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News Release

Four Computer Science Majors Win 'Best iOS Hack' at USC Hackathon

San Diego, Calif., Nov. 19, 2014 -- Four computer science undergraduate students won the best iOS Hack at the HackSC competition organized by the University of Southern California Nov. 7 to 9.  Josh Anatalio, Noah Martin, Lawrence Luk and Alvin Ho created an app called ezTouch, which allows users to lock and unlock one or more remote Mac computers using an iPhone’s fingerprint scanner.

Pictured (l-r) Anatalio, Martin, Luk and Ho.

HackSC aims to “empower hackers to learn and explore new technologies through hands-on development and experience.”

The team arrived in Los Angeles with no preconceived notion about the type of application they wanted to develop. After a brainstorming session, Anatalio and his colleagues came up with idea.  

“At HackSC, my teammates and I created a really cool application,” said Anatalio, the iOS software developer, after the hackathon. “It was especially great because we got the attention of Apple engineers and recruiters.”

“We developed the iPhone remote application in Swift to let users scan their fingerprint, communicate with our server, and securely lock or unlock their computer,” said Anatalio.  

In addition to Swift, the developers used other tools, including Sketch and TouchID. Noah Martin designed and implemented the Mac application for OSX in Objective-C; Lawrence Luk managed and created the server using Ruby on Rails to handle communication between the iOS and the Mac app; and Alvin Ho created the design for the iOS and Mac app, while also implementing the user interface for the iOS app and designing the artwork for both applications. Luk also created ezTouch’s website at www.eztouch.me.


The team was one of only 13 teams entered to compete on Apple platforms. Most other teams competed on Android. The UC San Diego were also among the teams that were able to complete their apps before the deadline. By the end of the hackathon, Apple awarded Anatalio and his teammates with the “Best iOS Hack” award.

Instead of cash prizes, HackSC gave out tech prizes to help participants develop bigger and better hacks going forward. The Apple Hack award included support from Apple staff.

The team members all had experiences with hackathons prior to HackSC, but it was still an intense experience. “It involved roughly 12 to 15 hours of actual coding, plus time for breaks and sleep because the 36-hour challenge ended at 9am on Sunday,” explained Anatalio. “But having entered previous hackathons definitely gave us an edge. It was a lot of fun, but the most fun was winning.”

Looking to the future, Anatalio says the team is still working on the app, particularly on the security side (which was not required under the hackathon rules). They hope to complete the app, and perhaps sell it, by the end of 2015.

Media Contacts

Doug Ramsey
Jacobs School of Engineering