The IoT Snack Attack Button

I had believed the whole internet of things (IoT) was mostly just hype and marketing. All the “smart” appliances like light bulbs, cups, or egg minders just seemed silly to me. So that’s the first thing I thought when the Amazon Dash buttons were released. The concept is ridiculously simple: when you are low on some household staple, from laundry detergent to diapers, simply hit the little branded Dash button (conveniently stuck right next to those diapers) and a fresh supply will be on your doorstep in a couple of days. Amazing, right? But in all honesty, not something I couldn’t live without.

I quickly forgot about the buttons, until news started to come out about how easy they were to hack. The concept intrigued me! I didn’t really need a button to order more soda or whatever, but having a button I could stick anywhere and I could make do anything? Sign me up!

Apparently there were lots of people who felt this way, as a few weeks ago Amazon released the AWS IoT Button. This does exactly what people were hacking the dash buttons to do, but no hacking necessary! In fact, they made it even easier to use, as it interfaces with an AWS Lambda function. Just write your code, upload it to your AWS account, and you’re done! I immediately sent the news to Adam and said “we needed one of these for the office. I don’t know what we are going to do with it, but we need one.” He ordered two!

When the buttons finally arrived, we gathered in the break room to look at our new toys. Ideas were tossed around, but nothing really excited us. After a few minutes, we struck on a problem needing a solution: Earthlings bring in snacks to share fairly often, but there’s a good chance the folks in the other suite or in the end offices wouldn’t even know the snacks were there before they were gone. We could put the button in the break room. Anytime snacks were presented the button would be pressed, and everyone would be notified via HipChat. No more missed snacks! Win-win for everyone!

A very short time later, I had the lambda function written and the button hooked up in a convenient location on the break room bar.

White button on a blue dongle with a red sticky note that reads "Snack Attack!"

Time to test it out. With fingers crossed, I reached out and pressed the button. It blinked for a few seconds and showed a green light. Did it work?? A few seconds later a cry came from the other end of the office, and two excited Earthlings appeared from around the corner. Success!


Since we’ve had the button up, we’ve had a snack attack almost every day. I personally think company morale is up, but maybe it’s not the best thing for our waistlines. I’d say I’m finally excited about the Internet of Things!

P.S. The code for the Snack Attack lambda function is up on the Earthling Interactive GitHub page. Take a look to see how easy it was to do this, or submit a PR if you think of some way to make it even better.

P.P.S. We are still trying to think of an awesome use for the other AWS IoT button we have! If you have ideas, please send them to me on Twitter @jpchip.