Towards the end of last year, Microsoft and SAP teamed up to launch their inaugural ANZ hackathon, aimed at encouraging greater collaboration and innovation between the two brands, their diverse solution suites, and their developer communities.

This event was a way to build on an existing partnership, product innovation and to tackle shared challenges at a time when many were feeling isolated, uncertain, and our mutual customers and end users were ever-more dependent on technology.

The winner of the first hackathon in 2020 was Team Gone Viral from DXC Oxygen ANZ, which comprised of Analytics Practice Lead, Martin Green, and Principal Consultants, Thomas Yuan, and Galvin Gunawan. The team developed BusIntelligence – an app providing real-time insights and solutions for bus passengers and operators alike.

“We wanted to focus on something relevant to the COVID pandemic we were in,” Martin explained. “Looking at a technology solution that would benefit communities on different levels, particularly within the transport industry. We recognised that COVID had shifted not only usage patterns through remote working, but capacity changes due to social distancing.

“The way we saw the application supporting that was during COVID and as life normalises, this will give bus operators the means to respond quickly, aligning the bus network and routes, optimising for commuters as a key driver. The app essentially supports the analysis of real time and historical data around bus routes – such as common causes of delays or average travel speed of an area – a lot of information to support the optimisation of routes and timetables.”

According to Thomas, the key was to address traditional issues in the hopes of setting reference architecture for future developments. “It’s the app – but it doesn’t stop as a single app. In the future, people can also continue with their own innovations to extend this application into endless possibilities.”

Thomas noted that one common challenge within this area is disparate datasets, noting that the process for converting large multi-source systems and multi-form datasets is very complicated. This issue is compounded by public-facing data and internal systems – such as HR, rostering, and financial data – struggling to match or integrate seamlessly.

“We wanted to showcase how to balance long-term trend analysis and a real-time data dashboard, Thomas said. “We also wanted to address something we call, non-intrusive real-time analyses. Going to the industry and talking to our clients about real-time analysis, the first question we get from operational-system architects is, ‘will it impact my system performance?’ Our response to that, in this case, is we source our data from a public API, which means the data ingest site is safe, optimised, and won’t affect operational performance.”

Thomas expressed the value in having access to two open-data sets from Transport NSW and TransLink Queensland. Since both follow the universal standard of GTFS, this helped ensure consistency and accuracy while setting a template for architecting potential extensions into other public and private sector applications.

“We architected our solution to five high-level layers,” explained Galvin. “First, the source layer, then the ingestion, storage, data processing in the data warehouse layer, and finally the presentation layer. In the ingestion layer, we utilised Azure Functions, which is a python friendly tool for retrieving GFTS files from Transport NSW. And then we used that to ingest it into Azure Data Lake gen 2 surface.

“Data is then picked up Azure Stream Analytics for the real time dashboard, and we use Azure Data Factory to aggregate many of the file storage in Azure Data Lake. We then utilise SAP Data Warehouse within the data processing layer, as the high-performance platform to harmonise, further transform, and aggregate the data into a meaningful format for analytic purposes.”

In supporting the various development teams preparing for the hackathon, SAP and Microsoft experts provided training sessions to address questions and offer guidance. “Those mentor-training half-hour sessions have become collectibles for me. Whenever I need information about certain products, I just watch back those videos. The mentors were very knowledgeable and all our understood questions, coming up with clear and creative solutions – often able to predict our next move.”

Everyone at Team Gone Viral were excited about future applications for BusIntelligence and hope to continue showcasing its possibilities to wider audiences, such as local councils, town planners, and other public transport operators. They noted how this hackathon has demonstrated the value of combining different datasets, solutions, and development skills to create flexible and scalable solution that address common challenges we all face.

Furthermore, the ability to connect and collaborate with different experts from SAP and Microsoft isn’t just breaking down traditional silos but furthering the possibility to innovate and provide more hybrid solutions to market. To learn more about the next SAP and Microsoft hackathon in May 2021, click here