Since its launch earlier this year, Cisco’s Toronto Innovation Centre has become a busy place! It’s where we come together with partners and customers to discuss challenges19, explore possibilities and imagine the future today through digital transformation. The Innovation Centre is also a place of experimentation and inspiration. That was demonstrated in spades on the weekend of Nov 18-20 when, together with our innovation partner TD, we co-hosted FINHACKs – an IoT hackathon for FinTech – and 150 post-secondary students came together for a weekend of big thinking and to compete for $10,000 in prizes. Their mission: to devise and create software and hardware solutions that enhances customer experiences and facilitates financial transactions, by merging IoT and financial technologies.
Students from Canadian post-secondary institutions including University of Waterloo, University of Toronto, Ryerson and University of British Columbia, collaborated in teams to deliver a working Minimal Viable Product (MVP) prototype, under the following mandates:

  • To help customers make better everyday purchases and/or longer term financial decisions;
  • To bridge customers’ financial worlds with the expanding network of connected devices at home, in transit, and at work; and,
  • To better service customers in digital and physical domains.


28 teams registered on Friday night, and after almost 40 hours of intense work, 10 finalist groups presented their solutions Sunday morning to a panel of judges: Paul Semak, vice-president of Central Canada Sales for Cisco; Helen Kontozopoulos, director and co-founder of Global Smartweek and the University of Toronto Computer Science Innovation Lab; and Jeff Martin, senior vice-president and chief technology officer at TD.

After much consideration, the Top 3 winners were announced:

  • 1stPlace: University of Waterloo/Queen’s University – TD Strip: an Internet connected device that connects to a bank account and visually displays, through a series of lights, how close someone is to their savings goal. The benefits of motivating children to save, in particular, helped propel this idea to the top of the list.
  • 2ndPlace: Sheridan College – Dept. of Missing Semicolons: a proximity-based person-to-person payment app which makes it easy for people to send each other small transaction amounts.
  • 3rdPlace: University of Waterloo/Conestoga College – NanoHack: a tool using Physical Web and Web Bluetooth technologies to make banking at physical branches more convenient by offering proximity-driven apps to reduce wait time, attract new customers and incentivize feedback of service quality.

For me, it was fascinating to witness first-hand future experts demonstrating what they’re capable of with limited resources (and time). It’s an eye-opening experience and I encourage my industry colleagues to attend a hackathon not only to see some
impressive skills at work, but also to interact with the future drivers of digital transformation.

Thanks to our partners TD and Hackworks! And congratulations to the winners and to everyone who participated in FINHACKs – the future is in great hands!



Wayne Cuervo

Director of Innovation

Cisco Canada