Article | Guy Brown

Alexa, when’s the next Tonic?

We built a headless website for our events

We got to work with some headless tech ahead of the Birmingham Tech Week. Here’s what we’ve been up to…

Last year in November we launched our first ever event in the Tonic series, and we’ve been running them quarterly since. With October approaching, so is the 4th Tonic instalment (in support of Birmingham Tech Week), and we felt it was time for it to have its own home somewhere on the internet.

Our main site is powered by Episerver 11 however, as the Tonic site is relatively small and we love playing around with new technologies at Freestyle, we decided to try something different for this one.

For the CMS we choose the headless CMS Contentful. Being headless, Contentful allows us to build lots of different apps which all feed from the same datasource. Totally overkill but that’s not the point 


The goal we set ourselves was to build:

  • The website
  • An Alexa Skill
  • An iOS / Android app
  • An iWatch/Android Watch app

And allow for future tech to be integrated to support future events...

Jules UI mock Jpeg-min.jpg

How we did it

The website is built on top of Contentful using React and Node.js. It holds all the information about forthcoming and previous events with details and bios of speakers along with the ability to register for future events.

Since we love Microsoft technologies, we decided to build the mobile apps using Xamarin and host the website on Azure.

The iOS / Android app is a native mobile app version of the site. Yes, the site is mobile responsive and yes we could have built it as a Single Page Application but playing around with Xamarin is fun ;D. Being a native app will allow us to add features and integrations such as image upload and recognition, voice and other fun features that we’ll add to support our future events.

The iWatch/Android Watch app will allow you to check on upcoming events and provide reminders and notifications for events.

For the Alexa Skill, the current version allows you to ask it when the next event is and we’ll be adding features such as asking it for speaker line ups and so on.

Amazon have also just launched a new AWS DeepLens that is available in the UK. It’s already on the way to our office so expect to see some fun AI DeepLens based integration into future events!

And if you want to buy your own AWS DeepLens, click here:

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