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Smart Factory Hackathon: Talented data-science specialists develop solutions for the factory of the future

“Data drives our production – you innovate from our data” is the motto of the Smart Factory Hackathon, which was held at the Audi Forum Ingolstadt from October 19 to 21. Talented young data-science specialists from the fields of IT, mathematics and engineering developed innovative software solutions for the factory of the future, based on genuine but anonymized data sets from Audi’s production. On Friday afternoon, the winners of the IT competition were awarded their prizes: The “Happy Unicorns” team won first prize with its idea on the subject of container management.

The Smart Factory Hackathon is a programmers’ marathon in which participants work out digital solutions and prototypes for genuine application cases over a period of 24 hours. For the competition, more than 20 departments from the pre-series center, toolmaking, paint shop, assembly and logistics had provided anonymized data sets with which the teams had to work. The results were assessed by a jury of four Audi experts and the startup consultant Thorsten Weber from “UnternehmerTUM,” the center for innovation and startups at the Technical University of Munich. The teams then presented their ideas to an audience. The winners were decided equally by the jury assessment and the audience’s votes.

The jury members included Michael Breme, Head of Production and Plant Planning, as well as Audi’s Chief Information Officer, Mattias Ulbrich. The two of them also assumed the role of patrons for the Hackathon. Michael Breme congratulated the winners: “The ‘Happy Unicorns’ team have developed a promising approach for container management. I am thrilled by the diversity and quality of the solutions and can well imagine going into further depth with some of them together with the teams.” Mattias Ulbrich said: “We have had very good experience with Hackathons at Audi in the past. With this Smart Factory Hackathon, it was especially interesting to see how young, talented IT specialists deal with concrete tasks and meet the specific challenges in the area of production. These results are also very creative and promising. Overall, it was a very good event that motivates us to continue with this approach.”

Out of approximately 200 applicants from all over the world, 72 participants qualified for the Hackathon, including candidates from Italy, Russia and Israel. Before the competition started, the participants visited selected areas of Audi’s production. Audi experts explained the challenges and technical contexts, and were available as advisors during the Hackathon. Finally, the sixteen teams selected their topics.

Florian Bauer, Isabella Burket, Alexander Hirner, Mario Luef and Christian Tschautscher alias the “Happy Unicorns” had chosen the subject container management. They developed a system which enables automated detection, counting and mapping of transport containers. The “Happy Unicorns” then equipped a forklift truck with cameras. By means of a self-learning algorithm, the software that is linked to the camera recognizes individual containers by their specific features and assigns the appropriate boxes to identification codes. This enables automated real-time data integration, which in turn means logistics employees have an overview of the current container inventory at all times.

The winners have the opportunity to put their ideas into practice together with Audi. The three top-ranking teams can also look forward to receiving attractive prizes. These include participation in an Audi driving experience event and attendance at a technical conference in the United States or Europe with a focus on the subject of big data / data analytics.

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