Small Gadgets Making a Big Difference

February 9th of this year was a pretty cold night.  Not a record-breaker, but it was the kind of night cold enough that you needed to take care that your water pipes didn’t freeze, potentially causing thousands of dollars of damage.

That night, my phone and tablet started getting loud alerts every few seconds:


A temperature sensor at the Pajama Factory had dipped below the 35º Fahrenheit threshold we’d set, getting too close to freezing for comfort.  I started making calls to let the staff there know. Pretty soon, the sensors

At the Pajama Factory, there’s probably miles of hundred-year-old pipes, including a sprinkler system that needs to be kept ready-to-use, year-round.  In the Winter, there’s always the chance that pipes passing through an unoccupied or unheated part of the 300,000 ft² factory.

DJ, one of the members of, is a 9-year-old Maker and inventor.  He’s also an avid gamer. DJ wanted to come up a way to make a bit of extra money to get himself a video game he had been eyeing. Together, we decided to come up with something that he could put together and sell, that would give his customers something truly useful.

The ESP8266 is a fairly new chip that’s immensely popular with makers and electronics hobbyists—it’s a complete ‘System on a Chip,” with WiFi.  You write a bit of code, burn it to the chip and then it’s ready to run, without the need for an attached computer.  It seemed the perfect candidate to base a “gizmo” around that DJ could sell cheaply enough and still perform a useful function.

Temperature sensors are something that almost everyone needs, so we paired the ESP8266 with the DS18B20, an inexpensive, yet highly-accurate and waterproof temperature module and some custom code and came up with the “Tempo,” our first “Internet of Things” device.

The Tempo boots up and connects to WiFi.  When it’s connected, it sends its data every few seconds to our server, which collects the data and feeds it to our monitoring and alerting programs.

You can watch DJ’s sensors in real time here.

It’s a simple device, easy to build and inexpensive, at around $15 each.  It does just one thing, but does it reliably.  (Leave a comment below if you’re interested in having us put some together for you.)

We think that’s pretty cool.