November 11, 2016

Driving data innovation at Elo Data Science Hack hackathon

Niko Reunanen

Research Scientist, VTT Technical Research

Arttu Lämsä

Research Scientist, VTT Technical Research

Last month, we attended a hackathon organized by Elo Pension Company and Tieto - one which we were fortunate enough to get one of the additional prizes. We were chosen by Tieto Data-Driven Business unit as a team using data in the most valuable way. It was a fantastic experience and one that showcased just how exciting the possibilities for data in business are.

The goal of the event was to come up with an application to help Finnish entrepreneurs manage their hectic work-life balance and improve their mental and physical well-being. This is something that struck a chord with us, as all of us know too well how the pressure to succeed can take its toll. 

The promise of a hackathon

The hackathon therefore presented a perfect opportunity to some up with an innovative solution. With a huge range of data at our fingertips, as well as passion for machine learning and experts in entrepreneurship, Elo Data Science Hack provided a great possibility to innovate.

Coming from a data science and machine learning background from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd (Intelligent Analytics team), we're hugely excited by what data can offer to the world in the coming years. Hackathons such as this are an excellent chance to develop concrete systems, meet up with like-minded people, and show what we can do - as well as have a lot of fun!

One of the problems with normal ways of working is it can be difficult to be innovative and create cool data science systems in a familiar business environment. The hackathon gives us a chance to cut loose from the routine and really get our creative juices flowing, using real-world data we would otherwise not have access to.

Driving innovation

Coming into an event like this, we might only have a vague idea of what we want to do, as was the case on this occasion. While we had some initial ideas beforehand, it was only once we got our hands on the data and immersed ourselves in the environment of the hackathon that the real inspiration arrived.

What we came up with was the concept of building a personal health index for an entrepreneur, with valued measured from zero to 100, with a predictive analytical model that can send out alerts when these metrics are getting too low.

The compact, two-day event means you have to work fast, but this can translate into some great innovative ideas. One thing we'd say to anyone looking at entering is a hackathon is you have to expect not everything will go right first time. There's a lot of trial and testing involved, but if you grow a thick skin and don't give up, you'll be rewarded.

The lessons we learned

As we're passionate about data science and machine learning, we're always looking to learn more and improve our understanding of the area, and the fact we were able to take our idea from conception to a concrete solution we could demonstrate in action - something that was definitely a key contributor to our success. 

Overall, we had a great time at the Elo's hackathon, and it's something we'd recommend to any budding developer. It was great to meet up with other people working in data science, and seeing all the innovations go from a basic idea from scratch to something that actually works over the course of two days is really rewarding. We thank Elo and Tieto for the expertly organized hackathon and all of the great people whom we were lucky to meet.

We had a lot of fun, and we'd definitely do it again!

Read more: 
Elo Pension Company: www.elo.fi 
Tieto Data-Driven Businesses: www.tieto.com/datadriven
Tieto Data Incubator: www.tieto.com/incubator 

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