I was looking for a smaller, hardware-focused security conference to attend this year for some networking and learning opportunities and when I found out about https://hardwear.io/ it sounded absolutely perfect.
In addition to the typical talks and presentations, they mentioned several networking opportunities during the conference, along with a unique pre-conference online networking matchup to already have some connections when you arrive! I took advantage of this and ended up in contact with someone I have now run into at numerous other conferences and events. The lunches and coffee breaks were also filled with excellent conversation! The schedule left plenty of time for that among the talks.
The talks were all excellent, from the keynotes down to all of the individual speakers. The highlight was a talk from Sick Codes on his John Deere hacking adventures which was followed with a DEF CON talk later that year with a farm modded version of Doom running on the platform.
I can't pass up a good hardware hacking challenge and the CTF was absolutely excellent. It covered a wide range of topics in an engaging way including: microsoldering, automotive, signal captures, reverse engineering unpopulated PCBs, door access controls, NFC lockpicking, and more. I was in first a couple of times near the end of the first day, but a huge morning push by a couple of the teams got them past me. I ended up taking 3rd place by myself as a hobbyist against two teams of professionals and in addition to the planned 3rd place items I was given a special prize for highest solo score of a PicoEMP which I am definitely looking forward to experimenting with.
Overall, it was an excellent conference with some of the friendliest, most engaged people, and one I would highly recommend to anyone interested in the deep details of hardware hacking.