DisplayCabinet is the output of 24 hours with Tim Burrell Saward and Dan Williams “connecting up our things to the web, our environments to our things, and our things to us” as part of the Pachube Internet of Things Hackathon.
What we did.
The aim of our project was to tackle turning data into information that’s easy to digest and act upon. We set out to avoid screens that draw focus and create a prototype “calm” projected display for the data created by, for and about the people, products and services that can be found in and around the home.
How we did it.
We embedded a group of inanimate ornamental objects with RFID tags. Totems or avatars that represent either people, products or services. We also added RFID tags to a set of house keys and a wallet. Functional things that you carry with you. This group of objects combine with a set of shelves containing a hidden projector and RFID reader to become DisplayCabinet.
How it works.
By default DisplayCabinet shows a small ring of light on the table below. When an object is placed into the ring it expands to show the information relevant to the thing they represent.
Your house keys become an overview for your home. Energy consumed, current cost of energy per day, broadband allowance used and simple weather. It also serves as the screen that displays any scheduled alerts or important information relating to other items on the shelf. The bins need to be emptied and Mr Cuddles, the household pet is out and there’s something wrong with the fridge.
The fridge is showing that the temperature isn’t quite right and that the energy consumption is lower than usual. It’s also showing that the milk is low which could easily be based on the weight of the milk container in the fridge door. The message that the sausages go off tomorrow is really a hat tip to something that Chris Heathcote offered up recently in that services like Ocado print the sell by dates of the food you order on the receipt. This information is in a database somewhere so it’s no real stretch of the imagination to link that up to your fridge to create an internet fridge that doesn’t have a gigantic touch screen on the front of it.
Placing the little tube train on the table shows you the status of the tube lines…
and placing the bus on the table displays your local bus stops and the buses that are due to arrive.
Your wallet could display data from your online bank and show your balance, income, outgoings and combine that with data from your Oyster. Total balance, journeys made, stations visited and total distance covered.
Totems for people could show the location of their last geotagged tweet, comment, photo or check-in and show feeds from their social networks, which in this case is Twitter.
It’s far from perfect but this is just the beginning. It’s sketching in hardware and I have a tiny confession to make. The information being displayed isn’t live but I really don’t think that matters because it’s very much an early prototype. A day one prototype even and the choices we made were based on actual data that could be taken from Pachube and other APIs. Given a bit more time, some additional hackery and a few asks this project would be pretty much fully functional.
I’m really happy that DisplayCabinet was received very well by the other hackers even though it’s a design hack and not a technical hack. It won a prize too. A GPRS router and a year of data courtesy of Arkessa! Not bad for your first hack day.
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