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Can we find new ways to use sensor technology?

At Norse we carry out internal experiments a few times a year. We come together in interdisciplinary groups in order to learn and experiment together. Our experiments contribute to both increased learning across disciplines and help strengthen our company culture.

Disruptive Technologies is a company in our parent company Norselab’s portfolio. DT has developed small, wireless sensors that can be placed almost anywhere.

We are lucky enough to have a test kit in our office, containing three different sensors that are capable of measuring temperature, proximity and touch. More sensors are available from DT.

One of our groups set out to find new ways to use sensor technology and figured; what’s better than experimenting on how the sensors could help us in the office?

Disruptive Tech's temperature sensor

Here’s how it went:

We started by testing how the sensors worked, and placed sensors on the coffee maker (a MoccaMaster) and inside the dishwasher. On the coffee maker we placed a temperature sensor on the water pipe for it to detect when the water was heated. In the dishwasher we placed a temperature sensor inside for it to detect when it was at its warmest (this way we could make a rule for signals to be sent when the temperature was decreasing to get notified when it was ready to be emptied). We also placed a proximity sensor that detects when the door of the dishwasher is being opened/closed, which didn’t work as the doors are opened and closed constantly.

Digitising the «kitchen week»:

At Norse we have weeks where we are responsible for keeping the office in order. This means that each week two of us have special responsibility to make coffee in the morning, and oversee that our office is tidy and clean. Before, we have manually made a physical list that is placed in a visible place. With this experiment we wanted to make the sensors (who send signals through a cloud connector) talk with Slack, the tool we use for our day-to-day communications. This way, the person responsible is tagged in a Slack-channel called #kitchenweek whenever the coffee maker is nearly done (coffee needs to be transferred to a coffee pot to stay fresh!) and when the dishwasher needs emptying.

Temperature sensor placed on the coffee makers in our office

The Kitchen Bot

We call this thing «the Kitchen bot», and we’ve given it a helpful and cheeky personality, which we hope will motivate the people who are on kitchen duty in addition of reminding them of tasks to remember throughout the week. The bot sends messages like: «Hey! Looks like the coffee is nearly done ☕️ Do you know how a tech guy drink coffee? … By installing java!» (we are not taking credit for this joke).

The kitchen bot sends motivational notifications to the people on kitchen duty

In technical terms...

  • Data Connections sends events to Cloud Functions in Firebase
  • Firebase compares temperatures in previous entries to determine if the coffee or dishwasher are read
  • Post from the bot with Slack’s node-API

Did you know...

... the world's first web camera was invented in 1991 to overlook a coffee maker? Scientists at Cambridge University wanted to see when the coffee was ready - without having to leave their desks!