Hackathon Zurich 2016: Summary Report

This is a summary of the first social sensing nervousnet hackathon 2016 which took place (mostly) at the ETH Zurich on April 22 and 23.

nervousnet – Building a Foundation for The Future of Work

The nervousnet platform allows people, companies and devices to engage in three ways: (1) by generating and contributing data, (2) by analyzing the crowd-sourced datasets, and (3) by sharing code and ideas. In other words, nervousnet’s goal is it to provide real-time data for all and an App- Store for Internet-of-Things applications. Anyone is able to create data-driven services and products using a generic programming interface. The aim is to yield societal benefits, business opportunities and jobs. nervousnet uses distributed data storage and distributed control, so that it is more robust to attacks and centralized manipulation attempts, easy to scale up, and tolerant to faults.

In order to get new viewpoints and ideas about how to further develop the nervousnet and which apps could be build on top of it, the Chair for Computational Social Sciences at ETH Zurich has organized the 1st nervousnet Social Sensing Hackathon. The Hackathon provided at least three opportunities for participation: (1) the design and development of the nervousnet Backend, (2) the design and development of nervousnet apps and (3) the nervousnet privacy / accuracy challenge.

A Turnout that Outdistances San Francisco

43 people have registered for the Hackathon, 22 have finally submitted at least one project for one of the competitions, forming eleven teams. A similar Hackathon, organized by Swisscom and ETH Zurich in the valley a few weeks before, have produced only a fraction of the results.

On 10:00am of day one, live streaming of the event started on Meerkat. After the introductory session held by Dirk Helbing, who presented the background of nervousnet and the Hackathon, the technical / R&D team has given an introduction on the goals and procedures at the Hackathon. At 11:30am sharp, the starting whistle has been blown.

Working all Night to Make it Happen

Teams and staff have worked hard, some of them almost without any breaks, to advance the projects as far as possible within the 25 hours of the hack. Quite a tight time limit for the teams to submit the code to Github!

For the physical and mental stamina of the participants, catering has been served day and night. The Hot Dog and toasted sandwich machines became the actual stars of the conference, even serving vegetarian and vegan options.

On 12:30pm of day two, the code had to be uploaded and the teams had some more time to prepare their short presentations (5’ each). The judging panel started reviewing the code and on 1:30pm, presentations started in the main room.

The teams now had to present their approach, solutions, codes and ideas. It was obvious to see that some teams had planned in more time to prepare this step than others, but all achieved to summarize the most important things to know about their projects. Teams participating from abroad had to present via skype.

And the Winners are…

After the presentations, the judging panel had its meeting to rate the projects according to the disclosed criteria. These included the innovation / disruption potential, the quality of the pitch, the maturity /performance of the code and the dedication of the team.

This led to the following board of winners:


The panel has been delighted about how far teams came in such a short time. Quite some projects have the potential to be incorporated into current work of the nervousnet team. With some of the teams, concrete follow up activities are planned. The Hackathon was a real success for advancing digital democracy.

And a Thank You to our Supporters

The Hackathon has been supported and made possible by the Institute of Science, Technology and Policy ISTP at ETH Zurich and the SoBigData project. ISTP is dedicated to contribute to evidence-based and effective policy-making with regard to key societal challenges, such as urbanization, the energy transition, digital society, and sustainable use of natural resources and the environment. SoBigData is the European Research Infrastructure for Big Data and Social Mining.

Stefan Klauser
project manager

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