Rot Bot is a smart container designed to store your fruits, tell you when the best time to eat them is, and when to compost them.
Rot Bot knows as soon as you put an apple into it and will tell you how many more days you have to eat it, before it goes bad. When the count gets down to 4 days or less, Rot Bot will send you a text reminding you that you have food in your refrigerator. If you wait too long and your apple gets overripe, you’ll get another text message telling you to compost your rotten fruit.
The Rot Bot interface is deceptively simple. All the user can see is a wooden base with an LCD screen embedded into it, and a clear plastic container with a lid attached to the top. An air quality sensor pokes up from the bottom right corner of the container. A photocell is barely visible in the center of the container’s bottom. The inner workings of the product are more complicated. The photocell detects whether or not there is a fruit in the container at all; if there isn’t, it prompts the LCD screen to read ‘Nothing in here!’ If there is a fruit in the container, the photocell triggers the air quality sensor, which then tells the LCD which message to display. If the level of CO2 is low, it reads ‘Eat me!’, if the CO2 level is mid-range, it reads ‘Eat me soon!’, and if it is high, it reads ‘Compost me!’. The first two messages are coupled with the amount of days left to eat the fruit. The number of days left is calculated beforehand (for example, it takes apples an average of 36 days in the fridge to go bad) and every 24 hours, 1 day is subtracted from the display. The air quality sensor is also what triggers a text message to the user. When the CO2 level is mid-range, the user gets a text reminding them they have food in the refrigerator, and when the CO2 level is high, they get a text that tells them to compost their food.
Detecting the air quality/the level of CO2 in the container worked very well. When the CO2 level was low, the ‘air quality’ level was also low, and vice versa. We were also able to get the photocell and LCD screen to work very reliably. Our biggest issue was connecting to Wifi and sending a text message. We used Temboo (a service that offers generated code and has one specifically for sending SMS) in conjunction with Twilio (a service that gives you a free phone number).
The next steps for this projects would likely be to figure out a more reliable way to get information to the user instead of texting (or emailing) them, and to create a more solid working prototype. We would have to brainstorm different ways of sending and receiving information, but some concrete steps we could take towards improving the prototype would be making the bottom half out of opaque plastic instead of wood (for better functionality in a refrigerator), adding more permanent holes for the sensors and battery, and a more airtight seal around the whole container.