Amazon Dash buttons are small physical buttons that you can click to order items from Amazon. The retailer will send you one for $5, and you can connect it to you Amazon account to automatically order pet food, diapers, trash bags, grocery items, laundry detergent, or other items you need to buy regularly — all without opening a web browser or app.

But as we suspected, it turns out that the tiny, low-power, internet-connected buttons can be used for other purposes. And it turns out, you don’t even need to crack open the case or change the Dash button’s programming.

dash buttons

Developer Ted Benson figured out that the Dash Buttons are basically powered down whenever they’re not in use. So every time you press the button, they wake up and make a fresh connection to you WiFi router.

So you can write a computer program that will detect each instance of a button waking up and connecting to a router… and that program can trigger some action that doesn’t involve a delivery person bringing a big bag of cat food to you door.

For example, Benson rigged a few different buttons for use as baby-stat-tracking buttons. Every time the kid poops or wakes up, he can press a button and the data is automatically stored in a Google Sheet. This makes it possible to track trends over time with little more than a series of button presses.

Sure, you could do the same thing with a smartphone or tablet app, but the buttons are simpler to use, don’t need to be unlocked first, and can kept in the location where you most need them. They also only cost $5 each.

Benson has posted instructions for his own baby-tracking buttons, but you could probably find other uses for the buttons. The trick is to 1) skip the final step during the Dash button signup process so that the buttons are activated, but not associated with any particular product (so that you don’t get new diapers every time your kid poops) and 2) write a few lines of code to detect button presses/connections to you WiFi router and trigger an action in response.

via Hacker News

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