Fermentation is a natural process that has been exploited by humanity for millennia. Behind such favorites as cheese and beer, it takes just the right conditions to get the desired results. To aid in this process, and to explore the crafts of their ancestors, [Victoria] and [Petar] created an electronic fermentation quilt.
Anyone familiar with breadmaking will be familiar with throwing a cloth over dough when left to rest. This is all about temperature management, providing optimum conditions for the yeast to work their magic. This fermentation quilt takes things to the next level, integrating soft heater pads and temperature sensing hardware into the fabric itself. Rather than acting as a simple insulator, the quilt can actively supply heat where needed, switching off when reaching the set temperature. In this example, the quilt is set to maintain a temperature of 45 degrees for the optimum production of Bulgarian yogurt.
The fermentation quilt serves as an excellent example of what can be achieved when combining textiles with smart electronics. Tools like Adafruit’s Lilypad and conductive thread all come together to make this a functional and useful device, and shows that electronic textiles aren’t just limited to blinky wearables.
Has the food in your pantry turned? Sometimes it’s the sickening smell of rot that tells you there’s something amiss. But is there a way to catch this before it makes life unpleasant? If only there were machines that could smell spoiled food before it stinks up the whole place.
In early May, I was lucky enough to attend the fourth FabLab Asia Network Conference (Fan4). The theme of their event this year was ‘Co-Create a Better World’. One of the major features of the conference was that there were a number of projects featured, often from rural areas, that were requesting assistance throughout the course of the conference.
Overall there were many bright people tackling difficult problems with limited resources. This is how I met [Yogesh Kulkarni] who runs a FabLab in Pabal, a farming community not far from Pune, India. [Yogesh] has also appeared on TED Talks (video here). He explained to me that in his area, vendors sell milk-based desserts. These are not exactly refrigerated, and sometimes people become ill from eating them. It would be nice if there was a way for the vendors to avoid selling the occasional harmful product.
I’ve had similar concerns with food safety in my area (Vietnam), and while it has been fine nearly all of the time, a few years ago I nearly died from a preventable food-borne illness. I had sufficient motivation to do a little research.
Ever have trouble justifying your hacking to anyone from another generation? [Domen] presented his mother with a custom-made device that monitors the milk temperature as it boils on the stove, preventing boil-over. And he made the device robust, simple to use, and foolproof. To his mom, it must look like he’s a wizard — able to conjure up home electronics out of solder smoke and some plywood.
Of course, we know better. Inside his gadget is a simple temperature sensor, an ATtiny841, a very nice home-made PCB, a buzzer, an LCD, and some pushbuttons. [Domen] rubbed together a few pre-existing libraries, and had a working prototype inside a nice wooden box on the quick. It’s a simple hack, but imagine how this must look to a muggle. For the detailed incantations, check out [Domen]’s GitHub for the project.