7th January 2024

Safer, Smarter Homes are Here, Thanks to This Year’s #TechBoost Winner!

We all want our homes to be safe and secure. But how do we safeguard our loved ones, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, from potential scammers at the door? Thanks to this year’s Vodafone TechBoost winners, we’ve found the answer!

Our talented team, sponsored by Dr Jindong Hou, has created the Vodafone Algorithmic Doorbell (VAL), a revolutionary smart doorbell for home and business use, embedded with AI and machine learning solutions.

With VAL, you can receive security notifications, track package deliveries, and even monitor elderly care on your mobile device. Advanced features include face detection, people counting, ID recognition, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and QR code reading, all designed to make people's life safer and easier.

Jindong and the team tell us all about VAL, and their journey to victory, below.

Dr Jindong Hou
Lead Researcher & Innovation Architect

What sets VAL apart is its simplicity – it uses the best AI/IoT frameworks and engineering best practices for a much simplified design and development. Using the If-This-Then-That (IFTTT) framework, VAL Doorbell can be combined with different technologies to offer a fully flexible and customisable solution. It’s time to say goodbye to the limitations of traditional fixed systems.

Our graduates play an important role in boosting innovation and enabling Tech2025 strategy and beyond, and challenges like the TechBoost competition are excellent opportunities for them to be creative. The VAL team did an amazing job creating an AI-powered solution to fill a market gap and tackle people's pain points. Not only have they built a working prototype using 3D printing technology and physical computing techniques, they also delivered a captivating product launch presentation, inspired by the different tech giants.

Judges were impressed by their passion, teamwork, and creativity in solving a real-world problem using cutting-edge technologies. I’m so proud of them – a true demonstration of the Vodafone Spirit throughout!

Fiona Lau
Machine Learning Engineer

It was such a pleasure working with the team. Witnessing the project transform from an idea to an actual product in six months is unbelievable.

They faced many obstacles, such as the Raspberry Pi struggling with the live video analytics, and the model training phase not going as planned. Nevertheless, they overcame them all. No one could doubt their dedication from start to finish – they even built their own door and door frame for their final presentation in the Podium!

Shreya Gupta
Software Engineer

The Smart Doorbell project offered a deviation from our typical tasks at work, a chance to craft something from the ground up and produce a tangible end product. As a group of friends with diverse skills, we felt this project would not only be fun, but complement our dynamics and strengths. We all honed our skills in areas like computer vision, prototyping and front-end development, and engaging with different stakeholders within the company enriched our perspectives even further.

A notable hurdle arose when we found out the Raspberry Pi Zero couldn't support the video stream. This pushed us to swiftly modify our design and undergo several intensive work sessions, but our bond and shared determination allowed us to navigate the challenge successfully.

Among many memorable aspects of the project were our brainstorming sessions. Coming together, sharing varied ideas and iterating until we landed on a strong direction for our smart doorbell was truly rewarding.

Solomon Owen Williams
Software Engineer

I was drawn to the Smart Doorbell project due to its potential to encompass a wide range of technologies, and the creative freedom it offered for enhancing existing smart doorbell systems.

Undoubtedly, the most gratifying aspect of my time on the team was the collaborative spirit that permeated our project. My role revolved around developing the supporting mobile app, a skill I was eager to bolster at the project's outset. It provided me with an environment conducive to experimenting with and implementing new technologies I had only just begun to explore.

This experience reflects not only our project's nature but also our ability to tap into our creativity, which can sometimes be challenging in more tightly structured endeavours.

Charlie Green
Solution Architect

For me, the highlight of this experience was our brainstorming sessions. Meeting in person, bouncing around ridiculous ideas and working collaboratively until we fashioned a product that not only met but exceeded the set specifications was very impactful. Building a physical door to house our smart doorbell, tapping into our rusty carpentry skills, added a touch of realism and fun to it all.

I also loved the opportunity to engage with diverse stakeholders within Vodafone, who broadened potential avenues for our product. A big thank you to Tim Hartshorne, who gave us the inspiration to branch our product out into the business domain as well as the residential.

Presenting a working prototype at the end, along with a few slick presentation slides, was a very rewarding moment! Despite a few big challenges along the way, we worked really well together under pressure, and our final product (and winning entry!) was a testament to that.

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