Building an A2P Ecosystem, Line Bot Awards

LINE BOT AWARDSOn Saturday, March 18, the winners of the “LINE BOT AWARDS” were announced. 815 entries were whittled down to just 24 teams who completed for the Grand Prix prize of 10 million yen, about $90,000 USD. At TADHack Global we get about 200 entries over one weekend, its comparing apples and oranges a little as its easier to find the time to submit an entry over several months, than just one weekend, but 815 entries clearly shows the LINE BOT Awards were big!

Last year we ran TADHack-mini Japan. I was impressed with the quality and creativity of Japanese developers. TADHack-minis normally run just before big conferences, for example we just ran TADHack-mini Orlando before Enterprise Connect. This year we are planning a Japan location as part of TADHack Global. TADHack Global is the massive annual event (about 2500-3000 registrations) celebrating developers, technology, creativity, and of course programmable telecoms.

Hackathons are a great way to raise awareness of your technology or services; get people thinking about how your technology / services can help solve the problems we all face in everyday lives; and can with the right design build a vibrant local or global ecosystem. And this is what the LINE BOT AWARDS is all about getting people thinking about how LINE can help solve real-world problems, with a focus on BOTs and IoT.

As LINE’s business model continues to move from penetration (dominating person to person messaging) to monetization using A2P (application to person – that is communication between applications (e.g. a bot or a business) and people). The move to A2P is not simply engage a lever and making money, there is a considerable period of time required to build the A2P ecosystem. That is penetration of people’s minds on the opportunities LINE provides, and building a vibrant ecosystem of technology partners and developers to support these opportunities.

The overall winner of the $90k prize was &HAND (AND Hand). This used a bluetooth Beacon to enable people to ask for help locally using LINE. We’ve had similar localized support hacks, for example from the husband and wife team at TADHack-mini Chicago. Hack ‘Samaritan’ by Charles Solar and Jiang Shuyang used Matrix and Flowroute resources, for a platform independent app which allows users to post requests for help “I got a flat tire!”” or “My computer crashed!” and allows others to call / text / video chat with them to solve their problem.

Some of the other hacks included:

  • NAVITIME won the $9k Microsoft Prize. You can use the transit guide as a chat session.
  • Mitchy was created by Team AL, University of Tokyo graduate students, and won the student prize of $9k. It is a way to ask questions anonymously of the teacher. When I give presentations in Japan, encouraging people to ask questions can be tough. This addresses an important local social issue. Just like TADHack-mini Japan winner Tardy Support by Hironori Fukamachi did last year. Being late for work or school is stressful, on the train you can not make a call. Instead you can have a call made on your behalf. This hack mashed up Telestax with Tropo. Its a hack quite specific to Japanese culture.
  • Encode Ring won the start-up award. If you hear a sound of music you like, you can send it by voice message to Encode Ring, then design and purchase a ring of that sound / music.
  • The lifestyle award was won by Yamato Transport. A LINE bot for enquiries and redelivery of packages.
  • Snowy Mountain Bot uses a beacon to alert friends when they are in the same location at a ski resort, e.g. when queuing for the lift.
  • The GEEK category prize is a bot “Shakure” – using LINE to share pictures at an event, think of it as a moderated location based album. I think Google, Amazon and all the telco personal cloud offers should be implementing that immediately!

We’ve seen many similar hacks at TADHack over the years, but for LINE the hacks are a by-product, their focus is primarily building a vibrant Japanese ecosystem for their platform. Developers in Japan now see LINE as an important tool for bots and IoT (Internet of things) applications. Given my experience with TADHack around the world and in Japan, I must commend LINE on the excellent progress its making in building a vibrant Japanese A2P ecosystem.