Hacking the Amazon Dash Button to Record Whatever You Want

We’re still not too sure if the Amazon Dash button is a brilliant marketing and advertising ploy, or is just downright stupid. But what we do know, is for $5, it’s a lot of hackable tech that could be used for more… useful purposes. The big A sells these dash buttons for one purpose — you push the button and whichever product is assigned to it shows up on your doorstep in a few days. [Ted Benson] wanted them to do more than that so he turned a few dash buttons into a way of tracking his baby’s health!

Apparently, data acquisition of your baby’s wake-up times and poops is useful to identify health patterns. [Ted] tried using some phone apps to keep track of this stuff, but found it would be a lot easier if there was just a big button on the wall or something… which is where he got the idea to make use of the Amazon Dash button.

It’s actually really simple to do. Buy the dash button, do the setup with Amazon… but don’t do the final step: selecting the product you want to order. If you don’t select anything, you won’t order anything…


dash bannerThe beauty of the dash button is that it’s designed to save power, which means it only turns itself on when you press the button.

Every time it boots up it has to reconnect to your WiFi network. This is a terribly simple thing to track and record using a simple Python script.

Record the MAC address of each dash button, and all you have to do is sniff the WiFi network for the ARP probe that gets sent out by the button! It’s so simple, you can pretty much copy and paste the code from [Ted’s] blog and do it yourself. Think this isn’t useful to you? Human fingers aren’t the only way to push buttons — rig this up mechanically or electrically and you can easily record recurring events.

And for more information about the tech inside the Dash button? Check out our Dash button tear down coverage.

42 thoughts on “Hacking the Amazon Dash Button to Record Whatever You Want

  1. neat! about a 5-10 second delay. if it’s full wifi range, use it for ‘new mail in the mailbox’ (with a light sensor tacked onto the button)… I kind of want to see all the home automation/tracking things this might be good for.
    cat/doggie door activated, front door opened/closed,
    $5 seems like cheaper solutions than other options for home tracking/automation triggers.
    yes?

      1. The ESP8266 is certainly cheaper, but once you add on a battery, button, enclosure, and the effort of setting it up to be as power efficient as this, I doubt you’ll be saving much.

        1. I dunno, most of the power saving is from being off most of the time. That wouldn’t be hard to rig up with a button, maybe a transistor driven by the ESP’s CPU to supply / cut the power through. The button just bridges the transitor for long enough for the ESP to start up and raise it’s transistor. Then drop it after the job’s done, back to the start.

          The Dash does have some sort of expensive primary cell powering it. So probably you wouldn’t save very much money. But the power wouldn’t be much difficulty.

        1. sam says:
          August 10, 2015 at 9:06 am
          The ESP8266 is certainly cheaper, but once you add on a battery, button, enclosure, and the effort of setting it up to be as power efficient as this, I doubt you’ll be saving much.

          Sorry, couldn’t resist Dash Button inception

  2. This is a good idea. These gadgets have an adhesive back, so you could attach one to the changing mat, one to the powdered milk tin (or the wife’s bra but that might be pushing your luck a bit), one to the baby’s cot, etc. It’ll soon become a habit to press them.

    If you have the firmware something like an I2C thermometer, or maybe an infrared non-contact thermometer, could use it as a cheap hookup to your network. Although the ESP modules are about the same price.

    I bet the networked baby could have a lot of use in keeping Junior healthy. You could put movement sensors of whatever type into his cot, to detect if he goes still for a while. SIDS has all sorts of signs you can monitor, unobtrusively if you’re clever. In fact the right package would probably be a hot seller. People will gladly pay for their baby’s health and safety. Probably Bluetooth or Nordic radios would be better for a custom system though. I doubt people would pay for an Amazon button with the washing powder brand scribbled out.

      1. Here is my host stanza for the reservation in dhcp

        host dashbutton1 {
        hardware ethernet XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX;
        fixed-address 10.0.0.201;
        on commit {
        execute (“/bin/command-to-execute”);
        }
        }

        Push the button, wait a few seconds, then magic ensues.
        Be careful as to what you execute. dhcpd will stop and wait until the command finishes. Consider forking the process and closing the parent to allow dhcpd to continue responding to requests.

        1. I’m using the same mechanism, but I’ve observed that the button sounds out one DHCP request immediately, and another one about 45 seconds later. Do you see that?

  3. Pretty cool. I like the elegant simplicity of a $5.00/copypasta turnkey solution. Pretty sure my dad will want me to rig one up for his bird feeder to record feeding times. Ah retirement lol. Seems like it would be easy enough to rig up a peckable tab or button to solder to it. Just got to make it weather and animal proof lol. The squirrels can figure out most impediments pretty quickly.

    1. Bird feeder that records peak feeding times and broadcast through wifi, easy.

      Preventing squirrels from reaching food tray, impossible.

      I wonder if the recent Arduino hack using a wire to detect movement would work. Birdwatching birdfeeder sounds like a cool idea. :)

  4. What about hacking it into some sort of emergency alert device? I wouldn’t necessarily stake my life on it but I have 5 relatively mobile older relatives and it would be nice if they could send out a call for help if they fell or they had some other sort of emergency around the house. It could send a text like “Help! I’ve fallen and can’t get up.” At the very least I could try a call, drive there or call a neighbor to check on them.

  5. Should have read that other tab I had open before leaving my comment here:
    AMAZON GIVING OUT (SORT OF) HACKABLE AMAZON DASH BUTTON
    46 Comments by: Richard Baguley
    October 11, 2015

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