ETHDenver Winners Recap — what happened and why it matters

NOTE: This is part two in a two-part series on ETHDenver — see my recap of the overall event and takeaways.

The main stage

I couldn’t find a single source of information on the winners of the #ETHDenver hackathon that concluded a few days ago, so I decided to compile that information here. Read on to learn about each winning project, and why each project matters to the Ethereum ecosystem.

Let me preface this list by saying that I was genuinely impressed by each and every winning project (and by many projects that did not win as well). I’ve been to many hackathons before and this one produced more genuinely interesting and innovative projects than any other I’ve seen.


1. Elkrem, Development board for IOT and Ethereum

Eslam Ali, Amr Saleh, Islam Elnaggar (Devpost link)

What is it? A general-purpose hardware board running an Ethereum light node and an SDK for interfacing with the hardware.

Why does it matter? Ethereum is awesome. IoT is awesome. Until now, these two oceans of awesomeness did not overlap. Developing for either platform is difficult. General-purpose hardware platforms such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi (and their associated software kits) have brought hardware hacking to the masses, but connecting hardware to the blockchain is really, really hard — a lesson I learned firsthand hacking alongside the #ArtProject at the hackathon. As the team put it in their presentation: “It took us 30 hours to fly from Cairo to Denver, 30 hours to build out the hardware, then 30 minutes to deploy our first app.”


2. Cache, Cyberpunk cryptocurrency trading game based on the classic Drugwars

Erik Johnson, Roscoe Lamontagne (Devpost link)

What is it? A re-imagining of the cult classic Drugwars game with tradable Ethereum tokens, a back story and a ton of sexy, original 8-bit artwork.

Why does it matter? Games, along with war and porn, always push the envelope and drive new technology forward. I don’t know about you, but of the three, I’m most excited about games on Ethereum. The emergence of the ERC721 standard (non-fungible, crypto-collectibles) and games like CryptoKitties over the past few months has brought an entirely new dimension to blockchain and a wave of mainstream users. Just as the original Drugwars distracted a generation of high school students who played the game on their TI-83 during chemistry class, Cache could bring a generation of gamers onto Ethereum. Before Ethereum saves the world, I’m okay if we have some fun gaming.


3. FeelGood, Blood donation system with end-to-end tracking

Parth Gargava, Zhongjie He (Devpost link)

What is it? An end-to-end accountability system to sign and track blood donations.

Why does it matter? Reasonable people have begun pointing out how absurd and pie-in-the-sky many blockchain projects have become. It’s nice to see a project that 1. has immediate, real-world applicability (tracking provenance of blood supplies is hard and mistakes are made, as the team describes), and 2. actually belongs on the blockchain (supply chain is a natural blockchain application because of the way it promotes transparency and accountability among multiple untrusted parties).


4. Profiler, Solidity smart contract gas profiler

Remco Bloemen, Leonid Logvinov (Devpost link)

Note: I got the project name wrong in this tweet since the order of presentations changed — sorry about that!

What is it? A gas profiler for contracts deployed on the Ethereum mainnet which shows, line by line, where gas is being spent in actual transactions.

Why does it matter? Improving DX (the developer experience) is essential if Ethereum is to become a mainstream platform, and we have a long way to go — basic tools like Solidity debuggers are still a work in progress. As network fees increase, it’s especially important to optimize contracts to reduce gas spend. But the most mind-blowing part of this project is that it allows a developer to see where gas is being spent in real, live, deployed contracts, which is simply not possible on any other platform on earth — typically, once code is deployed in the wild, we almost completely lose visibility into it, aside from limited analytics tools.


5. KeySplit, Sharded key management platform

Nick Neuman, Mark Barrasso, Juwon Bahn, Austin Roberts (Devpost link)

What is it? KeySplit allows you to split your wallet seed phrase into five shards and share them with five trusted contacts. You can restore your seed phrase with any three of five shards.

Why does it matter? Key management, key management, key management. This is hands-down one of the most critical areas of blockchain research and development. It’s first and foremost a UX challenge, which is why we need teams such as this one with professional UX designers to work on it. Building on work done by teams such as uPort, which support a “social recovery” mechanism if keys are lost, and cryptographic secret sharing, KeySplit lets you shard your seed phrase and share the shards with trusted contacts, which is about as secure as you can get (assuming your friends don’t, you know, all live in the exact same place).


6. Canteen, Decentralized container orchestrator

Kenta Iwasaki, Tonay Kothari (Devpost link)

What is it? A decentralized Docker container orchestrator. Think of it as decentralized Kubernetes.

Why does it matter? Modern, production-grade, scalable applications often consist of dozens or even hundreds of dynamic components — databases, algorithms, queues and streams, etc. — split across many containers. Tools to manage these containers such as Kubernetes and Puppet exist but, since they themselves are centralized and run on centralized infrastructure, they represent a single point of failure. This project is important because it hints at a bright future for Ethereum as the backbone for scalable, enterprise-grade applications which may run off-chain but be orchestrated and managed on-chain.


7. Blockstreet, end-to-end IDE for decentralized applications

Bryan Fowler, Morgan Edwards, Cody McCabe, Dan Nolan (Devpost link)

What is it? An end-to-end interactive development environment for learning, developing, and deploying Ethereum smart contracts.

Why does it matter? Developing decentralized applications on Ethereum today is difficult, as any Ethereum developer will tell you. There are lots of moving parts, from writing, testing, debugging, and deploying the code itself, to managing accounts and funds, logging, maintaining and upgrading deployed contracts. Tools like Remix and Truffle help, but there has never been a development environment that walks you through the entire process of developing and deploying a smart contract end-to-end like Blockstreet. As if that wasn’t enough, the application also includes interactive tutorials and lets you download a working, styled React DApp built on top of your contract code.


Note: This post only highlights the top seven prize winners featured in the hackathon closing ceremony. Many other projects won sponsor prizes. The full list is available here.

For more on this incredible event, check out my recap of the overall hackathon and takeaways.


About the author: Lane Rettig is a developer with the Ethereum Foundation. He also founded and helps run Crypto NYC, a Manhattan-based, 100% blockchain-focused co-working space and community. Find him on Twitter at @lrettig.

Please note that the views expressed in this article are entirely my own and in no way represent the views of the Ethereum Foundation, Crypto NYC, or any other organization.

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