The Blind Ambition

by Sarah Huether


Definition of blind ambition: The act of blocking out everything else around oneself in order to achieve what seems impossible.

Embodiment: Ahmet Ustunel

A Turkish-native with a life-long connection to water, Ahmet had a dream to be the first blind man to cross the Bosporus Strait, a body of water connecting Asia and Europe, solo by kayak. He had received the 2017 Holman Prize, entitled “Blind Ambition” to fund his dream, but he needed connected technology to help guide him on the nearly 2.5-mile journey.

“If you can help, why wouldn’t you?” This was the first thought Marty Stone, a volunteer with HACEMOS, had when Ahmet approached him last year. Having volunteered with HACEMOS for more than 6 years, Marty had experience creating solutions for adaptive sports, including Mr. Beep, a connected technology tailored for rowers that uses a series of audio buzzers that fit on the rower’s shoulder and beep to notify them to paddle left, right or straight.

Ahmet learned of Marty’s work in the local news and knew he was the man for the job. Chris Penrose, President of Internet of Things Solutions heard of Marty’s involvement and knew the Foundry was the place to make it happen.

James Yu, a principal product engineer at the AT&T Foundry in Houston worked with Marty on developing the navigational code to guide Ahmet. They evolved the Mr. Beep technology Marty created and added voice capabilities. The system uses a small keyboard with braille stickers which helped Ahmet start the system navigation, obtain information on heading and speed, and save trip data.

And to keep Ahmet’s friends and family informed of his progress, the Foundry also built a cloud-based navigational dashboard utilizing our DataFlow IoT platform to chart Ahmet’s journey in near-real time.

With these two at the helm, dozens of volunteers and employees from the Foundries and the HACEMOS ERG volunteered to help in various ways, from solution design, build, test, and technology refinement all the way to being on hand and on site the day of the event to help out.

“This was just the start.”

“This has been right up there with graduating college and getting married,” said Marty of the experience. But Ahmet and Marty’s time together isn’t over.

Ahmet’s current plans are to paddle solo from the south of Turkey to the north of Cyprus – about 60 miles – in 2019.

“I’ll keep working with Marty,” Ahmet said. “We just had a lessons-learned talk and he’ll keep improving the device for this project and for other blind people. It’ll be a good open source device.”


IoT for Good


AT&T is committed to creating IoT solutions to address global challenges and engage citizens for the greater good. See how we are powering change for others below and learn more about Ahmet and HACEMOS in this blog by Chris Penrose.

Near-Blind Marathoner Runs with Help of AT&T Powered Tech

AT&T and Hanger Create Industry-First, Network-Connected Device for Prosthetic Limbs

AT&T is using our IoT expertise to address significant social and environmental challenges to create meaningful, lasting benefits for our world. As part of this commitment, we’re working through our Foundries and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to help empower people, like Ahmet. We’re also working with our customers to reduce carbon emissions and use the Internet of Things (IoT) for Good, by connecting everything from trucks, to farm equipment, to city infrastructure and more. IoT for Good is just one way we are working to create a better, more sustainable world. More information on AT&T’s social and environmental sustainability initiatives is available at



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