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measr[food] Team Members Brad Hughes, V.J. Velacheri and Chris Boette

measr[food] Team Members Brad Hughes, V.J. Velacheri and Chris Boette

Americans have a problem counting calories which contributes to skyrocketing rates of obesity, said Brad Hughes, software engineer at National Instruments.

He thought Intel’s Internet of Things Hackathon might be a good place to tackle the problem.

He pitched the idea of a smart food scale connected to the Internet to measure portion size, weight and calorie content in a plate of food as well as tap into other online databases to coordinate with fitness programs.

V.J. Velacheri, a chip designer at Samsung, and Chris Boette, a full stack web developer at Game Salad, joined the team. They bought a food scale and spent Saturday and Sunday tearing it apart and hooking it up to the Internet with various sensors using Intel’s Galileo board, which packs the power of a miniature computer. Their hard work on their hardware paid off.

Their project, measr[food], won Intel’s Internet of Things Hackathon last weekend at TechShop in Austin. They received $1,500 in Amazon gift cards as a prize.

“It’s really cool that Intel is doing this and putting their money where their mouth is in the Internet of Things marketplace,” Hughes said. “Intel is giving people the tools and the power to build really cool stuff at a fraction of the price.”

Intel's Edison, "a small form factor single-board-computer."

Intel’s Edison, “a small form factor single-board-computer.”

Intel kicked off its Internet of Things Roadshow in Austin. It is hosting hackathons in 10 cities worldwide, but only three are in the U.S. In addition to Austin, Intel will host events in New York and Mountain View, Calif. Intel selected Austin because it has a campus of about 1,500 employees here with a big maker group, said Stewart Christie with Intel.

Intel cut off registration for the event at 200 people, Christie said. About half of those showed up. And a couple of hours before the event started Saturday a line formed at the front door.

Intel gave away Galileo boards and developer kits to the first 100 people. The kits contained sensors, software and other accessories.

“It’s kind of like Legos you can put the things together but you can also pull them apart as well,” Christie said.

Intel’s IoT hackers formed 14 teams but a couple of them dropped out, including a team building a wired chicken coop and another with an Internet-connected fishtank. The teams had to upload their projects to Hacker League by 2 p.m. Sunday and then pitch in front of a panel of five judges. The projects needed to use Intel’s developer kits, integrate with the Cloud and tap into online data. They also needed to have market potential.

The two second place winners included Smart Dog Collar, a fitness tracking collar for dogs, and Nursing Home Tracker, a clock-like device to monitor a patient’s environment and sends alerts. Each team won $1,000 in gift cards.

Three teams won third place and $500 gift cards. They were Car Alert, which alerts car owners when someone bumps into or breaks into their car, Save My Baby, a car seat with heat sensors and programmed to send out text messages when the temperature in a car get too hot, and GluLogic, a smart monitor to keep track of a diabetic’s medicine.

Bill Tyler, a diabetic, thought of the device to provide insulin dosage tracking, monitor blood sugar levels and provide reminders to take medicine, because he would like to have one. The device uses Bluetooth and WiFi to communicate online and to store data in the cloud.

Some of the Lego winners at Intel's IoT Hackathon at Techshop

Some of the Lego winners at Intel’s IoT Hackathon at Techshop

Several people also won Intel Basis watches throughout the weekend in a Lego building contest and a selfie Tweet contest. BeMyApp coordinated the event, which Intel sponsored.

In a month, the Intel roadshow team will be back for a show and tell to see how much progress the teams have made, Christie said.

Boette with the measr[food] team enjoyed the hackathon.

“I think getting people to think about applying technology to the Internet of Things from the bottom up is really useful and helpful,” he said.

Full disclosure: I served as a judge at the Intel IoT Roadshow Hackathon.