Amazon Web Services-led Hackathon Sparks Innovation at Carrier
Carrier Global Corporation is the leading global provider of healthy, safe, and sustainable building and cold chain solutions. Drawing on a proud history of innovation since 1902, the company has ambitious goals to transform itself into a nimbler organization that can keep up with the current speed of change and lead the market in improving air quality, sustainability, and cold chain efficiency.
In early 2020, Carrier became an independent public company, and saw an opportunity for a digital transformation. To that end, Carrier began migrating from its legacy systems to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and rolling out efforts to modernize existing applications.
AWS and Carrier co-produce hackathon event
As part of that process, AWS recently teamed up with Carrier on a company-wide hackathon in which Carrier cloud engineering teams developed new use cases on AWS. AWS co-produced the event and provided technical solutions architects to support Carrier hackathon teams.
The event, which was sponsored by Carrier executive leadership, was designed to accelerate Carrier’s strategic efforts to foster a culture of innovation, encouraging out-of-the-box thinking and rapid prototyping. The hackathon would build engagement for cloud transformation while cultivating cross-functional and global collaboration. Ultimately, the company hopes to use this kind of innovation for cultural, social, and philanthropic impact, in addition to adding to its product line.
In carrying out the hackathon, AWS and Carrier used the principles of Experience Based Acceleration (EBA), an AWS methodology developed to help customers accelerate their journey on AWS. EBA focuses on:
· Removing challenges or friction points
· Building cross-functional, cross-collaborative groups
· Enabling two-way-door decisions
· Delivering business value and tangible outcomes
“AWS is not there to do all the work. We facilitate and bring our expertise,” said Wim Bood, Experience Based Acceleration Lead, Global & Strategic Accounts for AWS. “At the end of the day, Carrier operates in AWS. Carrier employees should understand the technology. Acceleration and enablement are the key factors.”
Around 150 people took part, divided among 18 teams. The development portion of the hackathon lasted about 24 hours—and some of the international participants were so enthusiastic that they began work at 2 a.m. to start in sync with other teams.
Before the event, participants were given information and guidance on tools and technologies to make sure they were prepared. People were placed on specific teams according to their skill sets. Although organizers provided several pre-defined use cases, all of the winners came up with their own ideas.
“Initially, we didn’t know how many people would really be interested in this kind of learning,” said John Souther, Senior Director, Digital Transformation at Carrier. “When we saw the level of interest and the types of ideas that people brought out, we were floored just looking at the opportunities they had identified across the company.”
Out of the 18 teams in the Carrier hackathon, three were named winners.
The Rescue Team created a solution that can send notifications to emergency personnel via building and mobile apps in case of a building emergency. The solution can aid in evacuation by using facial identification technology to account for everyone in a building and determine who has evacuated.
Team Mavericks created a smart factories solution that uses automation to help factories communicate in real time. Currently, Carrier factories in different global locations are producing various components that are tracked manually. The solution helps create visibility into production at various factories and moves the whole system closer to just-in-time inventory—at significant cost savings.
Team Access AI used machine learning to improve building safety. The solution can figure out potential threats and send alerts to spur action. For example, if there is a fire or other security incident in one part of a building, a machine learning algorithm can identify which areas need to be isolated, so that the entire building doesn’t have to be locked down.
By all accounts, Carrier’s first-ever hackathon was a resounding success. The event created real engagement among employees and leadership alike that increased over its course. Teams came up with working prototypes, far exceeding leadership expectations.
“This was really a vehicle to drive the overall cloud transformation program, get people excited, and get them on board,” said Bood. “The response from everybody was that it was a great event. And no one expected the amazing outcomes that we ended up achieving,”
One of those outcomes is that the Team Mavericks smart factory project will become part of a larger modernization effort at Carrier in which factories will be moved over to AWS. Carrier leadership hopes to implement some of the other hackathon solutions in the future as well.
For Souther, the hackathon represents thinking outside of the box and taking a small risk to reap big rewards. “With a hackathon, you don’t know what will come out of it,” he said. “But I’ve never seen a hackathon that hasn’t resulted in real innovation. Organizations that want modernization have to think not just through the lens of cost savings or revenue generation. If they focus on innovation, the revenue comes automatically.”
Learn about free AWS self-paced digital training here.