O’zapft is! Beer mugs become part of the Internet of Things

Costumes, rides and beer tents - all things that await visitors to the Oktoberfest in Munich. In the future, overhearing terms such as Arduino, Spark Core or REST should come as no surprise to anyone there. That’s because the Internet of Things has reached the Oktoberfest. Two hackers are there to test a home-made networked beer stein.




When most people think of networked things, they think of refrigerators, machines or parking spaces. @gy4nt thought of the Oktoberfest and beer. Together with @tamberg, he set out to connect a beer mug with the Internet and then test his solution under the most extreme of conditions - Oktoberfest. The two hackers documented their progress over the course of two years in a specially created blog called, #OktoberfestOfThings.



The early drafts more or less consisted of an iPhone adapter for a beer mug. Using a laser cutter, the two hackers cut the appropriate pieces to size. The only thing missing was an app to calculate the beer-level in the mug – using data from the integrated acceleration sensor in the smartphone – and automatically order a refill as it approached empty. "Users were worried that they might lose their iPhone. That’s why we didn't pursue the concepy any further," explains @tamberg.



For another propotype, the hackers used an Arduino Nano, an acceleration sensor, a tilt switch and a Bluetooth module. To install the hardware on the beer mug and protect it against moisture, the hackers attached it using a home-made iPhone adapter. A Bluetooth connected phone acts as a gateway and transfers the measurement data from the acceleration sensor to the Xively IoT platform (then known under the name Cosm).


The hackers aren't quite satisfied yet – which is why, on September 18th, there will be a Hack-Day on the premesis of FabLab München e.V. The particular focus will be on the Spark Core, an Arduino-like board with Wifi, and @tamberg has already designed a suitable adapter. Limmat, a 3G-based Web to Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) gateway will also be tested, in conjunction with SensorTag from TI, for its Oktoberfest-worthiness. Which technology wins out in the end is less important for the hackers. "It's more about a fun way of introducing people to this new technology," said @tamberg.



The fact that @gy4nt and @tamberg have already had success gives us a look into the community. For some time already, the networked beer mug hasn’t been the only focus of #OktoberfestOfThings enthusiasts. Hybris Labs have built, for example, a table with networked beer coasters. Using pressure sensors, the smart beer table detects how often a mug is raised for a drink and, based on this, calculates the current beer-level. Also, the hacker party tent could soon live up to its name. That’s because the community is already discussing how information such as temperature, humidity and sound level in party tents can be recorded and transmitted.


On that note: A toast to the #OktoberfestOfThings!


P. S. If you’re not familiar with Oktoberfest vocabulary, check out the Oxford Words blog for 18 essential German words and phrases for Oktoberfest.



Tags: Internet of Things , Arduino , Spark Core , Limmat , Oktoberfest of Things , REST , Bluetooth

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