Hackathons — events where programmers and others spend several hours or days intensely collaborating — are synonymous with startup culture. These events have gained popularity as a way to develop new applications or promote product innovation in short timelines. Internally we hold quarterly hackathons to foster creative ideas and solve common business challenges.

However, hackathons aren’t just good for business; they’re a great way to support the local community, as well. LISNR recently sponsored two hackathons right here in Cincinnati: #ArtsWaveTech and #RevolutionUC.

Besides two new applications for our data-over-audio technology, here’s what we learned.

New Ideas for Common Challenges

Many outside Cincinnati don’t realize our hometown has a booming arts scene. Chris Ostoich, co-founder and marketing leader at LISNR, serves on the board of directors for ArtsWave — the first and largest community campaign for the arts in the nation.

With the love of the arts in his blood and after seeing the incredible ideas generated in LISNR’s internal hackathons, Chris proposed a mash-up. Cincinnati’s art and startup cultures would come together in the first-ever ArtsWave: Art x Tech Hackathon to solve specific problems of local arts organizations to make Cincinnati’s thriving arts community even better.

Over one April weekend, several hundred attendees came together to find solutions for eight different challenges that Cincinnati’s arts organization face — everything from creating an interactive arts experience to building a patron data profile to an arts check-in and loyalty app.

One hackathon idea gave the traditional museum audio walking tour a much-needed tech reboot. Using a museum’s app powered by LISNR technology, attendees touring an exhibition would receive proximity-based messages about the artist and works in the collection right on their mobile phone.

Aside from saving on hardware installation, this novel approach would allow visitors to experience the exhibit at their own pace, in a more personalized way. When attendees approach designated trigger spots, messages are delivered over inaudible sound waves. No more starting and stopping clunky headphones. This idea was so appealing to one museum, development is already underway for the first augmented audio exhibition this summer.

Lesson learned: Using a hackathon to bring together different communities united around a single goal can generate new and unexpected ideas to solve common problems.

Learn From Your Users and Customers


Just one week later, my colleague Paul Dehmer and I were at another LISNR-sponsored hackathon, Revolution UC. Here, University of Cincinnati students were challenged to come up with ways to use technology to solve a problem they related to.

With four Raspberry Pi starter kits on the line for the winners, two competing teams set off to find new applications for the LISNR API. One project used LISNR Smart Tones to create a connected smart home. The other winning idea used LISNR’s API and Smart Tones to transmit triggered quiz questions during educational videos — making learning more interactive for students and making it easier for teachers to track students’ knowledge retention.

Working with the students provided Paul and me with valuable insight. We were given a new application for a current solution within education. An unexpected bonus, we also gathered helpful feedback for continuous improvement to our SDK.

Lesson learned: Hackathons provide ideal opportunities for “in the field” feedback and insights from users and customers. 

Hackathons are more than Red Bull and all-nighters. They’re a great way to learn new applications and gain valuable feedback.

Stay in touch with the LISNR team by following us @LISNR.

LISNR is a high-frequency, inaudible technology, a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™ to transmit information. LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device-to-device connectivity on any LISNR-enabled device. We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than Bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with the world around you better than ever before.

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