3rd Annual 'Call for Code' Yields Promising Front Runners

Last month, the sponsors of this year's Call for Code Global Challenge expanded the scope of the event beyond its original focus on solutions that address the impact of climate change to include solutions that mitigate the impact of global pandemics. Last week, they threw a spotlight on three promising front runners on this new second track with solutions that have the potential to contribute to the COVID-19 response efforts.

The 2020 Challenge also includes a dedicated University Edition through a partnership that began last year with the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U). More than 10,000 students participated last year.

IBM senior vice president Bob Lord and Chelsea Clinton, chair of the Clinton Foundation, featured the current three top solutions in a video presentation during last week's IBM Think 2020 online conference. "We really do need reasons for optimism right now," Clinton said. "And these are just extraordinary reasons to be optimistic about our resilience and what we can prove to be possible, while still recognizing the deep and painful challenges that we're in."

The solutions highlighted during the presentation included:

  • Are you Well? This mobile app was designed and developed by an India-based team from global design company Altran,which is headquartered in Paris, to relieve overtaxed medical systems by helping individuals evaluate their own symptoms before they get to the hospital. The mobile app combines a smart phone with IBM's Watson Assistant and connects to a global dashboard, which then assigns cases high-, medium-, or low-risk levels (based on thresholds set by the healthcare provider), and then connect them with medical professionals.
  • CovidImpact. This solution was designed to reduce the financial impact of COVID-19 on small businesses. Created by a team of University of British Columbia graduates from Canada, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, and Mexico, CovidImpact combines IBM Watson Tone Analyzer with IBM ILOG CPLEX to provide a predictive assessment that forecasts risk levels for a business and curates personalized programs and tips to reduce oncoming financial threats. It also projects a real-time list of sentiment analysis-parsed news articles relevant to small business owners from all major outlets
  • Safe Queue. Safe Queue, created by Dave Chura, a developer in Los Angeles, is a community-driven mobile app that aims to replace physical lines at shopping centers, small businesses, and polling places with on-demand virtual lines. The idea is to enable a safer way to manage entry during the pandemic. The solution uses GPS location data to create a virtual queue of those within 1,000 feet of a location, which allows employees to control the queue digitally and validate entry with a randomly generated QR code for each customer. This solution builds on IBM Cloud Foundry for Web app hosting, HERE technologies for geolocation, and IBM Cloudant to store data.

Created by David Clark Cause with Founding Partner IBM, and in partnership with the United Nations Human Rights and The Linux Foundation, Call for Code is among the largest "tech-for-good" challenges of its kind. In 2019, more than 180,000 participants from 165 countries responded to the call, creating more than 5,000 applications focused on natural disaster preparedness and relief, the company says. This year more than 300,000 developers and problem solvers across 168 countries signed up for the Challenge.

Health insurance provider Anthem became a Challenge supporter this year, committing to jointly deploying one of the top solutions from the COVID challenge track.

"After we expanded the focus of this year's competition to include COVID-19, the response has been tremendous," said Dennis Bly, global offering manager for academic developers at IBM, who leads IBM's global university engagement for Call for Code, in an earlier interview "In just under a month, we already have 45,000 participants from 146 countries and growing, who are actively working on solutions to help address the COVID-19 response and climate change."

Challenge participants are building applications on open source software provided by IBM, including Red Hat OpenShift, IBM Cloud, IBM Watson, IBM Blockchain, and data from The Weather Company.

The grand prize for this year's Global Call for Code Challenge is $200,000, plus solution implementation through Code and Response and an opportunity for mentorship and investment in the solution. First and second runners up receive $25,000; third and fourth receive $10,000. The University Edition grand prize is $10,000 dispersed equally across the team, and each student team member will have the opportunity to interview for a potential job at IBM. The runners up also get an interview.

Submissions are being accepted through July 31st.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].