First IBM France Sparkathon a winning success

Portfolio Marketing Manager - Big Data & Analytics, IBM France

Apache Spark enthusiasts converged at the grand finale of the IBM Sparkathon held in October 2016 during IBM Business Connect in the prestigious Carrousel du Louvre in Paris, France. These data scientists, developers and marketers had accepted a 60-day virtual challenge to “outthink the frontiers of client insights.” They gathered at Carrousel du Louvre for the culminating moment of the challenge. 

Participants were asked to build an application prototype to harness the power of Spark on the IBM Bluemix platform. In particular, they were asked to give a bank an augmented customer insight of clients, individuals or companies to help improve the customer experience or the service offer.

Winnowing entrants

By 18 October 2016, more than 20 individual projects had been posted on the Sparkathon web platform, and the best three were selected to participate at the grand finale. The three finalist teams each had just five minutes to present their hacks to the judges, a panel of chief management officers (CMOs) to CIOs to lab directors from business and technology sectors and experts in business, economic development, IT and research.

Nicolas Sekkaki, general manager, IBM France, said, “This Sparkathon is an expression of the complementarity between banking, open source technologies such as Spark and the innovative ideas of a new generation of developers. This open development approach, based on collaboration among different types of profiles, promotes innovation and brings value to companies to differentiate.” 

Olivier Klein, CEO at BRED, joined Sekkaki on stage to present the top prize, a trip to San Francisco to visit the IBM Spark Technology Center. The award went to two data scientists for their project, Prisme: Thomas Larrieu, who is pursuing a PhD in economics and statistics at Ecole Polytechnique, and Florent Laval, a graduate in economics and statistics from Toulouse School of Economics. 

Winning prototype

Prisme is an application prototype for bank financial advisors that aggregates relevant data—structured and unstrucutured—from disparate sources using Spark machine learning, IBM Watson application programming interfaces (APIs) and Cloud Data Services capabilities from Bluemix. In addition, it serves as a personalized interface for user profiles—mono client and large account, multiuser or multiple accounts and midmarket to one user—with collaborative functions. Prisme also provides alerts on company life events, news and financials, and it can predict client needs and recommend products and services based on company-like-me modeling. IBM and BRED were very enthusiastic about the winning project and encouraged the winners to continue the development of their project in direct collaboration with developers from IBM and BRED.

“The Sparkathon is an excellent example of co-innovation,” says Klien. It “allows BRED to increase its capacity for innovation by collaborating with players in its ecosystem of providers, suppliers, clients, employees and students… and by pooling the know-how of each—a way to increase competitiveness and create more value. This makes it possible to build and offer new products and services faster and better.”

Watch edited highlights from the event (in French). Larrieu and Laval are expected to visit San Francisco and the Spark Technology Center in April 2017.

Be sure to register for Spark Summit East 2017, 7–9 February 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts.