Twitter/thermostat mashup takes top prize at Berkeley Cleanweb Hackathon

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This past weekend, UC Berkeley threw its first inaugural “Cleanweb Hackathon” with a coalition of campus sponsors and corporate partners. Pizza, beer, and soda were consumed in large quantities in the foyer of Sutardja Dai Hall while participants “reduced tons with zeros and ones”. The result was five amazing new apps to help you analyze and reduce energy consumption at home, switch to greener sources of power, plan your EV route, and meet people on BART. Find complete information on the contestants and winners¬†here, including teammates, concepts, and screenshots. Photos of the hackathon can be found here.

The winning app “Thermostatly” took home prizes for best overall app and best smart home app (a total of $1500 in prize money). It’s an app to remotely control your thermostat using hashtag keywords on Twitter. Teammates Patrick Huck, Kushan Patel, Omer Shalev, and Aayush Daftari not only had a great business concept, but also built a working prototype in 24 hours! Using a hashtag such as #inc3 could increase your thermostat by three degrees on a hot day, when the utility is having difficulty meeting load. The challenge originally suggested at the beginning of the hackathon was to simply use SMS to control the thermostat, but the team’s innovative use of Twitter may enable crowdsourced demand response and greater levels of energy saving, as many followers will see and potentially replicate actions.

The prize for best app in the transport theme went to “Friends on the Go”, which enabled people with similar interests to meetup on BART for networking, friendship, or dating. The app’s creators hope to increase the use of public transit by enabling people to meetup while commuting. The prize for best app in the “green button” theme went to “wattTime”, which seeks to let you know more about the electricity you use and alert you when it will be coming from clean sources of power.

Other submissions included the “Green Button Grade” to help homeowners analyze Green Button data and data coming from Home Area Network devices (provided at this hackathon by Rainforest Automation) which are very new to the market. Lastly, the impressive code base behind “EV Route” used an API of locations for EV charging stations and a given EV range (say ~100 miles for the Leaf) to calculate on Google Maps how you might get from point A to point B with stops to recharge. The results were illuminating. It’s currently quite a circuitous route from Berkeley to Los Angeles.

map ev route

The hackathon was an all-around success due to the dedication of the participants. Special thanks are also in order to the main sponsors: LBNL, Carbon Cycle 2.0, CITRIS @ UC Berkeley, and The Foundry @ CITRIS, BERC, and EnerNOC, as well as our technical partners: Rainforest Automation, PG&E, SFMTA, Radio Thermostat, Enervee, and PlotWatt who provided technical guidance, judged the entries, and spoke about software challenges in their respective sectors. Lastly, I’d like to give a shout out to Jolie Chan, the “sustainability soldier” at CITRIS, without whom I would have not been able to pull off this hackathon.

One judge Nate Ota of Radio Thermostat (and a CITRIS alumnus) remarked at the end of the judging, “I’d love to live a day with these apps, and see just how much they could change my life.” Hopefully, the hackers will continue to build on their visions, and these apps will be coming to a smart phone near you soon!