The four finalists in Barrick’s first ever hackathon presented their prototypes to Barrick leaders on May 12 at the Company’s head office in Toronto.
The 54-hour hackathon brought together top software developers, data scientists, engineers and startups to develop digital solutions for two operational challenges. One challenge sought new ways to detect, track and optimize maintenance work at Barrick mines; the other called for the development of new tools to consolidate exploration data from multiple sources.
The four finalists included: BGC/Koan Designs, first-prize winner; Smart Miner Technologies, which took the runner-up prize; Decelerate, winner of the Peoples’ Choice Award; and MangoMine, winner of the Young Innovator Award.
Hackathons represent one new way that we’re trying to drive innovation.
Approximately 20 Barrick leaders attended the presentations, which were also webcast live across the Company. Among the attendees were Richard Williams, Chief Operating Officer; Michelle Ash; Chief Innovation Officer; Rob Krcmarov, Executive Vice President, Exploration and Growth; and Matt Gili, Chief Technical Officer.
BGC/Koan Designs, named for the two Vancouver companies where its team members work, demoed its prototype, which automates the collection, organization, and analysis of exploration data from various sources such as press releases, government reports, and academic research.
“This was a really great way to end the whole hackathon experience,” said Patrick Grover, a member of the BGC/Koan Designs team. “It was a really good opportunity to learn more about Barrick and for our team to come up with some new, innovative ideas and work together to solve these problems.”
Smart Miner Technologies and MangoMine also focused on the exploration challenge. Smart Miner created a solution that uses machine-learning techniques to assign confidence scores to potential exploration targets. The scores are based on technical, political, geopolitical, and socioeconomic data derived from news articles, social networking sites, government websites and Google Scholar.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Ruben Lopez, a data scientist and member of the Smart Miner team, following the team’s presentation. “We learned a lot of new things and hopefully we can put this into production and create a lot of value for Barrick.”
MangoMine developed a prototype that allows users to aggregate data about potential exploration projects and visualize it in a user-friendly app hosted by Amazon Web Services. Tyler Godoff, Head of Innovation Partnerships at Barrick, presented on behalf of MangoMine, as the team was unable to attend due to a prior commitment.
Decelerate tackled the maintenance challenge. The team created an iOS-based app that enhances and “gamifies” the haul-truck driver experience. In particular, the app aggregates and analyzes big data on driver behavior, which will help the maintenance team reduce wear and tear on vehicles. It also uses a star system to rate driver performance, which will enhance safety and improve productivity. “We provide a platform for collecting data that will help create the perfect driver,” said Decelerate’s Garlam Won during his team’s presentation.
Following the presentation, Won, who works as an innovation consultant, said he was impressed that so many senior Barrick leaders attended the presentations. “They took an hour and a half to listen and get really engaged in our presentations and offer feedback and next steps,” he said. “That was really pleasantly surprising.”
Barrick’s Krcmarov said he was impressed by how much the teams achieved in just 54 hours, particularly given that some teams had little or no mining experience. He said next steps will involve follow-up conversations with the Barrick exploration team about the prototypes. “One area that I have a lot of questions about is how do you differentiate between the quality of the source data, because that could affect the outcomes,” he said. “I’m interested in how they handle that, and the next step is to get our subject matter experts together with some of these groups, investigate the full potential of their prototypes and see how we can develop them.”
Tyler Godoff said last week’s presentations were a great way to cap off the Toronto hackathon. “It allowed the top teams to present their prototypes to all of Barrick, as well as to key leaders, and now we may select a few of these prototypes to actually put into the field and deploy.”
Barrick will be sponsoring four more hackathons this year in various locations, including host countries and digital technology hubs around the world, Godoff added.
“Hackathons represent one new way that we’re trying to drive innovation at Barrick,” he said. “We have the full support of our senior leaders, which is key, and we benefit from working with great partners like Unearthed Solutions, which oversaw the Toronto hackathon. We can’t wait to see the new ideas that will be generated at future hackathons.”