Overnight Hack inspires smart-city innovation in Peterborough
Overnight Hack inspires smart-city innovation in Peterborough

Last week, hackers from across the country converged at Allia’s Future Business Centre in Peterborough, for a competition to create smart solutions for a modern city.

The overnight hackathon, named ‘>sudo hack’ after the command used by developers to gain access to higher security access, was the latest in a series of Serious Impact Challenge Weekends, run by Allia. 

The event provided competitors with carefully crafted test environments in three areas – a recycling system, an office, or a bike & car park. Teams were asked to pick an area, to measure data and think of the best way to use this information to improve anything from safety to efficiency or quality of service to cost.

Each challenge environment was carefully constructed to give participants the opportunity to use IoT technology to solve real-world problems. Their solutions, ranging from office sensors to improve fire safety and help marshals check door and windows had closed, to smart bins encouraging recycling, showed the huge range of possibilities made possible through smart technology.

The winning team, ‘Park Life’, had travelled up from London to join the event. Their application used ultrasound sensors, built into cars, to locate and measure the availability of on street parking in real-time.

‘Our tagline was bringing the ‘convenience of a multi-storey carpark, to the street.’’ Said Ewan Henry, one of the winning team. ‘We decided to come up on a bit of a whim, but it’s been a really fun event, we never expected to win!’

Teams were each provided with a ‘starter kit’ with micro PCs from Raspberry Pi and Arduino, and a range of sensors to help them face their challenges. They were also given access to Allia’s state-of-the-art rapid prototyping facility, the Innovation Lab, one of the UK’s leading IoT facilities, which provided a test environment fitted with a range of LPWAN systems to push their ideas.

‘The kit was great, we had lots of different ideas before settling on ParkLife, and we had everything we needed to make each of them work, there really wasn’t a limit to what you could build.’

The runner up prize went to IO Parking, who used land based sensors to achieve the same effect.

‘The two teams were very close, their ideas were great, we had calculate the accuracy in their data capturing to separate the two’ said Judge Emil Hewage, co-founder of Cambridge Bio-Augmentation Systems and Alchera Technologies.

A special award was also given to team ‘Computer Misuse Acts’, for the execution of their idea.

The event, run by Allia, was supported by Digital Catapult, Real VNC, Digital People in Peterborough and Opportunity Peterborough. Allia’s Serious Impact supports aspiring entrepreneurs in Peterborough and Cambridge, with funding from the European Regional Development Fund providing structured programmes for all stages of start-up venture, from ideation workshops through to a 9 month incubator.

‘The weekend challenges are designed to stimulate discussion around key impact challenges, facilitating creative thinking, collaboration and innovation’ says Paul Hughes, director of Enterprise Support at Allia, ‘But if you have a great idea, or even if you are already running your venture, and need some structured support to help grow and create a bigger impact, get in touch today and see how we could help.’

For more information visit

See the pictures from the event on our Facebook page!

Editor’s notes:

About Allia

Allia is an independent not-for-profit with a social mission, dedicated to helping impact organisations and initiatives to grow. Our world constantly needs new thinking and new solutions if it is to solve the most pressing global and local challenges. Organisations and initiatives that aim to make positive change and address these challenges, impact ventures and impact entrepreneurs, can transform peoples’ lives. Allia recognises they need the right kind of support and creates innovative and effective services to support them, one great idea at a time.

There are 3 key strands of activity:

Future Business Centres – the UK’s leading spaces for impact entrepreneurs

Serious Impact – we help impact entrepreneurs innovate, start up, grow and scale with Accelerator and Incubation programmes in Cambridge, Peterborough and East London

Social Finance – Innovative social finance and impact investments to help charities and organisations deliver greater impact


About >SudoHack

Serious Impact Challenge Weekends aren’t just a chance to form new peer groups among tech leaders in smart-cities, agri tech, clean-tech, and health sectors, you’ll also become immersed in identifying impact solutions to a pressing social or environmental challenge that could find an immediate route to market.

In the command line, sudo allows users to run programs with the security privileges of the superuser. We want to provide the environment for you to create, innovate and make impact with access to resources you wouldn’t usually have access to. That’s why we are kicking off our series of hackathons in the Peterborough Future Business Centre Innovation Lab. With access to a state-of-the-art facility that is tooled up with a range of gear for testing, prototyping and simulation, we challenge you to hack the Internet of Things.

About European Regional Development Fund

Allia’s Serious Impact project has received funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union ERDF funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.  For more information visit