Ahmad Rana's Engineering Log

Projects: Delicatessen






Engineering Log

Embedded Talks





Inventor: Sal

As they say in Pothohar, you can cook a frog, but you can’t teach it how to cook. With Delicatessen, you don’t need a frog that can cook. Not only will it tell you exactly how to prepare a dish, but also completely take over the kitchen management function. This includes pantry inventory management and meals scheduling (according to daily nutrition requirements and variation to avoid monotony). It will also give you a shopping list based on current inventory in the pantry when you go for weekly groceries. With a device like this, who needs a …… er …… frog?!?

Hardware Block Diagram:

Bill of Materials:

·        Speakers (an audio amplifier was required in the winter competition, so it might be required here too) – From winter contest project.

·        Touchscreen + LCD display – From winter contest project.

·        Mini-PCI WiFi card – From winter contest project.

·        AIMB-212 computer board – To be provided by Microsoft.

·        Logitech Digital Pen with USB interface – From a previous project.

·        Force transducers (strain gages) x 5 to measure weight for different jars containing food items (like Pasta, Rice, Mung Daal etc) @$6 each from Sparkfun, plus signal conditioning circuitry (operational amplifiers LM324 x 5 and resistors for making wheatstone bridge amplifier for force transducers), approx @$15 – total $45

·        Speech recognition module from Sparkfun - $60

·        Arduino board/ ATmega328 microcontroller with 8 analog-to-digital converter channels for processing analog inputs from transducers – From winter contest.

·        Connecting wires and connectors (including cradle) – From previous projects.

·        Network Printer – Already connected to the home network.

Functional Overview:

.NET framework will be used for software to implement the functionality. A database will be implemented to track the pantry inventory. For items which cannot be counted (like rice, pasta, mung daal), force sensors will be used to measure their weight. If the inventory is running low, the device will notify the user. Notification will also be provided for items which have expired (very important for lazy people like me, who will eat anything in the refrigerator which is not moving). The device will also deplete the inventory in the database by subtracting from the database the contents of recipe being prepared, and add to the database once they have been checked on the grocery list.

The audio directions for the recipes, along with pictures and/ or video of how to prepare the meal will be shown on the LCD. The users can acknowledge the directions via a GUI on touch-screen, or if their hands are full, using audio instructions which will be interpreted by the speech recognition module. A scheduler will be implemented for meals depending upon the meals prepared during the day (to cater for daily nutrition requirements) and week (to avoid repetition and make the weekly selection more interesting), or time of the year (to comply with availability of ingredients of the meal in grocery stores).

If the inventory has been depleted beyond a certain level, the item will be included in the shopping list. A printout of the shopping list of items running low will be sent to the printer on the network to be printed in a special format. A Logitech digital pen will be used to mark off the items bought on this shopping list. Once this pen is hooked back to the device, the contents of the pantry inventory will automatically be updated. Functionality will also be provided to check off items on the shopping list from touch-screen, so that the user can take the device along for groceries, and use it instead of the digital pen. A cradle or other electrical interface will be provided so that it is easy to disconnect it from the weight sensors in pantry.

A user interface will be provided to add new recipes (along with pictures, video, audio instructions and information about nutrition value and contents required to prepare a meal). This will be implemented through an http server or an ftp server running on the device, so that the user does not have to connect a keyboard to the embedded device and connect remotely through a computer on the same network.

Target Market:

The target market is mainly consumers who do not specialize in cooking and home management, and don’t have the skills to maintain a kitchen. More specifically, men like me who would buy cake, whipped cream and bear, but easily forget to buy essentials like bread and eggs on their weekly trip to the grocery store. However, it can easily be deployed in small restaurants by dropping features like recipe instructions (since that sort of expertise is provided by the chef). Certain alterations may be needed, such as additional features like tracking statistics on the dishes prepared, number of customers etc can be provided to better plan the logistics for inventory and seating arrangement for guests by predicting busy periods during the week.

Justification for an Embedded Solution for the Project:

An embedded solution with enough CPU power is required for this project, so that it can be conveniently moved around and brought along when doing groceries. Moreover, it does not take the space required for a desktop on the kitchen counter, saving much needed space in small kitchens. The processor chosen for this project, i.e. Intel Atom operating at 1.6GHz used in AIMB-212 board provides just the right computational power, but at the same time, has minimal power footprint for processors in this category.