Project SOAK: winning Australian Imagine Cup finals


Novelty boarding pass. Photo credit: Jordan Knight

For the last couple of months I’ve been involved with a small group of students (David Burela, Edward Hooper, Dimaz Pramudya) in Melbourne to participate in Microsoft’s worldwide Imagine Cup Software Design contest for students and our hard work has finally paid off today when we were judged out of four finalists as the Australian Imagine Cup winner to compete at the world finals in France early July.

I’ve only had a couple of hours sleep today so I’ll just share with you briefly what our project is about.

SOAK which stands for “Smart Operational Agriculture toolKit” is an integrated hardware and softwares platform that aims to help farmers make the most of the water (and other) resources on their land. It does this through an integration of a wide range of sensors which gathers data about the environment in real time, provide rich visual information to end-user about the status of the farm, and electronically controls various systems such as sprinklers.

None of the individual components are exceptionally revolutionary, but it’s the integration that we deliver that separates SOAK from other traditional systems.

For example by gathering online weather forecasts about the property, if the weather is predicted to rain in the next 48 hours and the current soil moisture is adequate till then, our system can conserve water usage by not watering before the rain falls. Also as a precaution, is the rainfall is inadequate, the watering system will resume operations to compensate for the difference.

Obligatory screen teasers:

For the main administrative interface we built a web application with a mashup of Windows Live Maps and Silverlight 2.0 overlaid on top.

Of course I couldn’t miss a good opportunity to whip up some Vista Sidebar gadgets.

My team partner David has a bit more detail and documentations about the project. I’ll keep everyone updated with how we go at the world finals in Paris.

Update: Australian PC Magazine has just published a very insightful story on our project and the competition.

Update 2: We’ve also won the world finals. You can read about the whole Imagine Cup journey here.

48 insightful thoughts

  1. Awesome work Long and team. I competed in the first Imagine Cup and went to the finals a few years back. I destinctly remember working so hard that our team nearly collapsed due to lack of sleep after our presentation.

    Long and team, keep up the great work…and if any of you ever want to think about joining MS definitely follow up with me.

    Congrats!

  2. Hey,
    Long good work on the finals. I guesss you already know that…since I said that to you yesterday…at the competition…good design you didn’t put up a picture of ur sprinkler! Bust of luck in Paris…go Australia!

    P.S. I found your blog.

  3. That black MS shirt is nice.
    About the project, great idea, but do you think online weather firecasts will be more accurate than sensors?

  4. @xaml:
    Aren’t online weather forecasts averaged over a general area? By that I mean they publish the average weather for a particular zip code or region. Sensors would be more accurate in small areas. That is, of course, if I’m right about the online weather being an average.
    @Long Zheng:
    How much would a system like this cost to install and maintain for 10 years? (USD)

  5. @xaml: Weather forecasts are not more accurate than sensors, but it’s used to predict the future. Our sensors cannot sense when rain is coming and how much will fall, so we have to rely on third party data to make that prediction.

    @Chustar: This is a very lightweight software/server package that runs on standard off-the-shelf PCs. As long as it’s running, this is running. In addition, we consulted with an engineer and he said he could build an all-in-one solar powered wireless sensor for $100 each. Very very affordable technology.

  6. Congratilations! A really great project. I also could imagine how usefull this would be for our garden. SOAK home edition could help to manage the stored rainwater…

    Your project really reminds me of the early Longhorn Avalon scenario videos. Great!

  7. This is cool. Its kinda similar to what the India finals winners did. Just kinda. They use sensors for agricultural purposes but to do different things. I ought to know. I came second 😛
    Looking forward to meeting Team SOAK in France. I’ll be there for the Interop award :)
    PS: Why does the guy on the extreme left look a whole load like you? 😛 Are you coming to with team SOAK by any chance? 😛

  8. Oh cool, the interop award finalists have to just attend the finals. No presentation work 😛 I guess we could meet then :)
    SOAK looks really good btw. Good luck at the finals!

  9. Didn’t I tell you all along that you guys would win it? Ok.. not all along.. at least since we talked after you guys made it to the top 12 😛
    Congratulations :) Where’s the party? 😛

  10. Well done Guys! What a fantastic achievement.
    I’m doing an Innovation research paper on the diffusion of new products to the Australian agricultural community and would like to use SOAK as an example of innovative new tools available to farmers. (if thats cool with you!)
    Also, how do you plan to get the word on the street? Are farmers willing to adopt this new technology?
    Any information helps with the bigger picture.
    Much obliged,
    Lis :-)

  11. Well done guys! u r such an inspiration.
    i’m a student, doing my bachelor degree (computer science engineering) and willing to do something like u guys have done but don’t know HOW?. Actually , i don’t have proper guidence .i think i have pottential and i want u to help me out.I want to do something for my country and for myself. I would be greatful to u if u will help me in exploring my pottential.
    u have really achived somthing big.
    KEEP IT UP GUYS!

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