Haas Team Wins 2014 Tech Challenge

Haas’ own team won the 4th Annual Haas Tech Challenge for its proposed system to alert drivers in advance to an available parking spot, ending the frustrating cycle of circling to find a space.

The winning Berkeley-Haas team included Amrit Acharya, MBA 16; Babar Khan, MBA 16; Nate Chang, EWMBA 17; and Tomer Poran, MBA 16.

Kellogg took second place, and UCLA placed third, in the Nov. 7-8 case competition, which is run by the Haas Technology Club.

The competition challenged eight teams to submit proposals related to the Internet of Things (IoT), which relies on connecting computing devices – anything from a mobile phone to a car to a washing machine – to the existing Internet infrastructure.

The students say these connected sensors could also be used as a springboard for other ideas.

Drivers could use digital currency earned through carpooling to bid and reserve parking spots. Data collected on foot and vehicle traffic in the downtown could be used to design more intelligent advertising and retail store placement. And developers could use the overall data platform to create new solutions to improve lighting, public safety and pollution levels.

Tech Challenge co-sponsors include Intel Corp., Dell, and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Kirsten Billhardt, a Dell marketing strategist in IoT and a competition judge, said the Haas team responded well to a study by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency that found drivers seeking parking account for 30 percent of the city’s traffic. “Their solution of showing citizens where parking was available would not only save individuals time, but would reduce overall congestion,” Billhardt wrote on her blog.

Haas Dean Rich Lyons welcomed students to the event after they arrived, encouraging them to network and follow up on connections they made.

“Although our team submitted our proposal by midnight, we were up till 3 in the morning practicing our pitches in front of Café Strada and the law school in the cold until we knew them by heart,” Acharya says.

All teams relied on a combination of what they’d learned in class in information and communications technology, urban planning, water resource management, and transportation to build their cases. “The students were able to bring an impressive depth of knowledge to their proposals,” says Haas Assistant Professor Thomas Lee, an event organizer.

Left to right: Babar Kahn, Nate Chang, Tomer Poran, Amrit Acharya