Here’s a fun Internet fact: Did you know that the first ever webcam was used to monitor an office coffee pot? In 1991, scientists at University of Cambridge aimed a camera at the coffee pot in their “Trojan Room” so they could see whether it contained any caffeinated goodness from the comfort of their computers. In 1993, they made this feed available online and the streaming webcam was born.
Somewhat following in the footsteps of Internet legends, David Taylor – a software engineer at Foursquare – took on a similar project. The plan was to connect the company’s coffee machine to a network so that he could monitor the office’s brewing habits. According to Laughing Squid, “The hacked system, which utilizes an Electric Imp microcontroller, monitors brews as they commence and end, sending a message to the office’s Slack coffee chat room, and compiles hourly and weekly brewing trends.”
But beyond simply regaling the web with tales of his technical prowess, Taylor decided to do everyone one better and actually laid out his entire process for technically-minded desk jockeys to repeat his project in their own place of employment.
His first step seems to be the most ingenious: Figuring out how to determine just when the machine was brewing and when it wasn’t. To solve that conundrum, he determined that “monitoring the little red light that is lit when it is brewing” would be the easiest method since it was “completely external” from the machine and all the hot water inside. “It seemed like it should be easy enough to sense the light’s output with a cheap and simple photoresistor,” he wrote.
From there, it’s as easy as being a master of computer coding. Simple, right? All the data from his project then gets spit into a Google Spreadsheet Form, which can then be transformed into some pretty slick graphs.
So what did Taylor learn? Well, Foursquare seems to have two major coffee brewing spikes: one at 8am and one at 10am.
And what did we learn? Well, it seems like software engineers at Foursquare have way to much downtime in their workday.