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John Wang
March 29, 2017
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Hackathon Apps Highlight the Value of New RingCentral Team Messaging APIs

tadhack winners

Having just unveiled RingCentral team messaging APIs as part of our open platform for collaborative communications, we got a chance to showcase their power at TADHack, an event that brings together businesses, developers, non-coders, and anyone else interested in integrating business communications into their applications or services to solve local and global issues.  We wanted to see what developers would do with our team messaging APIs for RingCentral Glip, including the use of our bot developer kits.

First prize of $3,000 went to Justin Haefner of Minnesota for his Elder Connected Care project, which uses a team messaging conversation to gather all the communication threads for family members collaborating with healthcare providers on the care of a loved one. Justin used the new RingCentral messaging APIs in combination with the RingCentral APIs for voicemail, SMS, and fax. His app detects incoming messages and posts them, along with voice recording and fax image files, to a team conversation that all family members caring for a loved one can participate in. Written in Python and hosted on Amazon AWS, the app also includes an SMS-based user management feature, enabling participants to easily add and remove individuals (such as temporary care providers) from the conversations.

Justin is a collaboration architect attending Enterprise Connect on behalf of a major medical-device manufacturer in Minnesota. He had no previous experience with RingCentral—let alone its APIs—prior to the event, and this was his first time participating in a hackathon of any sort. The idea for the app came partly from his professional knowledge of the healthcare industry, but more from his personal experience of working with his siblings to communicate with the Veterans Administration to get their father the proper medical care.  As Justin said, “One of the challenges for families is keeping track of all the different communications they receive, including those they get on the phone or via fax — and who even has a fax machine anymore?” Yet fax remains an important mode of communication, especially in healthcare, and RingCentral’s platform supports a single number for all communications, including fax, integrated with team messaging for collaboration between family members and healthcare providers.

What I love about the app Justin built is that it’s a real use case for medical care, something that thousands of families deal with every day.

Having had the idea in the back of his mind for a while, Justin said, “I wanted to see if I could hack at it over a weekend, what could I do?” What he accomplished is impressive given that he is relatively new to programming and prototyping— most of his professional experience as an IT administrator has been focusing on infrastructure.

We’re thrilled that he chose and successfully built his app on our platform. To ease development Justin commented, “I originally thought I might do something with three or four different vendors, but RingCentral had all the components I needed.”

One of the more ambitious scenarios he tackled was on-demand access to nurses who would be a resource to answer questions in real time – sort of an Uber for nurses. He used Amazon DynamoDB to simulate the system that would track which nurses were available for a consultation. A family member who needed help to explain a fax from a doctor could send an SMS message to the on-demand consultation service, and automatically invite him or her to join the conversation in RingCentral – creating the user account through the API. The nurse could then review the document shared in the conversation, answer any questions the family had, and leave the conversation when the consultation was finished

Given more time, Justin said he would have liked to make the process of adding and removing the temporary user accounts work with a bot in the context of the team conversation. However, he ran out of time to get the feature deployed and opted to use our SMS API as an option.

The team of John Li and Ian Thomas won the $1,000 second place prize for a customer service convergence app designed to minimize the amount of personal information customers need to provide over the phone. In their demo, the user’s experience with the customer service agent is anchored in a team conversation where the agent can converse with a bot with requests such as “next customer” to get details on the next customer in the queue, or “talking points” to get suggestions of topics to mention in the discussion, pulled from company CRM and marketing experiences. Rather than asking for credit card information over the phone, the company can send an SMS message to the consumer, containing a link they can use to complete the transaction.

John and Ian used our new team messaging bot APIs to create a conversational user interface within the team messaging solution that could also send messages out of band using the SMS API. John Li said he is an experienced Android developer but has never done quite this kind of programming before. He said, “it required some trial and error” but he was able to successfully build the program in a short amount of time.

Third prize, $300, went to a South American team who participated remotely; Germán Goldenstein, Rafael Viscarra, and Fernando Vasquez.  Their Telemergency Line envisioned a mobile panic button users can press to get access to emergency services via RingCentral calling.

I’d like to congratulate the winners and thank everyone for participating in TADHack with us. The amazing apps that came out of TADHack are inspiring and just the beginning of all the possibilities with the ability to integrate team messaging and communications to create a true collaborative and unified experience for everyone. Please join us as we embark on making RingCentral team messaging the core of extensible connected communications and collaboration.