Bangalore event gathers technologists to explore mobile tech space

Over the weekend, technologists in the city participated in ‘55444 Hackathon’, a hacking event that focussed on the mobile tech space.

It was organised by mobile tech firm Innoz Technologies as part of the promotional activities for its offline SMS-based search engine and information services platform 55444.

A group of developers, including those working with leading tech majors in the city, and independent hackers with a fascination for the mobile space, spent the day writing code or creating applications around the Innoz platform. Applications were not the only technology on display. Sessions also focussed on robotics, including a presentation by robotics technologies firm Li2-Innovations. A workshop focussing on robotics introduced hackers to simpler technologies involving SMS, such as a heartbeat monitor — which sends out an SMS to the nearest listed hospital if it detects an irregularity in the heartbeat — and a simple mechanical robot that can be operated through SMS commands.

Arvind Nadig, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Li2, said the company was working towards creating tech solutions that can “make an impact on the social level”.

Keynote speakers at the inaugural event included Sean Blagsvedt, CEO of Babajobs.com and Zubin Dubash, Chief Strategy Officer of Onward Mobility. They discussed their own products in the mobile application programming space. “SMS-based applications started in the early 2000s, and it’s amazing that something like that created destructive innovation even a decade later,” Mr. Dubash said. Innoz’s own Web search and services engine ‘55444’ — you have to SMS 55444 to access it — aims to simplify access to information, and operates on a ‘pull’ system of information, where people input a specific query and receive a specific response. Apps currently supported include a dictionary, Wikipedia entries, weather, stock prices and song lyrics. For example, if one wanted to find the definition for the word ‘notebook’, they would simply have to text ‘#meaning notebook’ to 55444. A response text will be sent with the appropriate definition, and the user will be charged Re. 1. This differs from the ‘push’ model, where relevant information is continuously fed to the user.

Rakesh Haridas, Chief Marketing Officer of Innoz, says the company does not think of the service as a simple search engine. “In fact, it’s an answer engine,” he says. The company partners with content providers to give answers to specific queries.

Deepak Ravindran, co-founder and CEO of Innoz Technologies, told The Hindu that the company was looking to take simple SMS technologies into more complex tech applications such as a ‘smart’ environment. “We’re not stopping with SMS search technology. We’re looking into voice control and SMS-based mechanical control,” he says.

He details a plan to control household appliances with simple text messages. “A farmer in Karnataka should be able to send a text message to turn on his pump. I could send a message to my water heater to switch on if I’m driving home.”

The event also featured a performance by the band Lagori and a movie screening at midnight.