Upping the Game

Suteja Kanuri and Tanuj Khator, Master of Technology in Software Engineering intern students, have proved to be key assets for Singapore sports entertainment company ActionX.

A zombie­-infested obstacle course is not an obvious project subject for students of NUS-­ISS's Master of Technology in Software Engineering (MTech SE).

However, that was exactly what Suteja Kanuri, Tanuj Khator, and six of their coursemates (Xu Minsheng, Charan Teja M., Achyut Suresh Rao, Liu XinZhuo, Xie Jiabao, Avishek Kar Deb Barman), found themselves working on when they began their internship at ActionX, an independent Singapore sports entertainment company that organises interactive runs worldwide. The company stages the world’s best known zombie run – Run for Your Lives – where participants assume the role of either a survivor or a zombie on a nerve-jangling five-kilometre obstacle course.

The NUS-­ISS graduates were tasked by ActionX to devise a software app and management tool that would deliver a step change in the management of the successful sports run.

Said Edmund Shen, Technology Consultant at ActionX, and supervisor to the interns, “In addition to their technical knowhow, the MTech SE students were able to bring a fresh perspective to the table, which was something that we really wanted to tap into via NUS­-ISS’s internship programme. We were really keen for them to help us come up with creative ways to improve our existing business organisation.”

Having operated Run For Your Lives events in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand for over three years, the ActionX team were aware of several key areas for improvement that they wanted the two students to focus on.

The company knew its large-scale events, which attract upwards of 5,000 participants, were labour- and logistics-intensive and that this fed directly into higher costs. Having big working teams also meant that communication and information flows tended to be poor, resulting in slow response times and less than perfect decision making.

The giant scale of the runs also limited direct contact with customers.

“There were a range of issues we needed to address – and additionally, we realised that the majority of our engagement with customers happened during the event itself,’ said Edmund. ‘Without the pre-­ and post­-event engagement, customer retention and word-of-mouth referral has been limited and not what we wanted it to be.”

So, when Suteja Kanuri and Tanuj Khator sat down with Edmund and his team from August to November in 2015, they began by drilling into the detail of the issues before brainstorming solutions.

Four months later, and after many evenings working late into the night, ActionX emerged with a suite of prototype software that looks set to deliver improvements the company had long wanted.

Participant Mobile App is a one­stop solution for participants to browse, interact, digitise their experience and ‘gamify’ the event; Staff Mobile App replaces the manual daytime operations to achieve better information flow and communication; while Web App is a new portal for real-time monitoring of the runs, enabling the event organisers to make better and more responsive decisions in areas such as medical response, contingency action and operational chokepoints.

With the development of these applications, the organisers can for the first time track a participant or staff member, communicate seamlessly in the field with the command centre, monitor and manage the events centrally, and most importantly, prevent long queues at the check-in counters and baggage management centres.

Critically, the new platforms have allowed ActionX staff to overcome all the key issues flagged at the start of the process.

“Collaboration with the NUS-ISS students has really worked well for us. The next step for us is to continue developing the prototype with more advanced technology such as RFID, augmented reality and Internet of Things, to improve it further. On the horizon, we are even thinking of taking this solution beyond our own events, making it available to the whole industry,” Edmund shared.

Both Suteja and Tanuj view their ActionX experience as giving them a golden opportunity to use their software engineering skills to good effect in the commercial world. The internship has also allowed them to build areas of expertise that were not specifically covered during classroom lectures – both on the ‘soft’ and technical ‘hard’ side.

This was particularly the case for the ‘soft’ side, where Suteja and Tanuj had to put their negotiation skills to practice and learn the importance of teamwork and maintaining good relations at all times. As far as the ‘hard’ side was concerned, they got to acquire domain knowledge of the sports industry, learn more about the key role prototyping plays, and hone existing skillsets on android and .net and the integration of the two in delivering seamless data flow.

And the biggest takeaway from their time at ActionX?  

“It was the satisfaction of getting the software up and running, learning and applying project management skills, and the hands-on experience with the entire system’s development lifecycle, were all really important. But, most of all, the sponsors’ reaction was the best. Yes, they were happy!” Suteja and Tanuj said in agreement.

The NUS-ISS Master of Technology in Software Engineering programme emphasises understanding and exploitation of advanced technologies and management disciplines. It focuses on the practical and systematic construction of software solutions, using innovation.

Application for the January 2017 intake is now open. For more information, click here