Developers hacking for greener IT

Solar panels, smart meters, agricultural statistics, and reusing old keyboards – lots of sustainable ideas at the 2022 Data Respons Green IT Hackathon.

  • Published: 8. June 2023
Abstract Battery supply digital 3d concept

Annually Data Respons gathers developers from across the group to participate in our internal Hackathon, taking on different dilemmas that are both relevant for the times we live in and the tech business. This year the developers would spend 24 intense hours focusing on Green IT, trying to create new ways to tackle the sustainability struggles we’re currently facing.  The event was hosted by Data Respons subsidiary MicroDoc, at their Munich headquarters,  welcoming different teams from across the group,  including Frobese and EPOS CAT.

There are many ways to address sustainability within IT, and the projects presented by the six Hackathon teams proved just how broad the field is.

For instance, you can minimize resource consumption by reusing an old computer keyboard. According to one of the four MicroDoc teams participating in the Hackathon, the keyboard made by Lenovo in 2011 is the best keyboard ever produced. For that reason, and to save resources, the team decided to remove the keyboard from the original laptop and to convert it to a USB-keyboard, that could be plugged into any pc.

Connecting soil and plants

Farmer using his mobile phone while working in the field

Another MicroDoc team took a whole other approach to sustainability. The “Team Plantiers” set out to connect soil data with plant data to inspire farmers to discover new crops they maybe hadn’t thought of growing on their land. The team connected publicly available data on soil, moisture, etc. across Germany, with data about plants and their requirements, for instance, to find what type of potato would be the best to grow on a specific type of soil.

Solutions for private homes

The third MicroDoc team participating in the Hackathon turned its attention to solar panels for private homes. They developed a prototype of a controller managing the amount of electricity going from private solar panels to the public grid. In Germany, you can feed the electricity you produce into the public grid, but you only get paid for a specific amount of watts per day.

If your production exceeds

Solar panels or photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of a family house.

that amount you deliver it to the grid for free. To increase the earnings of small solar power stations, the MicroDoc team included calculations on how to optimize the system to make it more profitable.

Also focusing on energy consumption in private homes, a MicroDoc one-man team experimented with making conventional analogue meters measuring electricity, water, and gas smarter. It was done by adding different sensors to read off the consumption and convert the values into digital information.

Planet B

The team from EPOS CAT took green it from the personal to the global level. They created a prototype of an interactive educational game called Planet B. It simulated the impact of climate change on a fictional planet, allowing users to see what the consequences would be, if the world would shift to renewable energy, or the opposite: What would happen if the governments of the world decided to do nothing to mitigate climate chance.

Minimal runtime

Last not least, the team from Frobese took on the task to try to reduce the energy consumption of coding. Under the working title Minimal Runtime for Computational Operations the team experimented with both hardware and software and worked on developing more efficient algorithms and choosing hardware consuming less energy. All this was to be combined in a tool to assist the team in its development work and to find methods to reduce energy consumption by refactoring algorithms and reducing runtimes.

  • We had great fun and helped each other across the six teams as best we could, says Vithya Jeyachandran, software developer at MicroDoc and one of the organizers of the Green IT Hackathon.
  • Of course, we didn’t sleep for 24 hours. But with 25+ colleagues having fun and working intensely round the clock, it was worth it. And not least, sustainability is a topic that we all can relate to. That made it even more exciting, and we’re all looking forward to the next hackathon at the end of this year.