What is the Battlefield of Things Hackathon?
Battlefield of Things Hackathon is a two-day, hands-on innovation event. It will gather IoT professionals, hackers and makers, developers and designers, university students and researchers from across Belgium.
Your mission: work side by side with Belgian Defence experts to imagine, prototype, test and demonstrate concepts for next-generation non-lethal military IoT devices that will help Belgian Defence and our allies meet today’s real-world challenges.
Why should you join?
This is your unique chance to work closely with Belgian Defence staff, to understand the challenges they face, and to find new opportunities for technological solutions. Besides this, the Battlefield of Things Hackathon will bring together electronics engineers and software developers, user interface designers and data scientists, entrepreneurs and university lecturers – just think of what you can learn in one weekend!
Two winning teams will have an opportunity to take their prototypes to the next level with the support of Verhaert and Sopra Steria Benelux and present the results to Belgian Defence.
And, it will just be fun! A weekend at a genuine military base, with dozens of like-minded people and a few hard problems to solve – how can you say no to that?
Belgian Defence and our allies are looking for next-generation military tech to help them face challenges old and new. The solutions have got to be simple. Cheap. Easy to use. And smart, very smart. We need your fresh perspective, your ingenuity, and your ability to think low-tech and high-tech at the same time.
Come work with us to solve these two hard real-world challenges:
Challenge 1: Surveilling the rainforest
Belgian Defence supports allied troops in Africa whose role is to protect national borders. The border region is vast, and soldiers are too few to deter rebel groups from infiltrating the country to profit from the riches of the area. Monitoring the rainforest is not a trivial challenge: distances are enormous, dense tree canopy prevents effective aerial and satellite surveillance, and there’s no cellular network.
Budget is scarce too: device cost should not exceed EUR 100. They should be made from standard, common, and cheap components, lightweight, and able to withstand heat and humidity.
This challenge has three sub-challenges:
Subchallenge 1: Collect
help border troops with rainforest surveillance by collecting data on human and vehicular movement with cheap, portable, ruggedised devices. Creatively integrate multiple sensors and communications features.
Subchallenge 2: Transmit
transmit data from sensor devices over long distance across the rainforest. Get creative with antennas, mesh networks, and anything else that comes to mind. Some data is better than no data, and no idea is too crazy to try!
Subchallenge 3: Display
help the troops take better informed decisions by designing user-friendly, clear interfaces to show sensor data. Keep in mind their limited tech: vintage laptops, cheap smartphones, and radio.
Challenge 2: Protection in urban combat
Urban combat poses unique problems:
- 4G backbone gets eliminated quickly, and standard comms frequencies are often jammed
- opponents move around our soldiers, below them through sewage tunnels, and above them over ceilings and bridges between buildings – they can be anywhere!
- Tracking allies is just as important as monitoring opponents
Your task is to identify critical information for urban combat and develop ingenious solutions that are:
- Light, small, and easy to hide
- Simple and cheap
- Integrate different sensors, both standard and unexpected
- Compatible with standard communications systems like ATAK
How you’ll tackle these challenges
You and your teammates will have just two days to imagine, prototype, test and showcase new IoT device concepts. So, stick to the basics: use standard components, build a proof of concept (nothing more), and get it to work.
You’ll have ESP32 boards, Raspberry Pi computers, and all of these components to play with.
Want to experiment with your own hardware? Bring it along!
And, if your concept impresses the Jury, you’ll have a chance to take it to the next level.
Develop your prototype after the event
Building a prototype over the weekend is fun, but turning it into a real product that can be used from the forests of Finland to the deserts of the Sahel? That will take serious know-how.
Great news: you’ll have this know-how at your fingertips. Two winning teams will tap into the technological expertise of Verhaert, a pioneering innovation company. Five days at Verhaert’s amazing lab with the full support of one of the company’s senior engineers – imagine how far you could take your prototype!
Both winning teams will also receive personalized coaching and guidance from Sopra Steria Benelux, a leading technology consultancy firm. With their experience working with militaries around the world, they’ll give you the strategic advice and practical insights you need to refine your project and navigate the path to scalability.
The real deal
To help you succeed, we’ve made this event as real as we can. You’ll work side by side with Belgian soldiers, one per team. They will share their experience with you to help you keep your project grounded in reality, and they will help you present your prototype to the Jury.
Our venue, the Vlasmeer Forward Operating Base, regularly hosts soldiers for training missions. You’ll be greeted by a real drill sergeant, sleep in the real barracks, and we’ve got a few other bits of real military experience in mind for you. Hackathons don’t get more immersive than that!
Battlefield of Things Hackathon is inclusive and diverse. We welcome participants from various backgrounds and with different levels of experience. If you have a different background and aren’t sure if you should join, just drop us a message.
Want to bring a team of friends and colleagues? Great! Just make sure everyone in your team signs up individually, and be ready to welcome new friends to your team.
Meet the experts
We’ve put together a group of outstanding experts who will guide and support you and your teammates throughout the event.
Maxime Pepi is a Civil Engineer with a background in electronics and telecommunications from ULB (Université libre de Bruxelles). His extensive range of skills in the field of embedded electronics and his cross-functional knowledge provide him with a crucial advantage in designing system architectures and creating electronic schematics. This also enables him to lend support in the execution of most disciplines involved.
Alexis Hoge, trained as an Electronics Engineer, has over 6 years of experience in electronic PCB design, specifically in creating schematics, and, most importantly, in PCB layout. Highly proficient in mixed designs, including RF/HF, analog, digital architectures, high-speed signals, and small to medium power supplies. Designing compact PCBs and product integration are tasks familiar to him. He also manages aspects related to component assembly and production implementation.
Nassim Versbraegen has studied Computer Science (M.Sc.) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel with a focus on AI.
He is currently enrolled in a PhD at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, where his research is centred around the genetic origins of rare diseases.
Meet the jury
Two absolutely extraordinary military experts will join our technology experts to decide which two teams will will the event and claim the outstanding prizes: Major-General Jean-Pol Baugnée, Aide de Camp to the King, Commander of the Land Component and one to be confirmed!
Major-General Jean-Pol Baugnée
Jean-Pol Baugnée, Land Component Commander and Aide de Camp to the King, is educated as a polytechnic civil engineer. In addition to his experience in the core business of Defence, i.e. operations and commanding combat units, he has a vast knowledge of acquisition and management of material resources. As head of Land Systems, he used to be responsible for all Defence land equipment, weapon systems and related ammunition.
March 15, Friday
18:00 – 21:00 Arrival at the Vlasmeer base
19:00 Dinner and getting to know each other
March 16, Saturday
9:00 Briefing and ideation
Designing and prototyping
Expert check-in and training breaks
March 17, Sunday
9:00 Work restarts again
15:00 Demos for the Jury
16:30 Official part over;
networking reception and departure
Frequently asked questions
Q: Will I need to buy food while there?
A: No, catering will be provided.
Q: Can I stay at a nearby hotel?
A: No, to really get the full experience we ask that participants stay the night.
Q: Can we join as a team?
A: Yes, that is possible. Individually is fine too, then we match you up with people who have complementary skills.
Q: Can I use my own tools and materials?
A: Of course! We’ll provide plenty of components and sensors and we’ll have some spare tools (such as 3D printers), but if you prefer to use your own tools, be our guest!
Q: Are there separate sleeping facilities for men and women?
A: Yes, there’s a separate – and very spacious – building allocated for women taking part in the event.
Q: Will my dietary needs be met?
A: Yes, vegan/vegetarian/halal other options are available upon request – just indicate your dietary needs during the registration process.
Q: Is there a place to store my stuff securely at the base?
A: Absolutely. Each bed has a locker (do bring along your own lock, please). And, there’s the old armory
Q: What should I bring along?
A: Any of your own tools you’d like to work with, whatever they may be. A sleeping bag and a pillow, a lock for the bedside locker, your toiletries (there’s hot shower, but no towels), and your favorite water bottle of course.
Q: Where will this take place?
A: At the forward operating base (FOB) Vlasmeer, a training camp for the Belgian Military near Leopoldsburg.
Q: How do I get to the base?
A: You can drive there, we have plenty of parking spots. Or, you can take a train to Hasselt where a shuttle bus will pick you up. Shuttle buses depart every 45 minutes and will take 45 minutes to get to the venue.