Helmes Hack Day Spoiler Alert: Ultimate Robots Will Be Built!

It’s Thursday, 9 o’clock in the morning, everybody is having the first cup of coffee to get the morning started. Sounds like another regular workday? Not really! Almost half of the crew in Helmes will start the engines to do nothing else than HACK for 8 hours. The final countdown has started – 3,2,1 – and Hack Day has begun!

With a lively buzz teams gather in their workgroups to spend the day doing pure inspiration.

The cut the long story short: it’s time to learn something new and have fun while doing it.

Advertisement 4.0 – targeted billboard ads! How hard can it be?

Topic: Cognitive advertisements (category – AI)

This team definitely earns the title of true passion and vision. Their hack goal in one sentence is: advertisement 4.0. Impressive! Team leader Markus elaborates: „We want to show personalized outdoor ads. We will make billboard ads better. You see only the content you are interested in.”

In other words, they use artificial intelligence to process the ad visuals shown on billboards.


A camera will be installed on the billboard that takes a „picture” of passing pedestrians after certain intervals. It selects one person and with the help of Microsoft artificial intelligence the prominent physical features of this person will be identified. For example, whether the person wears glasses or make-up, has a beard, the hair colour, age, gender etc. Every ad shown on the billboard has its labels, so that specific ads are shown to the person with the specific features. Spot on!

Think like the ads in Minority Report.

„For example, I am not interested in golf gear. I wear glasses. So, it is very likely I could be interested in the eyewear advertisement. And we can go even further with this. By adding a weather sensor, we can target sunglasses ads to the people without glasses,” Markus explained the vast possibilities of the idea.

Markus says that their hack idea is easy to carry out since all the tools and technologies that enable this work are readily accessible for the developers. „I estimate that a prototype is doable within a day. Brave words, but let’s see how it goes,” Markus added with optimism.

The roots of this hack idea have been a long time in the making. „Facebook uses targeted ads and their business model works famously. So, we thought, why hasn’t anybody done the same thing for the outdoor media. How hard can it be,” Markus eagerly explained their hack project.

“Send the tools list to your team at least one day in advance, so everybody can install them beforehand,” lessons learned by Markus

Time to brush up some skills – welcome space-time of the Cloud

Topic: Azure ServiceFabrics (category – Cloud)

Team leading wizard Maris introduces their hack day slogan – up to date skills.

„Our aim is to use this day to test some new, on the edge technologies that we don’t use in our everyday work. New technologies are appearing continuously, if I don’t test them, I am out-dated and uninteresting for the market,” Maris explains the very practical need for their hack day topic.

Team member Indrek adds that you have to be a machine to be 100% up to date. „But some percentage of updated skills by the end of the day is a good result,” Indrek feels positive about the day.

Maris’s team was testing Microsoft Azur cloud that is a global storage of applications, with the possibility of using a large amount of services and scopes. In other words, it enables to build scalable applications in the cloud and to deploy applications from several places around the globe and make it work fast even with the high load.

Maris rates this as a very promising technology.

And to the question „what are the expectations of the day”, Maris replies with friendly irony but nevertheless with optimism: „A headache and to have fun”.

“Cloud is from evil,” sates Kirill

Beware: data is everywhere!

Topic: Data analysis tools (category – data analysis)

This was by far the largest hack team of 11 members. Plus, two outsourced mentors from a cooperation partner on data analysis.

The goal of this team was to test four different freeware or free trial data analysis tools that would offer the best support for making good business decisions.

And business decisions are THE decisions. Business decisions mean success. Success is in the details. And details are in the data. There you have it.

The participating programs of the data analysis tools decathlon were:

  • Microsoft Power BI
  • Qlick Sense
  • Tableau
  • Google Data studio

The expected outcome of this team’s hack was to find a tool that is the easiest to use and offers tangible results with minimum effort.

By the end of the day, the team summed it up:

Helen: „Qlick Sense is yesterday.”

Karl-Ivar: „It’s all about user experience.”

Mirko: „It is possible to learn a new tool without any tutorial in half a day.”

Do you speak errors?

Topic: System status and availability sharing (category – productivity)

Here they were solving an everyday problem – how to automate the communication of errors in internal systems. This workgroup’s hack idea came from a real business crash.

„We thought, what if people could proactively monitor themselves whether some internal systems are temporarily down and understand that some errors might be related to their own device,” described team leader Triinu.

Simply put – the idea is to solve errors communication in such a way that people won’t have to contact helpdesk. And when it comes to problems with personal devices, follow the classic advice from IT-support: try to restart first!

But back to the hack. How to solve the task of doing less manual work for communication and getting more time to repair crashes? The team found one open source project, installed it, configured it and voilà! everyone in the company can now access the newly created internal system’s „health” status page.

Done and done. Piece of cake!

Super-fast new business

Topic: Tool for subcontract management (category – productivity)

To bring everybody on the same page – every new business opportunity starts with an analysis of the client’s needs. Helmes calls it a Quick Start analysis. That is already a good and fast system. But this hack team wanted more! They were after an ambitious experiment to upgrade the current one to a super-fast system.

To do so, the team invited also two representatives of one potential new client to their workgroup.

The results?

They managed to create an analysis template that enabled mapping the client’s „problems” in half a day, when ordinarily the process lasts for 2-3 days. Great success, as the classics call it.

But there’s more. A big win for the team was also the new business experience.

Team member Jane said that it was quite a rare occasion to participate in the Quick Start process with a new client from scratch. „It was definitely a good experience,” Jane was pleased.

Team leader Chris sums it up as a successful hack day for the team and for the client. Also, the comments of the client’s representative were superlative: „In the morning we had a problem, now we have a solution. We are really impressed with the Helmes team.”

“Hack day should be at least 24 hours. Yes, we are geeks and we are not ashamed to admit that,” says Indrek

R2-D2 to the core

Topic: autonomous cognitive robot (category – robotics)

Oliver and Kirill had a vision of bringing a robot to their everyday office lives.

The idea was born one day over lunch, when their team leader Eva suggested that it would make life much easier if a robot could do some proactive information collecting from other colleagues around the office. For example, the robot could collect info about who is attending the company’s summer event.

This is it, thought Oliver. We need it. Let’s do it!

The strategic plan of their workgroup was to create a robot that is capable of moving around, recognizing identity, asking a question through loudspeaker and recording the answer.

With the help of one domesticated robot vacuum cleaner, webcam, loudspeaker, Microsoft face recognition app and with the golden minds of Oliver and Kirill a fascinating invention was put to creation.

By the end of the day, the robot was yet silent, but the will to make it work remained. The due date for robot demonstration was postponed for a week. No harm in a little bit of extra developing time. Cool idea nevertheless!

You got to make it personal, to make it real

Topic: pitch Helmes elevator statement (category – sales)

To start off with this workgroup – their outsourced mentor Gleb Maltsev is a master of pitches. Moderately speaking of course. Just to be clear on what level of mastery this workgroup was hacking their sales pitches on.

Gleb was at his best. After half an hour of the information and context collecting ping-pong with the team member Kristel, he presented a 30-second pitch that made all the team members applaud. Evidently, not a bad pitch, ah?

So, what is the secret recipe for a good pitch?

In short it is about personal connection, interesting facts, how the team is involved, some numbers, some big benefits, some milestones. And there you have it. A pitch that will make the crowd wow.

To sum the hack up, team member Alen said: „You have to cut all the BS and share personal experience, why you are excited about the things you are doing.

Mart P added: „If you are not passionate about it, it’s really bad.”

To top it all off, some fun facts:

Most used phrase in 2016: artificial intelligence

Most used phrase in 2017: business model

Most used word in general: so

Need to save time and energy? Upgrade to automation!

Topic: deploy automation (category – productivity)

Team leader Indrek and his team took up a very practical hack – how to minimize the human factor and save time in client supply process. This is an especially necessary task, since currently this assignment requires manual work after working hours. Definitely a motivating hack indeed!

Their hack aim was to build an automated system that can operate with the supply process by itself and if something fails, it would also be able to turn the process back to its preliminary state.

Tactics? Building up application files, renewing the database structure, uploading files and redeploying them in live environment.

„Team members work on different assignments, hopefully by the end of the day all the pieces match dynamically,” team leader Indrek added with humour and optimism.

We’re functioning automatic. And we are dancing mechanic. We are the robots.

Topic: Robot competition (category – robotics)

This workgroup was about having fun with robotics. Sic!

Four teams had the task of building their ultimate robot. At the end of the day, every team’s creation participated in a friendly competition of mechanical assignments.

Hack day tasks for the team included: programming, strategic planning, team leading, testing, espionage of rival teams’ tactics and recruiting new team members.

One thing that distinguishes this workgroup from others is also the fact that teenage girls, aged 9-13, with the robotics class background mentored all four teams. And the girls confessed that grownups were very obedient. How cool is that!

Besides the challenges in robotics, this hack was also about fundamental values – being friendly to each other, to have fun and to take it all as competitive cooperation.

Last but not least – ultimate robots were built!

“Small things take a lot of time,” lessons learned by Oliver.

What a hack!

At the end of the day all teams gathered and presented their results. When asked who learned something new today – all hands raised. People have spoken.

Until next time – hack a day is the best way!

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