Tag Archives: General Electric

A look back at FirstBuild’s Hack the Home

Home is where the hack is!

Are you ready for the smart home of the future? Well, FirstBuild certainly is. The collaborative partnership between GE Appliances and Local Motors just held their first mega-hackathon, aptly dubbed “Hack the Home,” which called upon Makers, engineers, designers and techies to dream up tomorrow’s sci-fi-like household appliances.


Sponsored by several of today’s leading tech companies (including Atmel), participants had the opportunity to utilize the FirstBuild microfactory’s assortment of tools, ranging from 3D printers and laser cutters to soldering stations and drill presses, as they devised their IoT projects for a chance at a slew of cash prizes. Throw in a few Red Bulls, a couple slices of pizza, easy-to-use hardware (like the ATmega328P) and a little ingenuity, and you sure do get some smart ideas!

“We are excited to open our state-of-the-art microfactory to Makers to ideate and take advantage of our advanced manufacturing facility,” explained Natarajan Venkatakrishnan, Director of FirstBuild. “The ingenuity generated by these teams was outstanding and illustrates how ideas can come from anywhere. We opened our facility to the Maker community and in a day they created innovations that can impact appliances of tomorrow.”

So without further ado, here’s a look at several innovative submissions from the 36-hour event. Three entrants emerged as winners based on their potential commercial use. You can vote for your favorites here!

The House Roast (First Place)


This grand prize-winning project brings the high-level precision of roasting coffee to the masses using a conventional GE oven and Arduino-driven heating control over the web or an app interface.

Fix of Water (Second Place)


This runner-up hack enables you to control your kitchen light and GE fridge’s water dispenser through voice commands from your mobile device.

CrockWatch (Third Place)


This smart crockpot allows you to remotely monitor your food via camera, check the temperature, and control its power settings.



This sensor pad measures fill levels of common items in your fridge, such as milk, beer and soda, and notifies you through its accompanying app.

Aut-o-matic Fridge Friend


This fridge hack makes it easier to stow away groceries or the enormous crystal punch bowl that you just can never seem to find a place for. With the touch of a button, a motor silently opens the fridge door to grant you access. Another touch and the door securely closes



This retrofitted cabinet brings a smart greenhouse right inside your house.



This shelf modification solution for refrigerator, pantries and toolboxes gives you the ability to intelligently track items, reorder consumables and analyze inventory usage.



This 3D-printed component snaps onto a standard box of baking soda and plugs into a ChillHub. A low-power fan then forces air past the baking soda, removing any unpleasant fridge smells as it is pushed out the other side.

Stove Whistler


This notification system will offer you a reminder if and when your stove has been left unattended.

That’s My Beer


These lockable refrigerator drawers, which can be opened using an app or NFC technology, let you keep your roommates (or yourself) away from the beer stash. For families, a parent can control the snack drawer and open at their discretion.

Shelf Control


This retrofitted shelf slips into your existing refrigerator and will unlock based on whether you have met your fitness needs for the day. The lock will interface with a FitBit-like device to determine whether that health goal has been achieved.

Perfect Pasta


This automation system makes it so that you simply place a pot full of tap water onto the stove, suspend the pasta colander over the pot, enter the desired preparation time, and allow it to cook itself. A phone notification will then let you know when it’s dinner time.

And of course, there was plenty of fun to be had and memories to be made along the way.





Finally, what would the home of the future be without a tricked-out DeLorean in its garage? Kudos to our friends at Hackster.io!


GE’s Brilliant Super Smoker is bringing the IoT to BBQ

What stands at 12-feet-tall, emits 300 gallons of smoke and provides a full weekend of BBQ deliciousness? 

SXSW means many different things to many different people, but one thing it means to nearly everyone is barbecue. From briskets to ribs, Austin has it all.


​For three days, SXSW attendees had the chance to see, smell, and most importantly, taste barbecued food courtesy of General Electric’s Brilliant Super Smoker. The focal point of the GE BBQ Research Center was a 12-foot-tall, custom-built interactive barbecue smoker, pit-mastered by GE’s resident scientist Lynn DeRose. The exhibit was able to capture data from the smoker and other scientific experiments during the event to track every step of the BBQ experience, while analyzing the science behind cooking and eating.

No stranger to the burgeoning Maker Movement, GE constructed its Brilliant Super Smoker from scratch using both steel and unconventional tubular laboratory glassware. The machine was equipped with a myriad of sensors and Atmel based Arduino boards (according to Mashable), tasked with continuously monitoring each of the internal functions of the smoker, such as temperature, humidity and smoke flow, as well as the ingredients inside. The intelligent system was designed to provide the BBQ pit-master with an instantaneous look at the status of the meat without ever having to open the cooker. This allows for a consistent temperature during the 18 hours, seven hours, and one hour required to cook brisket, ribs, and sausage, respectively.


The data was then visualized in real-time and displayed on a nearby screen Predix-inspired GE software — a platform for predictive maintenance created for the Industrial Internet.

GE’s goal of redefining the BBQ scene doesn’t end with smoking either. In fact, the company’s researchers also detailed the process of creating effective sauce by partnering with local ice cream parlor Spun to scientifically whip up a BBQ-flavored frozen treat. Beyond that, tent visitors even had the chance to see how their brain reacted to consuming various foods like smoked sausage.

Evident by its fair share of SXSW projects throughout the years which range from a pop-up 3D printing workshop to a social media-enabled fridge, not to mention its recently-revealed FirstBuild co-creation space, GE undoubtedly finds itself smack dab in the middle of the ever-growing DIY community and the Internet of Things.

Video: 3D printing a fully-functional jet engine

While General Electric has been at the forefront of 3D printing jet engine parts, they aren’t the only ones using the technology for production. Japanese company id.arts was recently tasked with creating a working model of a two-axis rotary jet engine for well-known heavy equipment manufacturer, IHI Corporation. IHI specializes in producing turbochargers for cars, industrial machines, ships, suspension bridges, and aero-engines.

Watch the video below to experience first-hand how these mechanical parts can be printed on desktop FDM/FFF printers.

Is IoT the next industrial revolution?

Writing for the San Jose Mercury News, Steve Johnson notes that billions of ordinary items — ranging from factory equipment to prescription-drug bottles — are being fitted with microcontrollers and linked to the Internet.

“By outfitting the globe with billions of connected gadgets, experts foresee a world in which more elderly people survive once-life-threatening accidents, since doctors and emergency responders will be alerted the moment their patients fall,” Johnson explains. 

“[In addition], fewer planes will crash, because every part on every aircraft will be electronically monitored so they can be quickly replaced at the slightest sign of failure. Wines will [also] get better since vineyard operators will know precisely when their grapes have the perfect sugar concentrations for picking.”

Microchips implanted in dairy cows could help production, a potential innovation that would be part of the IoT. (Tony C. French/Digital Vision via Getty Images)

According to Cisco, at least 10 billion devices (many of them phones) are already linked to the Internet. These include smart cars, “intelligent” pill-bottle caps and advanced connected thermostats. 

In addition, says Johnson, cows in England are being connected to the Internet to track their grazing habits, while thousands of smart trash cans allow waste-management officials to remotely check how full each container is in real-time.

Unsurprisingly, a recent General Electric (GE) study recently concluded that the Internet of Things could add as much as $15 trillion to global GDP over the next 20 years. 

Describing the trend as “much like the Industrial Revolution” of the 18th and 19th centuries, GE confirms the world is at “the cusp of another wave of innovation that promises to change the way we do business and interact with the world of industrial machines.”

Every facet of society, says Johnson, is expected to be transformed by the Internet of Things.

“[This includes] our ability to better protect the environment, boost farm production and get early warnings of structural weaknesses in bridges and dams to enabling people to remotely control their lights, sprinkler systems, washing machines and scores of other gadgets at home,” he added.