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The Murata Hackathon: Japanese Hardware Meets Israeli Developers

A venerable electronics firm is holding its first-ever hackathon in Israel
Illustrative photo of hackers in Tel Aviv taking part in a hackathon to develop cyber-security apps (Courtesy)
Illustrative photo of hackers in Tel Aviv taking part in a hackathon to develop cyber-security apps (Courtesy)

Starting on November 30, 2015, Murata Electronics Europe B.V., together with Samurai House Israel, will be hosting a two-day hackathon in Tel Aviv. Murata may not have the same name recognition as well-known Japanese consumer brands like Toyota or Sony, but it is a venerable multinational conglomerate with a 71-year history and 105 subsidiaries in 23 countries. Murata dominates various sectors in electronic sensors and other components, and surpassed $10B in sales in 2014. If you have a smartphone, laptop or car, chances are it has Murata components.

I had a chance to attend Murata’s information session on the Hackathon, which was held on November 4, 2015 at Samurai House Israel, and caught up with the presenter, “Mitch” Nozaki of  Murata’s Israel office, on what’s in store with the Hackathon.

Q: What is Murata’s goals for holding the Hackathon?

A: The goal is to mix our world class hardware with creative software developers for which Israel is now famous, and see what comes out. While Murata has traditionally focused on designing and manufacturing individual components, it has begun shifting its focus to include the tremendous value that innovative software can bring to enable more integrated solutions. The Hackathon will provide a venue in which Israeli developers will have access to Murata’s cutting edge components and attendant know-how to brainstorm innovated applications, while we at Murata will get a chance to (hopefully) see creative uses for our components.

Cheerleader robots by Murata

By the way, this is the first ever Murata Hackathon anywhere in the world. Murata had already decided to do an event like this somewhere in the world, and not necessarily in Israel. But, given the dynamism and creativity of the tech scene here, it seemed like a natural fit. We are very excited about what will come out of this event!

Q: Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts. How does this hackathon work? Let’s start with registration process.

Registration is available online (go to this link). The Hackathon will host up to 50 participants in teams of up to 5 members. We are accepting both team and individual registrations. Like any hackathon, the chances of winning will be higher for pre-organized teams with people who already know each other and their respective strengths. However, we encourage even those who haven’t organized a team yet to go ahead and register. If you build or grow a team after registration, we can amend the roster. If you don’t manage to build or join a team, we will assign to you an existing team or put together a new team. Once registration closes (the deadline is November 16, 2015), we will have a pre-event meeting for all of the selected participants, which will include orientation and finalizing of teams.  (To find out more about the event, check out this online deck.)

Before the Hackathon, all participants will receive an information pack with specs for all the components we will have available at the event. The components we will feature in the event will be sensors, including passive infrared (PIR), magnetoresistance, ultrasonic, temperature, air pressure, optical, and shock sensors. We will also provide a take-home starter kit with the components so that the teams will have a chance to play with them beforehand.

Q: And what will happen at the event itself?

At the Hackathon itself, the goal for each team will be to put together a solution using at least some of our components towards a particular application. We are especially interested in applications in the categories of medicine/healthcare, automotive, and energy. Aside from laying out those broad categories, we are mainly looking to be surprised, even blown away. The fact is, if you have something in mind outside of those three categories, give it a go. Also, if you want to bring other components to use with our components, you are welcome to do so. We are intentionally keeping the parameters broad because we want to be open to things that we might not necessarily expect.

Q: Is there a prize?

A: Yes! The winning team will win a flight to Japan to participate in Samurai Incubate’s Israel Summit taking place in Tokyo, and a Shinkansen ride to Kyoto for a meeting with Murata’s senior management at Murata headquarters.

About the Author
Grew up biracial (white/Asian) and tricultural (American/Japanese/Jewish), mostly in Tokyo and Palo Alto. Made Aliyah in October 2011 along with his loving wife and two adorable daughters. Passionate about intellectual property (he's a registered U.S. patent agent working at AC Entis IP), the Israeli tech scene and Israel-Japan relations.
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