The next phase of out-of-home advertising will start, ironically, in the home. At least that's the message that Amazon has been pushing with its bevy of always-on products that keep consumers connected to the Amazon marketplace 24/7. While the admittedly pretty cool Amazon Echo has gotten the lion's share of attention so far, the much less expensive (betwen free and $5) though not quite as useful Amazon Dash buttons are starting to gain some traction, and that of course means that it's time for the hacker community to jump on them.
Dash buttons are small, battery-powered wifi-enabled buttons that, when pressed, can automatically send an order request to the Amazon mothership. Run out of Tide detergent while doing your last load of laundrry? Just tap the dash button stuck to your washer and Amazon will get another bottle ready for you. About to stick the last razor cartridge onto your Gilette razor? Tap the branded button by your bathroom mirror and Amazon will put a pack in the mail. For forgetful people who already use Amazon, the system makes some sense, and for product manufacturers it's a veritable Godsend (if it works).
Of course, once you have a company like Amazon ponying up to give out little wifi-connected widgets for almost nothing, it's only a matter of time before some enterprising individuals come up with something more interesting to do with them than just buy more stuff, and now, that's exactly what has happened, as new dad Ted Benson outlined in a blog post on Medium:
every time a Dash button is pushed, it powers up its radio and promptly transmits the message, “Hi! My name is [MAC Address]!”
So, conceptually, problem solved. We just have to:
- Prevent the button from actually ordering anything
- Listen for Dash Button ARP probes, and
- Translate those probes into spreadsheet updates
The implementation he created is simplistic, but works, and one could imagine it being updated to allow for inputting different events by, for example, tapping the button several times in a row. I could also imagine changing things so that the button's message is different at different times of the day (e.g. saying "I woke up" when pressed in the morning, but "I went to sleep" when pressed in the evening).
I don't know if this violates Amazon's TOS for the Dash buttons, but if we're going to allow more brand intrusion into our homes, I think the least they can do is let one dad push a button on the wall so that a Google spreadsheet can be updated to let the world know that his child has pooped.
Is that really too much to ask?