IoT in the Kitchen?

This idea just struck me today evening. This is in close heels to the IoT usage with the gas cylinder post that I had done a few weeks ago.

Problem to be solved: Get an accurate state of groceries that is stocked in the kitchen and potentially order them (online?). This is a very common task that is done on a fairly regular basis in most households (typically on the day when ‘monthly shopping’ is done,

Initial setup/infrastructure:

  • All grocery items to be stocked in identical pre-calibrated clear jars.
  • Item stored in the jar is bar-coded.
  • Threshold for ordering is to be set initially – by a sticker or using marker pens.



  • User invokes a smart phone app.
  • Snaps a picture of the shelf with the stacked clear containers.
  • App automatically figures out the jars with groceries lesser than the threshold set by the user.
  • The details of what is stored in the jar is obtained from the bar code.
  • User either adds the list of items to buy to his to-do list (Google keep? Wunderlist?) – or – directly adds it to his grocery list on the Bigbasket app.

Bigbasket? Zopnow? Anybody listening?

One IoT app that I want right now ..

After I wrote the Google I/O post that I wrote today, I got ready and drove down to work. And while I was driving down, I was thinking about one immediate IoT application that I want

Disclaimer: This may be specific to Indian users.

trolley For those who have not seen this picture on the left, this is a Gas Cylinder trolley with an integrated weighing scale. Several brands market them now (including Pigeon, from where I took the picture from). It serves two purposes. Check if the cylinder is full, when delivered – there was a time when there were some agencies scamming the consumer by delivering half full cylinders). The second purpose was to know when the cylinder was close to getting over – before it actually got over (the weight of an empty cylinder canister is published information). 

My dream IoT app would connect this trolley to the online refill booking system of my gas cylinder supplier. Typically it takes time for the distributor to deliver the cylinder. The app would continually track the usage of the cylinder and the wait time of the distributor and order appropriately such that I get the new cylinder close to the day when my cylinder gets over.



Google and IoT – Brillo and Weave


The thing that caught my attention in yesterdays Google I/O conference was the new (renewed?) focus on IoT. And this time, it looked like Google went back to basics. Back to the drawing boards. I like this idea. The Internet of Things (IoT) is not something that is going to be a fad and move into oblivion or mainstream in a few years and forgotten about. It is something that is going to grow over time. There will be an ecosystem around it. It will get smarter. It will become more pervasive. And it is going to stay for a long time.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is not something that is going to be a fad and move into oblivion or mainstream in a few years and forgotten about. It is something that is going to grow over time. There will be an ecosystem around it. It will get smarter. It will become more pervasive. And it is going to stay for a long time. The applications are many. From smarter homes to smarter public transportation systems. From cleaner cities to more energy optimization. From personal convenience (sometimes bordering on creepy?) to mainstream production. From retail to manufacturing. Everywhere. And here is where I get to make an almost sci-fi’ish statement – “Here is where machines will talk to each other.”

For this to happen, the basics need to be right. Almost like how Android started.

Google has introduced Project Brillo, which it claims to be the operating system for the IoT. It is a low-level layer of Android which can be ’embedded’ into the machines that are going to be part of the eco-system. These could be your Nest thermostat, smart LED bulbs, or in the future – smart ovens, smart refrigerators, smart dead-bolts (door locks) etc.

The second part of the puzzle is a standard communication protocol by which these machines will talk to each other. Google introduced a new protocol called “Weave”. (Somehow these names also seem refreshing opposed to IEEE 455.34 or something similar). The weave protocol will be a standardized protocol, which will enable any machine to talk to another machine, or to a phone, or to the internet — which is pretty  much the internet of things. This where the magic happens. This is how your phone and your car will tell your coffee maker to start brewing and tell your thermostat to warm your living room, when you are 5 minutes from reaching your home.

Google is also going to be starting a Weave certification, so that third party product manufacturers can make weave ready products. This opens up the ecosystem that I was talking about. Guys like WeMo and Belkin will jump on to the bandwagon first. And then more common-place companies like the Black and Deckers. And then in parallel, the Fords and GMs.

I am liking this world now.

image src: arstechnica

IoE and Retail

I read an article by Mala Anand (@malaAnandCisco) of Cisco on how Internet of Everything (IoE) can be harnessed for retail, and that got me thinking. This is another of those dream product posts that I occasionally write (dream-write?). There may be overlaps in some of the things that Mala had used, but this here post is my interpretation 🙂

My definition of IoE or IoT is the system where multiple devices capable of collecting, transmitting, and/or processing data, are interconnected towards achieving a specific result.

Let us take retail as an example, for the case of this blog post.

As you walk into the door, apps from your mobile phone could communicate to the store about the list of things that you are looking for. Perhaps at a high level, you walk into a super-store such as Star Bazaar in India, or Walmart in the US, and your intention is to buy some groceries and perhaps a dress for your nephew. One of these things could be done:

  • Your to-buy list could be transmitted to a central unit, which could dispatch a human personnel to you to guide you through buying your dress.
  • The store central unit sends the directions to your app indicating where the items you intending purchasing are stocked. It is worth mentioning here, that stores tend to keep changing their locations. So without the latest directions, you could be searching for a while.
  • If you have a long list of grocery items, the central system could guide the phone in your app to an optimized route.
  • If you have taken a shopping cart/trolley, the central system could now talk to a display on the trolley and guide you.
  • And ofcourse, let us toss in a bit of capitalism in here, judging you by your past behaviors, the system could ‘surreptitiously’ guide you to some items that you did not have on our list, but you crave/wish for. And ofcourse give you some deals while at it, to persuade you to buy it.
  • The system could also help you keep you within a budget – money-wise and time-wise.

And hey, while you were still at home, creating your to-buy list, your refrigerator could have let you know the status of milk and other staples at home, and if you need to purchase any.

While at the store, let us shift away from the customer experience, and move towards how it could potentially help the store itself.

  • Based on the sensors that could detect weather (current and predictions), the store manager could get data on if he should be stocking up on related items such as umbrellas, suntan lotion etc, and if he should be putting them up in the center aisles.
  • The temperature sensors could also optimally adjust the thermostats and lighting (this is already done by NEST kind of devices)
  • Stock inventory (weight sensors on the shelves) and Resource deployment could also be updated based on connected devices in the store.
  • Billing lines could be avoided – the connected devices would have calculated the bill, gotten the buyers approval and charged the credit card or deducted from an online wallet.
  • Connected cleaning agents such as robotized roombas could help clean the stores in co-ordination with the other systems in the store.
  • Connected cameras could potentially infer demographics of the customers visiting the stores. Example – Retired folks in a Target at St.Petersburg, Tampa would probably not be needing baseball bats and specialized soccer equipment. Golf clubs might be a better idea to stock.

These are some of the ideas that came up, off the top of my mind. But the Internet of Things is a very interesting subject and even though, much of it is made of dreams, there are promising directions that companies are headed towards, which makes all of these dreams potentially feasible in the not so distant future.