The team that won the Software Design category was Team Hermes from Sligo, Ireland. This team created an application that addressed the issue of the high rate of traffic fatalities In Ireland with a classically ‘Internet of Things’ solution. They instrumented the car with a device based on a FEZ Panda that plugs into the car’s data interface (the OBD port) as well as supporting their own set of sensors. With this input, they determine the quality of the operators driving instantaneously and continuously. This quality measure is determined by speed, throttle position, RPMs, and G-forces. This data is available to the driver through audio signals. So far, a really interesting embedded solution but they didn’t stop there.
The devices in the cars are connected over a GPRS modem to Azure cloud based services where the driving data analyzed and made available to phone apps and a web app. This means that others (like parents) can monitor the driving behavior. It also means that the team could add historical information about dangerous stretches of road and post warnings to drivers as they approach them. The communications with the cloud is with a ‘REST-ful’ interface using standard HTTP POST/GET.
In my discussion with Calum Cawley,(the member of the team most focused on the devices) the Micro Framework allowed them to rapidly prototype the application. He missed Regular Expression support (which is coming in version 4.2). He also noted that some of the higher level functionality in NETMF that made it quick to build in (things like FileStream and StringBuilder) also used up a lot of the limited memory on these lower end devices. This is always a struggle but one that presumably eases over time and makes the decision to leverage the advantages of a single programming model and tool chain throughout applications like this easier.
I asked Calum how they decided to enter the Software Design category rather than the Embedded Category. He response was that initially that was a bit of a dilemma but over time they have ended up adding more functionality on the Cloud side so their choice worked out well. For me this speaks to the continued erosion of that distinction between embedded applications and the rest of the computing world.
Calum and the rest of the team (Aine Conaghan, James McNamara, and Matthew Padden) are looking at options for commercializing the solution so that they can see it deployed on the roads of Ireland to address a serious problem affecting mostly younger drivers. Best of luck to them.