Hacktrain 3 – A Product Owner’s Adventure


Trainline dream team at Hacktrain 2016: Savvas Georgiou, Dave Slocombe, Ajay Akkineni, Antony Thomas

Hacktrain is a three day hackathon on a train. Around 80 software developers, designers and entrepreneurs from across the world gather together to imagine a better travel experience for the rails. The best ideas win a trip to Hong Kong and an assortment of light sabers, drones and other suitably geeky toys.

This year I was mentoring alongside Ajay from our web team and a couple of developers from our journey planning cluster were also on the trains as hackers. Anyone who takes themselves out of their comfort zone to push their skills forward and challenge the status quo is a special kind of person in my eyes.

Kicking off the event were the sponsor presentations in the grand St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. This year SNCF, TFL and other sponsors provided some really exciting data sets, including LIDAR (laser radar) 3D imaging of the railway lines, WiFi signal strength data and occupancy count data for London Trams.

Two trains, one around the UK known as the ‘data train’ and the other headed to southern France and back known as the ‘customer experience train’. I was on the latter! 2500km on 4 trains, 2 underground networks and 4 hrs sleep in 72 hours. HackTrain is an epic hacking experience. I hope you enjoy vicariously travelling around Europe through my tweet stream below.

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FlexRail won this year’s hackathon, the team built a booking system which allows passengers to select a range of times that they are available to travel instead of a fixed time.

“Instead of buying a ticket at 9am during the busiest train, our engine allows passengers to select a range of times that they’re able to travel, for example 9am – 1pm, and then 24 hours before their travel it notifies them what train they will be on, allowing train operators to distribute the number of passengers evenly across several services, giving passengers a more comfortable experience,” says FlexRail’s co-founder Mr Sina Shamshiri. “The travel engine we built during the weekend would be able to power sites such as Eurostar, Trainline or even National Rail Enquiries.”

I’d like to extend a huge thanks to the massively professional organisers of HackTrain who herded cats and kept them well fed and watered all weekend. The thanks also extends to our amazing HR, PR and Social teams who sponsored the event, carried crates of Trainline Energy Drinks to the kick off and found spaces for our own hackers to participate. Roll on Hacktrain 4.0!

For more information visit www.hacktrain.com

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