There’s An App For That: How Delegates Nominated President Obama Using 56 PCs

Mark Drapeau (Charlotte, NC) —

When the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) needed an app that convention delegates could use to vote for their next Presidential nominee, Microsoft helped provide a solution. Partnering with San Diego-based InterKnowlogy, they designed, developed, and deployed an app that was used on the floor of the Time Warner Cable Center in Charlotte, NC to nominate President Barack Obama for a second term as President. Here’s what the final result looked like:

I’ve been on the ground in Charlotte with the joint Microsoft-InterKnowlogy team in charge of this project since last Friday, the day after the Republican National Convention ended in Tampa, FL. There’s a lot more here than meets the eye. Besides the actual process of working with the DNCC’s tech leads to scope out and design the app, deploying it at the convention was non-trivial. Here’s a little behind-the-scenes.

There are 56 states and territories/special groupings which bring delegates to the convention, and thus, 56 different groups that each needed their own app for their “delegate chairs” (leaders) to cast the votes. That means the team needed 56 PCs each running an instance of the app, distributed around a large auditorium on 56 stands with 56 Internet connections. And they all needed to work simultaneously in a single moment for an event of enormous proportions.

The team did it. From finding a way to charge 56 laptop batteries at the same time to employing a group of roughly 20 walkie-talkie-rigged volunteers as “runners” to move and test computers all over the convention hall to working with DNCC officials on Tuesday and Wednesday nights for different votes, everything went without a hitch.

Here’s some photos of the team working behind the scenes:

A sneak peek of the app on an Interknowlogy computer.

A Microsoft employee sets up the app on a training run before the start of the convention.

The CEO of InterKnowlogy demos the voting app for a CNN cameraman.

A delegate practices using the voting app.

This is what charging 56 laptops simultaneously looks like.

The joint Microsoft-Interknowlogy team that got the job done, including the Microsoft Office of Civic Innovation’s Phil West (second from left) and Lamont Harrington (far right).

Why build this at all? Why, because Microsoft is the Democratic National Convention’s official innovation provider, that’s why.

“It’s just a great example of how technology plays a key role when it comes to conventions and how things have advanced,” related Fred Humphries, Microsoft’s vice president for U.S. government affairs. Our efforts “build on what we’ve done and continue our commitment as a corporate citizen.”

Below are some screen shots of the app, which was built with Windows 8, touch, and tablets in mind for future applications. If you’re interested in learning more, Interknowlogy has information about their app on their website. You can also see more photos on Publicyte’s Pinterest board.

Dr. Mark Drapeau is the Director of Innovative Engagement (Public Sector) for Microsoft, based in Washington, DC. Follow his convention coverage at @cheeky_geeky and @publicyte.

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