The Rocket Hack 2019

NCFE Enterprise Architect, Peter Beckwith, was invited by Nomad Digital to be a judge at last week’s Rocket Hack in Newcastle upon Tyne. Here are his thoughts on what turned out to be a fantastic weekend!



We’ve arrived ready for the day and have just finished setting up the NCFE stands. Volunteers and some participants are starting to show up.

There are 27 confirmed participants for today so fingers crossed they all show!


Lots of people are milling around and it looks like participants have arrived mostly in teams. Just 20 minutes to go until they get their brief so lots of introductions and conversations are happening.

Found a good spot near the beer fridge which is currently stocked full of cola and lemonade from 40 Kola to listen to the introductory presentations and delivery of the brief.


Presentations are starting and we’re looking forward to hearing the brief.

Speakers take the stage from each of the event sponsors including our very own Lindsey Gibson who gives a very good summary of who we are and what we do at NCFE.

Conor Marron from LNER says they have more than the responsibility of shifting people from A to B. They need to have more empathy with customers.

The challenge:

  • Multi modal transport can be an intimidating experience, even for those who are fully-abled and conversant in the local language.
  • Elderly, disabled and foreign visitors face unique challenges while travelling – this challenge begins at home and ends at their final destination

The Brief:

  • What innovative services could be implemented through the use of data and technology to improve the travel experience for those with accessibility issues?
  • Think about those passengers who might be impacted by one or more of the following:
    • Require extra time and /or assistance to get from A to B
    • Require assistance to board/disembark from a vehicle
    • Cannot read signage due to language or disability
    • Cannot understand audio announcements due to language or disability
  • The “Hack” proposition could be from the perspective of the passenger, or from the perspective of the transport company.


The teams all now have the brief and a very well put together technical document detailing the datasets and access credentials available to them. I’m hoping this doesn’t get the teams too tightly focussed on technical implementation though as I want to see some great, well thought through ideas. Judging isn’t on the quality of the product but the idea so let’s see if they stick to this.

I wish I was participating, it’s a great brief. I’m going to give them 30 minutes to digest the info they have then try and talk to all the teams.


I’ve spoken to most teams now and there are some great ideas. Some much more communicative than others and a few teams already have a very well-rounded concept. I’ve got my eye on 2 teams especially with very strong concepts. Some teams seem to be looking for the right problem to solve and are getting some great advice from the mentors.

The end of day one has come and it’s been a great one. There are some great ideas and the teams are working well together so I’m looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings!



I started the morning by speaking with my fellow judges to align our criteria.

Judging starts at 2pm our criteria is:

  • Originality
  • Alignment to brief
  • Immediacy
  • Solving a clear problem
  • Wow factor
  • Business model

This is why I’m here and I’m pretty excited for the pitches to start.


I’m in the judge’s seat now with scoring sheets in hand.

It’s getting real. Who will go first? The names of each team are drawn out of a hat.


There have been some awesome pitches and it looks like we have 2 which are tied.

We have a result! The 2 tied teams totally split the judges so we speak with the organisers and it is decided to award a joint 1st prize.

The winners:

Team Swan

  • Physical small format device, on a lanyard, has GPS, e-ink display, headphone socket and emergency assistance button. Backed up with a mobile app which can be used independently of the physical device.
  • The idea is you register your journey with the service, it tracks where you are and can send notifications to multiple parties, maybe a mother of a child, assistance at a station.
  • Location etc. can be shared so others can track and trace where in the journey the passenger is.
  • The e-ink display gives clear instructions, it has a headphone socket and will also give the clear instructions as audio. Instructions such as go to the elevator behind you to the 1st floor then head right to platform 4.


Team Stephenson

  • In station wayfinding.
  • This involved using a 3D model of the stations twinned with existing sensors and WIFI triangulation to enable the mobile app to accurately find the users position within the station.
  • Using an AR like camera mode, clear directions are overlaid onto your surroundings, used vibrations to help visually impaired.
  • The ability to explore the station and your route prior to your journey gives passengers the ability to familiarise themselves with a station prior to arriving.


Overall I was so impressed and thrilled to be involved in such a great event. If you’d like to find out more about The Rocket Hack, you can visit their website here:

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