When SAP and Microsoft launched their inaugural ANZ hackathon, the idea (much like the process behind it) was to continue the existing partnership between these two brands, building teams of diverse experts and developers to create solutions to improve real-world challenges.

As technology remains critical in keeping people safe and connected, the key focus for all hackathon teams was addressing the impact of COVID in real-world scenarios. Runners-up of the event, Team Bourne Digital, presented the judges with CovidSafe Building Access Management Solution – a cross-industry resource for managing employee OH&S.

Barry Lun, Microsoft Practice Lead and Solutions Architect for Bourne Digital, explained, “In the initial stage of hackathon, the whole team came together to come up with a lot of ideas, but the main challenge facing a lot of organisations was around COVID. We interviewed some of our clients and those in the company, their main concern was how to help employees return to work while keeping things safe and secure, implementing the COVID-safe protocols.

“At the time, all businesses were operating ats a risk with COVID and needed to implement control measures to manage those risks. They also needed to assess any new changes that arrived because of COVID, for example, customer aggression, the unusually high work demands at the time, and also the difficulties in work isolation.”

Bourne Digital’s CovidSafe Building Access Management Solution uses thermal-screening technology to support facial recognition and temperature checks. This identification data passes through authentication via Face API and a backend ECC system to determine whether employees can be permitted into the office.

“On the Microsoft side, we used a series of servers hosting in the MSN Azure Cloud,” Barry explained. “Altogether, the servers provided the functionality around facial recognition, which was a key function of the system. The key server, a real in-demand prototype, is something that we call Face API, which is part of the collective service – it’s the AI surface service in the Azure Cloud. It can do a lot of things, like image recognition, voice recognition, and facial recognition as parts of its function.

“That server is built together with other services also hosted in Azure, like Azure AD, which is the world’s most popular identity management service and stores all the user information, such as name, ID, and password. It can also be used as an identification portal for external services. All this together with Face API as a strong backbone, provides a solid solution to these safety challenges.”

According to Barry, thermal screening provides two primary functions. “The first function was to collect the photo of the user for other applications – it’s the same as when you go through customs at the airport. This also saves your facial information to the backend and sends this information to Face API, which will match your identity from Azure AD.

“The thermal screening is also responsible for capturing the temperature from the user without the user having to actually contact anything themselves – no need for a fingerprint or to enter a password. It’s just through the thermal screening.”

Ben Kemal, General Manager of Southern Region at Bourne Digital noted that the team used their hackathon entry to develop a solution for internal use. “Using the Microsoft Power Apps platform, they created a desk-booking solution that they’re using to managed desk space in our office – especially with the restrictions around Australia in terms of how much capacity you can use. I was proud that the team could take a solution from the hackathon, build upon it, and convert that to a solution that we could implement for ourselves and potentially for our clients.”

Barry believes this kind of solution will have numerous applications across different organisations and industries, providing more intelligence and convenience to accessibility. “I think traditional security, such as physical access cards and passwords will be replaced with biometric security assets like facial recognition – it’s just a matter of time.

“COVID has sped up that evolution. From a business perspective, it’s given much stronger justification for organisations to fund these kinds of changes. And there are really good values that can be provided through this project as this kind of accessibility has gone from something good to have to almost an essential requirement.”

Last year’s SAP and Microsoft hackathon not only helped developer teams become more familiar with the latest technologies and techniques available; but it also provided them with real-world experience in addressing critical challenges that we all face through this pandemic. The event encouraged more collaboration between SAP and Microsoft experts from across different organisations and functions, all working to improve the way we work and live.

To understand more about the innovations presented at previous hackathons or to learn about the upcoming SAP and Microsoft hackathon in May 2021, click here.