Beers and Chinese food aren’t an everyday occurrence in most jobs, however this was the case for the STS Development Team when they took part in the first ever STS Hackathon. Taking some time out from their usual jobs, the team spent the day working on several exciting mini-projects in a bid to see just what they could produce in a short amount of time.
The team were given the opportunity to explore their own ideas in a rapid prototyping environment to allow them to learn about new concepts and work with different technologies, ultimately improving their extensive software knowledge, whilst gaining new skills and experience. Tim Gates, Software Engineer and organiser of the event says, “The concept of the Hackathon stemmed from talks of 20% time, where developers are allocated a certain amount of time to work on projects they want to do besides their usual day-to-day tasks. These sorts of projects are usually seen as long term investments, as ideas for new products and tools may come from what developers choose to work on and improvements can be made to existing products. This also goes towards acquiring new skills and the motivation it generates is very beneficial to the company.”
One of the more popular projects to come from the Hackathon was to add Bitcoin payment functionality to the company’s G8 product. Developed by Howard Buck, Development Leader, and Julian Cromarty, Software Engineer, a basic feature was added to G8 to allow the payments to be processed. Once G8 has connected to the Bitcoin network and updated its copy of the blockchain (a shared record of all Bitcoin transactions) it is ready to take payments.
When a transaction is started, the amount is converted into Bitcoin currency using online conversion data. A URI is generated with the address of G8’s local Bitcoin wallet, the transaction amount and reference number. This can then be turned into a QR code which can be presented to a customer - either displayed on the PED/monitor, or printed on a receipt. Using this code, the customer can send the money to make payment and once confirmation is received of the transfer, G8 will mark the transaction as complete.
Julian commented, “At this time, the function is quite basic and there are some flaws that need fixing, but it was an exciting project to work on and has highly increased our knowledge of different types of payments technology. Bitcoin is very much a talking point within the industry at the moment and although at this stage it is only a proof of concept, it does mean that it is potentially an extra feature that we could add to our G8 product should our customers want it in the future.”
Other developers chose to spend their time creating an internal dashboard for monitoring build systems, development processes and descriptive metadata; a configuration tool for easy generation, validation and visualisation of properties files; and an API porting, exploring how the company could potentially diversify its products across different platforms.
Deemed to be a huge success, STS’ first hackathon has certainly proved to be a team motivator, and with such an exciting range of projects blossoming from our engaged development team, STS knows that it will be our partners and their end-customers that will be reaping the benefits of such an exercise.