TADHack, Building the Telecom Application Development Ecosystem

March 19, 2014

An upcoming Hackathon dedicated to application developers in the telecom industry.

Alan Quayle is one of my “magnificent seven“. He started a new initiative recently called TADS – Telecom Application Developers Summit. It deals with APis in Telecom.

The first event was held some months ago with great success, and now, the first hackathon event is coming up. I have asked Alan to answer a few questions for me about TADHack – it seemed an appropriate opportunity to bring this up to those who come here and are interested in WebRTC.

TADHack Madrid 2014

What is TADHack?

TADHack (Telecom Application Developer Hackathon) is a global event, created and driven by the grassroots of the industry to help developers discover the latest ways to add communications to their application, services and business processes. And compete for $20k in prize money; I’m hoping to increase the pot if I can get a few more sponsors involved. It is unique because it brings together all relevant telecom application development tools and technologies in one event. Which of course includes WebRTC.

We’ll have a main event in Madrid on the 6-7 June, which is a Friday and Saturday, and we’ll be streaming the event live for remote participants as well as putting the videos up on the website. The hackathon runs over the 2 days, with education sessions on the Friday, which give a chance for people to meet and network with the leading experts in telecom app development. We’re running the education sessions on the Friday as it’s hard for many people with families to take a weekend away.

Through April and May we will have webinars from the sponsors explaining how to use their platforms and APIs both remotely and on-site in Madrid. Our aim is to make it as easy as possible for developers to build their hacks on their terms, not forcing people to one location and a crazy mad-dash to get things working, they can do that, but it’s not the only option. What matters is education and generating lots of interesting ideas to show all that is possible with telecom application development.


What is unique about TADHack?

The whole of the ecosystem is involved, it’s not just one provider’s technology, it’s an attempt to build the ecosystem across APIdaze, hSenid Mobile, Nexmo, RestComm (by Telestax which copies the Twilio API), Solaiemes, Tropo, and more to be announced in the coming months.

One way we’re helping make remote entry to the hackathon more fun is with Satellite events running in parallel with the main event in Madrid. We’ve not officially announced this as it’s in the planning stages; we will have a number of regional events running in parallel, currently in Colombo Sri Lanka, and Pune India. We have a couple more in discussions; we’ll do an announcement once everything is agreed. In Colombo there’s a concentration of developers focused on telecom applications, some of whom are being quite successful selling their apps and are making $25k per month – in Sri Lanka that more than they could expect to earn in one year.

We’ll have a number of world-first platforms being opened to developers at TADHack, for example one development theme “Hacking your calls”, will enable developers can add services within an ongoing call e.g. using voice control to add people to a call; and route / reroute calls across their many devices with a simple swipe, word or gesture. It’s going to be a real geekfest.

One of the things we are working on at the moment is lining up some operators to trial some of the winners of TADHack. One of telcos’ greatest assets is it’s a channel to market for communication services. We’re not there yet, it is our stretch goal. My hope is some of the winners will be in trial with telcos and the results reported at TADSummit in November. The goal of all this effort is simply to help build the ecosystem through making developers successful.


Why are you doing this?

Last year I had a series of conversations with vendors, telcos and developers bemoaning the lack of a telecom application development ecosystem. The end of each conversation was left hanging, the implicit question was, “You’re independent, can’t you do something?” So last year I ran TADSummit in Bangkok where be brought the ecosystem together for the first time. Running a new event is tough, running a new event in Asia is inviting failure. But we ended up with over 100 people attending, a lot of energy, and a request to run a hackathon that reflects the ecosystem, which brings us to TADHack.

The need to communicate is fundamental to the human condition. And telecoms has become democratized, so anyone can create with it, it’s a very exciting time in telecoms. I’m particularly excited that we’ll have Geeks Without Bounds involved in TADHack, they will be curating the humanitarian theme. As a simple example, imagine an SMS service where the names and home towns of lost children could be registered in conflict zones. A small thing that could impact hundreds if not thousands of families. I’m hoping across all the development themes we’ll see lots of new and exciting ideas.


How does WebRTC fit in TADHack?

Many of the sponsors implement WebRTC on their platforms and their customers have created some great services. Put simply, one of the many things WebRTC does is it extends communications to any web connected device. But WebRTC is not everywhere, Apple and Microsoft have their agendas, so combining WebRTC with Telecom APIs creates services that simply work given the reality of today’s heterogeneous environment. And that diversity is not going to go away anytime soon. Chris Kranky put it very well in his WebRTC Market Size. WebRTC is like HTML, it’s going to become widely used, but it’s just a widely deployed piece of embedded technology. How that technology is used and mashed-up is where value is created. Hence why WebRTC is an important development theme for TADHack.


Do Telecom Application Developers Really Exist?

I’m sure there are a few lonely souls dedicated to building telecom apps exclusively. Just as there are developers who work with Objective C, or PHP, or JavaScript, or Node.js, or Java, or C/C++, telecom app development exists and is a useful string in a developer’s bow. Through education and helping create lots of rich and famous developers who’ve added communications to their apps, services or business processes we can grow this TAD ecosystem.

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