Hackathon and the Digital Pantry of the Future

This weekend I participated in my first hackathon. If you don’t know, a hackathon is some sort of technology competition (usually) where people get together and make whatever they want (sometimes) in 24 hours (usually). Sometimes hackathons are different, maybe based around a specific goal or lasting 48 hours, but this one was free form and 24 hours.

This hackathon is called hackpoly and it’s hosted by the business college at Cal Poly Pomona. It is the first CPP hackathon, but it went quite smoothly. They had great speakers from Space-X and the startup, At The Pool, and after the speeches, the hacking began. 18 teams competed diligently to get their idea off the ground and very few people slept.

I was particularly excited about my team’s project. I was on a team with 3 senior computer science/engineering majors and we had a very ambitious goal. We wanted to create a system that keeps track of what food you have in your kitchen and suggests recipes that you can make with what you have. I would write the iPhone app, Garrett would write the Windows Phone app, Alex would write the Android app, and Steven would write the cloud service and a basic website. To at least some extent, we did all of these things. At the end, the iPhone app and Windows Phone app were at about the same place and had most of the basic functionality in place. The cloud service was also functional at a basic level.

I consider this a huge success. We got a lot done and we realize just how much potential our idea has.

Here’s the idea in a little more detail. The mobile app let’s you put food items from your kitchen into the app by typing them in or by scanning the barcode. The app then sends this data to our cloud server, the cloud server retrieves recipes from the amazing food2fork website, then you see these recipes that you can make with the food you have. To bring this idea into the modern age, we will also be developing a range of different hardware devices which keep track of your different food items and send that information directly to our cloud and back down to your mobile device. For example, a device could keep track of how much milk you have or when your spices have run out. This data would be immediately updated in the apps and website so you would always have an accurate list of recipes to make. Of course there are many times when you have almost enough to make a certain recipe. Say you have all the spices and vegetables to make a popular chicken curry recipe, but you don’t have chicken. The app will suggest that you can make this recipe if you buy some chicken.

I think that having this complete loop of hardware that automatically tracks your food inventory and software that tells you what you can make with it is the perfect combination for the home cook. This is the future of the kitchen.

We will be finishing the software in the next few months and then developing the hardware, likely starting with an internet connected spice rack.

Oh and by the way, we like won hackpoly and stuff. We got first place, as well as the “best use of food2fork” award since they were a sponsor.

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