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Designing a Smart Pantry System

Dominik Sobota, a graduate of DeVry University, is the newest member of our Research and Development team. For his senior project at DeVry, Dominik contributed to the technical design and implementation of smart pantry system that utilizes Raspberry Pi3 and Python for real-time inventory tracking. The paper was presented at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

The concept of the Smart Pantry would allow the average consumer to both keep track of inventory and use automation to retrieve items in a pantry. Today, there are some smart refrigerators on the market that can keep track of inventory via pictures that can be sent to a smartphone. There are also some smart pantries that have motor-driven shelves to more easily access food. But there is no system that can both track inventory and automate item retrieval.

"One of the challenges we encountered was finding a device to capture and translate the barcode into numeric values," said Sobota. "Our first attempt was to utilize a Raspberry Pi Camera. While we were able to obtain fantastic selfies, the barcode translation was not as successful. The solution was a USB barcode hand scanner that provided a numerical translation instantaneously."

The final project design for the Smart Pantry allows users to scan an item, such as a bag of chips, and add the item to a specific physical location, like the top shelf of a panty. The information is stored in a database on a microcontroller. To find the item, the user can use a touchscreen display that can be accessed from a smartphone application. Once selected, the motor control system will then drive the carousel to the location in which the item is stored.

In addition to the item retrieval system, the Smart Pantry also allows users to generate grocery lists and more easily track item expiration dates.

"Using home automation to better understand food inventory, including item expiration dates, will eventually help us reduce the amount of food waste produced by a household," said Sobota.

The ASEE was founded in 1893 with the intention of furthering education in engineering. The non-profit organization encourages increased student enrollment in engineering programs and provides support and training for engineering faculty members.

Dominik recently joined Contemporary Controls as an Associate Software Engineer to help with product development and testing. Visit ASEE to read the full Smart Pantry System paper.


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