Smarter Sustainable World Challenge winners demonstrate solutions to reduce ecological footprint

Smarter Sustainable World Challenge

Hackster challenge winners use Nordic Thingy:53 prototyping platform’s sensors and Bluetooth LE connectivity

A smart water tap leakage controller, a vertical self-regulating soilless farm, and a sustainable irrigation automation platform have been named as the winners of a design challenge supported and sponsored by Nordic Semiconductor.

The Smarter Sustainable World Challenge with Nordic Semiconductor—launched in conjunction with hardware education community, (an Avnet company)—called upon participants to plan, design, and prototype cutting-edge solutions that reduce humanity’s ecological footprint. Over the four-month contest period, 468 participants from 63 representative countries joined the contest, with 50 final qualified submissions.

Multi-sensor IoT prototyping

Participants were provided with Nordic Thingy:53 multiprotocol prototyping platforms to help realize their innovative ideas. The Nordic Thingy:53 is an easy-to-use, battery-powered, multi-sensor IoT prototyping platform based on Nordic’s nRF5340 dual-core Bluetooth 5.3 SoC. With integrated sensors for motion, sound, light, and environmental factors, Thingy:53 is an ideal platform for building Proofs-of-Concept (PoC) and developing new prototypes in a very short timeframe without building custom hardware. It also offers embedded machine learning (ML) directly on the device, powered by Edge Impulse.

Nordic Semiconductor congratulates all the winners and participants of the Smarter Sustainable World Challenge for their dedication to sustainability innovation and their impressive ability to take advantage of the Thingy:53 prototyping platform
Bjørn Spockeli, Nordic Semiconductor

A jury of experts consisting of Nordic and Edge Impulse staff members declared Elijah Maluleke from South Africa, Mateusz Pająk from Poland, and the ‘AgroNordic’ team from Mexico the winners of the Smarter Sustainable World Challenge. The winners receive a share of a $3,000 prize pool.

The overall winner, Elijah Maluleke, created a smart water tap leakage controller that automatically closes a valve whenever there is an abnormal flow of water through the water tap. The IoT device communicates the gathered water usage information to the tap owner and monitors daily water usage of the tap on which it is installed. Maluleke showcased the final installation at a local farm.

With limited resources available in the rural context, the judges were impressed with this accomplishment from a hardware and software development perspective. The simple prototype has great commercialization and impact potential, the judges said, as it is applicable to all the water taps in the world. Moreover, the affordable solution can be implemented in under-developed regions.

Mateusz Pająk created a vertical self-regulating soilless farm built to fight the food storage crisis and achieve maximum yield with the power of the IoT, as well as control engineering for the application of soilless vertical farming. The project takes advantage of the environmental sensing and ML capabilities of the Thingy:53 – a board Pająk describes as “perfect for low power environmental sensing.”

The judges were impressed by the technical detail and feasibility of the prototype—including the CAD renderings and 3D printed parts to maximize airflow, the maximized density of crop placement, the software ‘stack’ provided and the thorough documentation—which they said could certainly be scaled to make an impact on food production capability.

The AgroNordic team comprising Luis Eduardo Arevalo Oliver, Victor Altamirano, and Alejandro Sanchez created a sustainable irrigation automation platform with predictive analysis that addresses urban farming and crop health. It provides the community with a complete solution that could be used out of the box. The team built a full software stack including all sensors and the Thingy:53, as well as connectivity to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud platform and a web-based dashboard to view the status of all components and crops.

The judges were impressed by the project’s water usage reduction capability, as well as the source code availability and the extensive and well-written project documentation.

Sustainability innovation

“Nordic Semiconductor congratulates all the winners and participants of the Smarter Sustainable World Challenge for their dedication to sustainability innovation and their impressive ability to take advantage of the Thingy:53 prototyping platform,” says Bjørn Spockeli, Senior Project Manager, Nordic Semiconductor, and a member of the challenge expert jury, alongside Robin M. Saltnes, Senior Product Marketing Engineer, Nordic Semiconductor.

Nordic’s support of this challenge showcases the company’s ongoing commitment to supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, while at the same time continuing to monitor and improve its own carbon footprint.