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Cell tower protection app wins TADHackJHB

Read time 2min 20sec
Tumelo Baloyi and Thabang Mamashela, #1632.
Tumelo Baloyi and Thabang Mamashela, #1632.

“If you believe in your product, everything just flows. You don’t feel intimidated presenting it in front of experts.”

So says 21-year-old Tumelo Baloyi, one half of the 2019 TADHackJHB winning duo, #1632.

Dropped by their teammates at the eleventh hour, Baloyi and his Facebook friend Thabang Mamashela went on to beat over 40 other teams and claim the $1 000 prize.

“After 24 hours of not sleeping… I’m ecstatic,” said Baloyi.

TADHack Global is a hackathon that ran across 10 cities around the world on 12 and 13 October, challenging young people to use IT and Internet technologies ‘to solve problems that matter’.

This year’s theme was “Localised and Contextualised – Battle of the Bots” and the local event – TADHack Johannesburg – was sponsored by MTN and hosted at MTN’s head office.

The winning solution, CharOn, is a cell tower protection app. While it is aimed at telcos, it is powered by ordinary citizens acting as a watch over cellphone towers. The batteries powering these towers have become hot property in criminal circles.

#1632 beat 47 other teams to win the top prize of R15 000 ($1 000). As a special mention from Huawei, one of the event sponsors, the #1632 team members each won a Huawei P30 Lite smartphone.

The two-man team was stood up by teammates at the last minute and ended up running their app’s core server from a ‘landline’ – as the two called their laptop as its battery only works when it is plugged in.

Using the CharOn app, individuals can report suspicious activity within the vicinity of the towers. If the app collects enough data of the same case being reported, authorities will be alerted.

One of the rules of the hackathon is to use the tech of event sponsors to develop their solutions. “We used Here Live Map and Simwood, and we also used Huawei’s cloud infrastructure and their elastic load balancing,” said Baloyi.

“The prizes that I have are not the most important thing,” said Mamashela. “The most important thing has been the memories I’ve made and the time I’ve spent with Tumelo.”

The two are Facebook friends who met for the first time at the hackathon.

Baloyi said: “The Johannesburg TADHack was part of this weekend’s hackathons that were run globally and simultaneously in cities including London, Kuala Lumpur and Chicago. Remote entries were also allowed, while all the hackathons were also streamed live on YouTube.”

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