Hackatrain: creative mobility solutions

/ Author: Miriam van der Sangen
On Monday 18 June 2018, the third edition of the annual Hackatrain left Amsterdam Central Station heading for Berlin. More than 100 talented IT professionals from the international business world, education and government institutes travelled by train and ‘hacked’ their way to Berlin. In teams they worked for 48 hours to find solutions to an interesting mobility challenge from ING and Arriva. Four enthusiastic participants from Statistics Netherlands (CBS) also joined the Hackatrain, as did their counterparts from the German statistical institute Destatis. Initiator and organiser Amal Whyte says: ‘The level was amazingly high!’


The official departure was on Monday morning at Amsterdam Central Station, and the teams started immediately when they boarded the train. According to ICT construction specialist and CBS participant David Kloet, ‘The journey gave the participants a chance to brainstorm, discus their ideas and to talk to mentors from the organisations that were involved, including Arriva, ING, NS and Freshheads.’ The objective of this Hackatrain was to answer the question how to make it easier for people throughout the country to travel to and from destinations for events such as a concert at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam. ‘They were also asked to incorporate a combination of blockchain (a system that can be used to capture data, Ed.) and Mobility as a Service (MaaS) into their solution,’ Whyte explains. ‘Together, blockchain and MaaS have the potential to allow travellers to search for, select and book their own transport options.’


The participants enthusiastically continued the hackathon after they arrived in Berlin. The programming went on all day, and even through the night. According to Eugène van der Pijl, a Statistical Researcher at CBS who participated in the hackathon, ‘Those two hackathon days were fantastic, but it was hard work. We kept going, intensively searching for solutions.’ As fellow CBS Statistical Researcher and participant Marloes Verhoeven says, ‘We were given the necessary information about blockchain technology and MaaS at the pre-gathering for the Hackatrain. It was a pretty ambitious challenge to produce a working prototype in such a short period, but we did it.’ Both Van der Pijl and Verhoeven were interested in working with blockchain and seeing presentations about it, because the possibilities of blockchain are also being investigated within CBS.

‘The mix of different disciplines and professional fields inspires you to gain new insights’


A pitch workshop on Tuesday prepared the teams to present their solutions to the professional jury, which was made up of representatives from Arriva, ING, Deutsche Bahn and UID Labs. Fourteen thrilling pitches later, the team from Ledger H4ck3rs – a team from the Deutsche Bahn – was announced as the winner. They came up with a concept that would use blockchain to design the payment process for a mobility service, a concept that won them €5,000. ‘All the participating teams created applications that would make it easier for passengers to travel home late at night,’ says Whyte. ‘Arriva was really inspired by the sheer number of creative solutions and the high quality of the work. Now they have all the results from the pitches, they’re going to follow up with the participants about how to develop the solutions further.’ The event was followed by three days at the Berlin technology festival Tech Open Air, where exhibitors showcased the latest technological gadgets. It was also a great networking opportunity.

Complete package

Whyte, her sponsors and the participants are very satisfied with the hackathon. ‘The big difference between this hackathon and others is that we offer the participants a complete package. Hackatrain is part of a five-day trip to Berlin during which, in association with Tech Open Air, we offer the participants and sponsors all kinds of activities. We already have plans in place for 2019,’ promises the organiser. The CBS participants can also look back on the event with satisfaction. For Deborah Gaanderse, a software developer and the fourth participant on behalf of CBS, ‘It was a brilliant experience! You get to meet a really diverse group of people, and the mix of different disciplines and professional fields inspires you to gain new insights. That broadens your horizons and gets you to look at challenges differently.’