Seniors from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology have cooked up a project that signals the end of the shopping list as we know it. Their Senior Design project, the Smart Kitchen Inventory Management System (SKIM), provides home chefs or industrial kitchen managers alike a high-tech platform for keeping track of everything in the kitchen - so they don’t have to.
SKIM works using a system of bar code sensors placed wherever inventoried items are stored, from the wine rack to the pantry to the deep freezer. Every time an item is removed or replaced, it is scanned and this information is relayed to a database on a wirelessly-enabled tablet computer. When an item leaves a unit and does not come back, the system assumes the product has been used up and adds the item to a shopping list.
When it comes time to shop, users can access their shopping lists via a smart phone or tablet app, or via the Web from any computer. If a user is ever out browsing, but not in the mood to buy, the same app can be used to scan product bar codes to be added to a wish list. These items will appear on the list for the next shopping trip.
Although SKIM is easy enough for a family to use, the system is scalable to much larger inventories than the home market. Hotels and restaurants are a major potential market for inventory control systems. The system is also adaptable: it can manage anything with a bar code. Using SKIM, an audiophile could control a media library, an office manager could monitor paper supplies, or a wholesale warehouse could watch for dwindling stock on the shelves.
The SKIM team is composed of members Alexander Divinsky, Principal Systems Engineer; Matthew Donders, Principal Computer Engineer; Andrew Durfee, Group Leader; and Christopher Lesko, Principal Electrical Engineer. The design team’s advisor is Dr. Yu-Dong Yao, Department Director of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Once they had identified the kitchen as an area ripe for innovation, the team collected input from chefs and busy home cooks to identify key ways SKIM could save individuals and businesses the most time. The team wrote their own database software and mobile apps for smart phone and tablet, developed network support for the bar code sensors, and designed an interface that would provide the optimal user experience.
"The design team came up with a very inventive idea," says Dr. Yao. "It is not only very useful but also has strong market potential as valuable intellectual property."
"Dr. Yao constantly brought us new ideas and alternative solutions to our problems," the team says. "He always had insight into the design and was very supportive of us throughout the year-long process."
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