case. We needed every single member of our team.’

And now?

Johannes: ‘We want to continue developing our system. This is gold dust; it would be such a waste to give it up now.’
Alex: ‘We’ve been racking our brains to come up with a solution for parking for decades. The idea that we might be the ones to make the difference is so exciting!’

New Kids on the Block consists of:

Erik van de Werff – Researcher at municipality of Groningen
Bob Voorneveld – Programmer at O2G2
Peter Ullrich – Master’s student of Software Engineering at the UG
Giulio Maccari – Bachelor’s student of Computer Science at the UG
Ruaidhri Hogan – Bachelor’s student of Computer Science at the UG
Alexander Walker – Bachelor’s student of Computer Science at the UG
Freek de Bos – Parking policy worker at the municipality of Groningen
Johannes Hongelin – Student of Enterprise Architecture at Hanze UAS Groningen

After the hackathon: New Kids on the Block is happy with the results! Johannes: back row, left, Freek: back row, next to Johannes, Alex: front row, in the middle
After the hackathon: New Kids on the Block is happy with the results! Johannes: back row, left, Freek: back row, next to Johannes, Alex: front row, in the middle
Last modified:12 March 2020 9.22 p.m.
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