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An inside look at the Qantas hackathon

Bonnie Gardiner | June 3, 2015
CIO's Bonnie Gardiner shares her experience as a judge at the airline's hackathon on the weekend.

Heaton tells me that he and Jacobs have worked extensively with Qantas to deliver an event that understood their particular needs and concerns.

"We call it 'finding the way to yes'. We take the same approach with the community - we advocate on behalf of the teams as well as Qantas. We are looking for ways of bringing them all together," he said.

"As it turns out, it came together exceptionally well. We are happy, and the feedback from Qantas has been very positive."

The real world problems presented to contestants included granting customers more control over their journey, increased participation in the Qantas carbon offsetting program, and ownership of the end-to-end customer experience. They also included better integrating travelers' social media networks with Qantas experiences, and creating a new point of sale (POS) system to enhance ancillary revenue.

Tick tock...

Pitches and prizes

As everyone packed up their computers and scoffed the last of their lunch, we began to shuffle into the auditorium, ready to be wowed by the ideas.

"I do not envy you guys [the judges], this will be a real challenge," Jacobs warned me.

Hackathon winners were to be awarded between $500 and $4000 worth of Qantas travel vouchers, and entrants could also apply to take on a six month digital Qantas cadetship. But first - the pitches! Judges other than yours truly included Steven Cooper, seasoned hackathon judge and developer advocate for PayPal and Braintree Payments, Frank Arrigo; API evangelist in the Telstra Software Group and co-ordinator of Telstra hackathons; and Jo Boundy, head of digital and entertainment at Qantas. Boundy did a great job of stepping in at the last second for a sick Olivia Wirth, Qantas group executive, brand, marketing and corporate affairs.

Presentations from the 11 teams were nothing short of impressive ranging from travel planning apps with built-in APIs from Google, Uber and Hooroo to name a few, as well as gamification tactics, with quizzes and surveys used to increase customer engagement in market research initiatives in exchange for frequent flyer points.

Everyone was also very impressed with the virtual reality application pitch using Google Cardboard to provide travelers with the next best thing to real life experiences when planning their journey.

The teams were judged not only on their level of innovation and creativity but also the likelihood that the ideas could become a reality within Qantas strategy. Team 'Cool Mac' coding in the comfort of business class (source: David Wilson)

After much deliberation with my fellow judges, the winning team was a group of four from Deloitte Digital who created an on-flight frictionless payment concept for Qantas travelers who wished to upgrade seats, purchase additional items and contribute to carbon reduction in real time.


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