An interesting project to control a light with a webserer by Rodrigo Neri popped up on Hacker News recently. While I liked his solution I did basically the same thing in under an hour for $50 three weeks ago. I thought I should share.

The Goal
I work at an e-commerce company where we fulfill the orders ourselves. The guys who pick orders generally do so in large batches, then work on other projects during the day. The warehouse manager requested a light that would turn on when the order queue hit a certain threshold to let the guys know it was worth stopping other jobs to pick orders. The manager wouldn’t have to bark orders at them, and they wouldn’t have to keep checking the status screen of our picking station.

The Magic
I was behind the idea and started thinking about using some type of Arduino controlled device. Then I remembered IFTTT.

I first heard about IFTTT (If This Then That) from Merlin Mann a while ago and signed up for an account. I remembered that they had a hook for the newish Belkin WeMo home control devices. I picked up one of the basic switches at my local Best Buy on the way home for $50.

The Steps
This is literally it.

  1. I plugged in the switch and set it up via my iPhone.
  2. I registered the switch with IFTTT (took about 30 seconds).
  3. I added my own if statement to the top of my order status code.
  4. I added a function to send an email with subject “on” to my IFTTT address when the threshold is hit and #off when the queue hits zero.
  5. I created two recipes, one for on, and one for off on IFTTT.
  6. I pushed it to production.
  7. Done.

I couldn’t believe how simple it was. Less than and hour start to finish. The system has been running for a three weeks with zero problems.

My original plan was to have an rss feed of the order count for IFTTT to read but their feed widget only updates every 15 minutes whereas the email widget is immediate.

The downside is I’m emailing IFTTT quite often during the day. They don’t seem to mind.

The guys like the light so much there have been requests for additional colors or lights to convey additional info. I was tempted to mess around with the Phillips Hue which has an official API. Instead I have decided to use Panic’s new awesome Status Board app to display the order light as well as a lot of other stuff.