WIRED on coffee, sunspots and mbed controllers

October 26, 2012

The Brewery venue in East London last night played host to the science, culture and technology event of the year: WIRED 2012. And pumping at the heart of the inspirational Test Lab showcase was… our Connected Coffee Machine demo.

We wanted people to be able to play with real world objects and environments being sensed and actuated, and build a Web of Things™ application within seconds with a simple drag and drop workflow interface. Plus use the EVRYTHNG software Engine to give digital identities to physical things and even make coffee with it’s own social life online!

Wired demo

People seemed really into it and fascinated by the idea of activating sensors by increasing the temperature (with a portable hair dryer 😉 ) or light exposure, combined with thresholds like the volume of #wired2012 hashtag tweets, to trigger real-world actions like making a cup of coffee.

They also had fun ‘checking in’ to one of our QR/NFC-enabled packs of coffee, using their smartphone and Twitter ID, as part of the workflow, which meant that the coffee machine would not only serve them an early evening caffeine hit, but also take a photo of their specific cup of coffee and tweet it instantly.

For those of you who speak fluent geek, here’s our CTO’s tech lowdown:

In this demo we connected:

  • A bunch of SunSPOTs, which are wireless sensors communicating over IEEE 802.15.4 with an Internet gateway that monitored temperature, vibration and changes in light levels.
  • A “hacked” coffee machine connected and actuated by an ARM mbed embedded computer.
  • A webcam pushing pictures on demand to our platform.
  • Packs of coffee packaged with unique QR codes and NFC tags that can be read by most Smartphones.

The key point of the demo is that all these objects are connected to the EVRYTHNG engine through our RESTful API and that they can either push or retrieve short JSON messages.

To illustrate how creating applications like this one is just two clicks away, we adapted a Javascript mashup tool called Clickscript to communicate with our APIs.

Wired connected coffee machine demo twitter workflow

The result being that by scanning the coffee pack (QR/NFC) and activating the sensor (SunSPOT) you can trigger the coffee machine (mbed) to make you a coffee.

From a tech point of view the coffee demo illustrated that the EVRYTHNG Engine can not only connect products to the Web, but all kinds of smarter devices, using Active Digital Identities™ to connect them all.

Wired connected coffee machine demo

Judging by the crowds and reactions, the demo was a great success. And a lot of fun to do. Although we were all hoarse by the end of the night from competing against the music PA speaker four feet away from the stand.

We also learned a lot as I think we were overly ambitious with the demo and tried to showcase too many concepts with too many moving parts, considering the number of people we had to keep showing it to. So we’re already working on ideas for the next conference demo, with the ‘just enough is more’ mantra in our heads.

Right, that’s enough blogging for one day, it’s time for my morning Web-connected, tweetable semi-skimmed, mocha choca latte.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andy Hobsbawm

Andy Hobsbawm

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