‘The Internet of Everything’, the concept of embedding physical objects (tools, vehicles, buildings etc) with technology and connecting them to the internet, is swiftly becoming an intrinsic facet of our modern world.

Examples range from a toothbrush that can tell your smartphone how well you’re brushing your teeth, to sensors within aircraft engines, which monitor data and faults and share them in real time.

It is this growing ubiquity of the Internet of Everything (aka the ‘Internet of Things’) that led eight teams of undergraduates to Cisco’s UK headquarters on 11 February, ready to compete in the grand final of the Switch-Up Challenge.

Cisco, pioneers of networking technology for over 30 years, launched the Switch-Up Challenge in partnership with GTI Recruiting Solutions in September 2015. The competition is aimed at UK university students, and tasks them with devising an innovative mechanism that can tackle a social or environmental issue by using the Internet of Everything.

Teams of three to five students from across the UK were then invited to submit a project plan for their device, for the chance to win a place in the Final and have their idea reviewed before a panel of judges. The prize for the winning team is a week-long trip to Cisco’s global headquarters in San Jose, California.

The overall winner of the competition was Imperialists_SK − three first-year students from Imperial College, studying for respective Masters in electronic and information engineering, computing and biomedical engineering.

They impressed the jury with their project, ‘Wells’. Wells consists of two components: a ‘smart cap’, which can fit any standard plastic bottle, and a smartphone app. When using the Wells app, the user is provided with a recommended water intake for the day, based on their personal metrics. Sensors in the cap subsequently measure the amount of water that flows out through its seal, whereupon data is collected and displayed via the app. The user can see their progress and receive notifications reminding them to follow the recommended intake.

The runner-up was the team Creative Innovators of the Empire, also from Imperial College. The students came up with a device that enables accurate pollutant trends to be shared in real time.

In third position was the University of Bath’s Gorgon, who wished to tackle food waste through a system that prompts users by reminding them of the product expiry date.

‘I was blown away by the young talent we have across the UK Universities,’ said Phil Smith, Chief Executive, Cisco Systems UK & Ireland, and part of the judging panel.

‘All the ideas and breadth of knowledge presented on the day were excellent. It was a really well organised unique event and I am looking forward to the next one.’

Martin Ferianc from winners Imperialists_SK was delighted:

‘My first thoughts when we applied to the CISCO Switch-up Challenge were that we didn’t stand a chance against presumably older students. Nevertheless, CISCO inspired us and enabled us to present our idea in front of senior representatives, who gave us an amazing feedback. I personally learned how to better cooperate with my teammates, develop real-world project management skills and, in addition, have a lot of fun with my friends. With many more ideas sourcing from the Switch-up Challenge, we are now strongly motivated to continue the project beyond the competition.’

The Switch-Up Challenge is also being run by Cisco’s Poland office, with the Final taking place in Krakow on 3 March.

To be considered for next year’s Challenge, please email: switchupchallenge.external@external.cisco.com or visit the Switch-Up Challenge homepage for more details.