Based on the notion of the “Internet of Things” whereby inanimate objects respond to sensors to form an internet-like structure, RC4 created a collaboration to put this hot topic to work. A university collaboration among Electrical Science and Computer Science researchers as well as a Ryerson spin-off company, this project is creating a Smart Kitchen — starting with a smart, internet-connected coffee maker. The main objective was to enable a simple, store bought coffee maker to respond to sensory data and perform based on person’s preferences, profile and their physical location. Alexandre Doubov and Mustafa Juwait, RC4 Electrical Engineering Researchers explain the process they went through to finalize the first phase of this project. More smart appliances to come!
Steps to Creating a Smart Coffee Maker
as told by RC4 Electrical Engineering Research Assistants, Alexandre Doubov and Mustafa Juwait
Controlling the coffee maker remotely was our first task, which required; (a) a way to communicate with the appliance, and (b) ability to manage the power being used by the machine without physically pressing any buttons or prompts.
To solve our objectives outlined in step one, we determined that we would require an Arduino micro-controller and the Arduino-compatible WiFi shield. We updated the firmware to enable connectivity, which took a few days on our end to troubleshoot and determine exactly why the system was not reacting as planned.
To control the power flow remotely, an electrical relay was triggered by the micro-controller. The relay was chosen based on two constraints imposed by the input and output of the micro-controller, voltage and the amount of current that the relay could control.
To power the Arduino, a 110V AC to 9V DC adapter was used, which was wired into the power cord of the coffee maker. Both the relay and the power adapter were hidden inside the coffee maker.
Once all the electrical and mechanical issues were resolved, we began working on the web interface, with controls for status updates, the user’s location and control buttons for turning the coffee maker on/off. We also implemented logic that sends out status updates only when there has been a change in one of the status parameters i.e. location, preferences. This approach uses very little server resources.
At this point, if a person tries to connect to the coffee maker using the web interface, their location will be verified. The permission to control the device is based on whether a user is within an RC4 geo-fenced zone.
Now that the we’ve proven that the coffee machine can be controlled remotely, we’d like to work with Computer Science Engineering Researchers at RC4 to build an Android app which additional functionality and a user-friendly interface. Additionally, we’d like to add more appliances to the network, proving the Internet of Things and the capabilities of Smart Kitchens.