As mentioned in a previous post on this blog, Zillow holds Hack Week events a few times a year during which teams work on projects of their own choosing. We put the “own choosing” of this philosophy to the test during our most recent Hack Week by tackling a Zillow Kegerator project. The tablet-controlled and Web-enabled Kegerator was built with the help of the open-source KegBot Project. The team consisted of Jarret Falkner and myself. We are both equipped with an appreciation of beer, but very little electronics experience. With the help of the KegBot documentation and some tips from other Zillow employees we set off to complete the project in a week. Read on to see the results.
The first step was gathering all the components and taking inventory. It was definitely intimidating looking at the large pile of electronics we were going to have to assemble. We wasted no time and got straight to the soldering.
And here is the completed board posing in front of the Kegerator (which is getting its insides rearranged).
The electronics are necessary to collect data from the temperature, RFID, and flowsensors and pass them along to the KegBot server that allows the data to be displayed on a touchscreen Android tablet and on the dedicated Web page for the Kegerator. The Android app is part of the open source project, so it is just plug-and-play if you follow the KegBot specification.
Inside the Kegerator, we spliced flow meters into the beer lines. Our Kegerator has two taps. The flow meters are the black and gray cylinders with wires coming out of them. The flow meters measure how much beer has flowed through the tap so that the server can keep track of how much each person is pouring and how much beer is left in the keg.
Here’s a photo of the all-important RFID reader. We attached the RFID buttons to the bottoms of a case of mugs. All you need to do is tap your mug on the reader and then pour your beer.
Your drinker account gets pulled up on the tablet (which is mounted to the top of the Kegerator), and your drink gets logged against your account. The Android tablet has a front-facing camera that takes a picture of each person as they are pouring their beer.
Look at all those smiling customers at the end of one of our happy hours! The payoff for a Hack Week project just doesn’t get any better than that! As you can imagine, the Zillow Kegerator is part of the family now and makes frequent appearances at social functions. We have a sizable contingent of homebrewers at Zillow, so it’s also frequently serving up some fine Zillow brew next to my desk.