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Our wrap up of the hx Christmas hackathon

Insurtech, Renew Use Cases, Technology, Hackathon5Mins
2020-12-22Written by Amrit Santhirasenan

We host regular hackathons to inspire us to think differently about Renew, to try out new ideas and have fun as a team. We wanted to share the most interesting hacks and innovative ideas we came up with this December.

Last Saturday saw the wrap up of hx’s latest three-day hackathon. Anyone who has been keeping an eye on our social media will know that we were all well stocked with everything essential for long moments in front of a computer. Namely, sugar. However, all of that energy was put to good use as we were able to achieve some pretty incredible feats of programming in such a short time.

Because we’re proud of the work we accomplished we wanted to make sure we shared a hackathon wrap-up. So, we will be breaking down the highlights, revealing our proverbial programming Mount Everest and awarding the prize for best hackathon fashion statement. Frankly, the winner of the last award is going to take some beating before his crown can be taken…

The hx guide to socialising when you cant socialise

Importantly, this edition of the hackathon saw the entire team get involved. Which meant that the first challenge we needed to overcome (before the inevitable programming ones) was logistical. How do you manage to get an entire office, online together, in a way that is still fun and interactive (while also letting people get on with work where necessary)?

Our solution? Spatial Chat. What we particularly enjoyed about the software was the locational aspect of the programme. We could make rooms, and host music or share videos there. If you needed to concentrate, you simply moved away from the person sharing, and the sound was dimmed. It definitely gave a better sense of bringing us together without forcing the dreaded need to keep muting conversations. It also led to some incredible YouTube deep dives, a medieval music session and a particularly intense discussion about the merits of tea.

The hx award for fashion bravery

Our hackathon wasn’t just a place for technological innovation. We also learned the meaning of innovative hacker fashion…

For most of us at home, athleisure has become the acceptable way of describing our working attire. The lowly tracksuit bottom has become elevated to a serious business look. Not so for our CTO Tom Clark. Reminding us once again of the joys of really choosing a pattern and committing to it, he showed up in a full suit and tie with a festive snowflake design.…

“Who knew snowflakes could be both fun and serious?”

Tom in all his glory

A lesson in speech limits

Before we announce our winning hacks, we thought we’d share a cautionary tale for any other businesses about to embark on a mammoth three-day hackathon. Introduce time limits for presentations at the end.

As a result of being rather overambitious, we managed to get more work done than anticipated. Which meant it inevitably took quite a while for everyone to share updates. Over two and a half hours in the end! Clearly this is a sign of success (and also that we all like to ask lots of questions) but perhaps we’ll introduce the Countdown Clock timer in the next edition…

Drumroll please. And the winners are….

So, we finally get to the #humblebrag portion of our wrap-up. The announcement of the winning hacks. These were voted for by the team and were awarded under three categories. Sadly, we fear that listing all of the hacks would take too long. However, everything that the team worked on was designed to improve the Renew platform. Which means that hx customers are therefore likely to find out about all our hacks one way or another in the coming months!

Most exciting innovation: Headless API for Google Nest and Alexa

As a committed bunch of geeks, many of the hx team have either an Alexa or a Google Home knocking about. In recognition of this new wave of tech, the most exciting hx hack looked at how we could potentially integrate smart assistants or IoT device data into Renew. Theoretically, the hack could allow data collected from other programs to directly update a Renew pricing model, which would then send a push notification to a customer’s phone informing them of a change to a risk profile. We’re definitely still only scratching the surface of possibilities, but Utsav’s work wins the most exciting innovation awards precisely because of how many opportunities are now open to us. It would be pretty cool if an Underwriter could price a new risk entirely through their voice assistant too — right?!

Hackathon buddies

Biggest technological challenge: Enabling hx pricing models to be built using only Python

Until this hackathon, hx models used a combination of Python and Javascript/JSON in their architecture. We wanted to push our theoretical boundaries by seeing if it was possible to build hx models entirely in Python. After some incredibly impressive work by Adomas and Daryl we now know what the theory looks like in practice. There are a number of benefits of pure Python architecture, including increased control and stability. At the moment this work is purely exploratory and is a test of our ability, rather than something we’re intending to roll out into Renew.

Most profound collaboration: Integrating customer feedback and bug reporting

Morgs, Elliot, Ciprian, Marek and Jon together won our prize for best collaboration for heading up the team that worked on our new customer reporting feature. Listening to our customers feedback is a key part of our continued product development, and this hack just made that easier: The team developed an “in-platform” reporting button which allows customers to directly share recommendations for improvements, or bugs, with the correct person (depending on the model they are working on). Even more impressively, the team had time to create a central feedback page, which shares an oversight of all open feature and bug requests. Customers can then decide to close, resolve or raise tickets with hx directly. We’re excited to roll this out to the platform!

A huge congratulations to all the hx team

It was a really intense few days for everyone at hx, but we’re incredibly proud of the work of the team and what we accomplished. Together, we’ve innovated solutions in days which will inform our customer roadmap for years to come. We also want to share a special shout out to Adomas, Jon and Daryl who not only managed to get their own projects completed, but were also able to help out a number of other hacks at the same time. Finally, we want to thank Kaja and Fiona for making sure everyone had delicious hampers and festive fun throughout the event. We’re looking forward to the next hack already!

Interested in finding out more about hx?

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