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Smart City IoT Hackathons from the Sheffield Things Network

The Sheffield Things Network is teaming up with Sheffield Hardware Hackers and Makers to run a programme of ‘smart city’ hackathons.

The Sheffield Things Network is teaming up with Sheffield Hardware Hackers and Makers to run a programme of ‘smart city’ hackathons.

About the Sheffield Things Network

The Sheffield Things Network is a group of people who are creating a community-owned internet of things network across the city. It is one of hundreds of communities across the world who are doing so under the Amsterdam-based “Things Network” umbrella.

The technology they are using to do this is called LoRaWAN, which stands for Long Range Wide Area Network. This technology allows devices to send and receive messages over the internet without needing a mobile connection or wifi.

Devices can be very low power, and can communicate over very large distances, although the bandwidth is very low – just enough to send short messages such as a sensor reading or a notification that something has changed. Just a few cheap gateways can support tens of thousands of devices out in the environment, all feeding information back to base.

How is the technology used?

LoRaWAN, and the technologies that relate to is, is being used for all kinds of application out in the real world. That includes measuring air quality, monitoring wildlife, networks of flood detection sensors, traffic movement and measuring the energy consumption of buildings.

These networks are being put in place by commercial providers. But the Things Network offers a way for communities to own their own networks and measure things that are important to them.

Things Network Sheffield members already have a number of LoRaWAN gateways operating in the city, with more on the way. The next stage of development is to begin to create applications that use the connectivity provided by the network.

For this reason, Things Network Sheffield has teamed up with the guys at Sheffield Hardware Hackers and Makers who run the Sheffield Hackspace at Portland Works. They are running a series of hacks on one Sunday per month for the next six months.

The Hackathons

The ambition is to bring open-source culture into the act of building a Smart City in Sheffield. It is about being open and inclusive, no matter what your skill level is, to help you play a valuable role in building technology that benefits Sheffielders.

The hackathons are scheduled for the following dates and you can use the links to visit the Eventbrite pages and register:

  1. Sunday April 15th (11am to 4pm)
  2. Sunday May 20th (11am to 4pm)
  3. Sunday June 17th (11am to 4pm)
  4. Sunday July 15th (11am to 4pm)
  5. Sunday September 16th (11am to 4pm)

(Note that there won’t be a hackathon in August due to the holiday season).

Room at the Hackspace is limited, so each hackathon will probably be limited to around 10 people. Although, if demand is much greater it would consider moving to a larger space in Portland Works, if that’s feasible.

The hackathons will support both group and individual projects. Participants will have access to people with know-how, lots of equipment and a lab-like environment to work in.

The organisers don’t want to impose their agenda. The first Hackathon (15th April) will explore what participants need and how they would like the hacks to work, as well as which technologies people would like to use to make things.

How much does it cost?

Hackathon attendance is free to existing members of Sheffield Hardware Hackers & Makers (£6 per month).
Hackathon attendance for non-SHH&M members costs £6, but also entitles you to visit one of the weekly Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings of your choice and access a drop-in session that runs on alternating Saturdays in the month you attended. This is payable at the door.

Currently operating SIG sessions are:

  • Monday Evenings: Hackspace Meeting / Electronics SIG (6.00pm to 9.00pm).
  • Thursday Evenings: Robotics SIG (6.30pm to 9.00pm).
  • Friday Evenings: Radio & Mesh Networking SIG / CNC & Machine Building SIG / Open Session (6.00pm to 9.00pm).
  • Alternate Saturdays: Drop in session (11.00am to 6.00pm) / Gaming SIG (6.00pm to 9.00pm).

Note that if enough people choose to become members of SHH&M, there is an option to run an additional Smart City-oriented SIG on either Tuesday or Wednesday evenings.

Frankly, if you’re into this stuff, it makes sense to become a SHH&M member and support their tremendous work. It’s all a volunteer effort and they do great things.

See their membership pages for details.

Find out more

If you’d like more information about the hackathons themselves, please get in touch with Roy Woodhead, who is organising.

(The artificial bird in the banner image is an Aelora bird, an open source project to measure air quality developed in Arnhem, NL.)