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Lifesaving hackathon held at Facebook

Lifeboats News Release

Virtual reality games, chatbots and wearable tech were just some of the potentially lifesaving ideas generated when around 150 women took part in a special hackathon for the RNLI at Facebook’s HQ in London over the weekend.

Members of the winning hackathon team with RNLI staff smile in front of a Facebook logo

RNLI/Martin Wilson

The winning team from the hackathon with RNLI staff

The hackathon was a women-only event organised by Facebook, together with the Ladies That UX and GeekGirl Meetup groups, and saw 20 ideas submitted.

The winning concept focused on using augmented reality to prevent people from getting cut off by tides. The RNLI will be looking at the winning idea, plus several other excellent concepts generated through the event, in more detail to see if they can be developed into real lifesaving products to be used by the lifesaving charity.

This special hackathon, which took place on Saturday 4 November from 8.30am to 5pm, brought together designers, engineers, content strategists and experts from other tech roles to develop innovative ways that the RNLI could save more lives using new technology and digital platforms.

Participants were given an overview of the RNLI’s lifesaving service and the challenges the charity faces to help keep people safe from drowning, before the hackathon began.

Martin Wilson, from the RNLI’s Innovation team, said: ‘It was great to see so many talented people give up a day of their weekend to develop innovative concepts that could help the RNLI save more lives. There were some really great ideas of how we could enable communities to reduce drowning as part of their daily activity, which we’ll certainly be looking into in more detail.

‘The winning idea proposed using augmented reality, linked to existing signage, to raise awareness of the risk of getting cut off by the tide. Scanning a QR code would provide mobile-friendly content to inform people when and how the tide comes in at those specific locations. It was a really great idea that we’re looking forward to exploring further with the team.

‘I’d like to thank Facebook for hosting us and for all the attendees for committing their time and expertise to our cause.’

Amaal Mohamed was part of the team that came up with the winning idea at the hackathon. Amaal, Education Analyst and Creative Lead at Blippar, a tech company specialising in augmented reality and artificial intelligence, said: ‘During the event we were surprised to learn how high the number of deaths caused by drowning are and wanted to create an effective and scalable solution to help.

‘We proposed using Blippar's augmented reality platform to visualise live data on tide times to educate and warn people when they are at risk. Representing this information in augmented reality helps combat the confusion many people feel when trying to interpret tide timetables.

‘Not only did we learn a lot and create something we are really proud of, we also won the competition! It was a truly fun and inspiring experience.’

RNLI media contacts

For more information, please contact Luke Blissett, RNLI National Media Manager, on 01202 336497/ [email protected]. Alternatively, call the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or email [email protected].

Hackathon participants and RNLI staff sat down listening to a presenter at the event


The hackathon at Facebook in full swing

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.