The Trojan Room coffee pot at the University of Cambridge is legend. And not for excellent coffee…

A camera was set up and pointed at the lab’s now-infamous coffee pot in 1991, to provide a live picture of the coffee pot to all desktop computers on the office network. And with that, the coffee pot became the subject of the world’s first-ever web cam.

28 years later, we have an industry full of smart devices—including, of course, smart coffee pots. At RIoT’s recent lunch & Learn in Charlotte, Smashing Boxes’ Tom Ewing talked about the big impact those small things can have on an office—and why Smashing Boxes has designated “Lab Time” for team members to work freely on random projects, including a smarter coffee system.

“These applications may not seem huge at first, but their impacts have ripples throughout the office,” said Tom.

IoT on Display at Charlotte Lunch & Learn

Tom shared four unique tools that Smashing Boxes teams have developed during Lab Time:

  • Maestro – Music that can be controlled in the office Slack channel – stopping and starting songs, adjusting the volume, and even adding tracks to be played next.
  • DoorBot – A reprogrammed Amazon Dash Button that Smashing Boxes adapted to work as an IoT button – for a smarter doorbell that isn’t disruptive, that sends notifications to specific subscribers, and that didn’t have to be hardwired into the electrical system.
  • TAPP – A smart sensor solution on the beer tap handle, inspired by the tech that powers the Raleigh startup BruVue, the Smashing Boxes team knows fast keg an emptied, and they have developed an Android App to allow employees to vote on the next beer selection.
  • CoffeeBot – A smart Slack channel for coffee – Smashing Boxes added smart buttons right on its coffee maker, so their Slack channel receives and shares notifications when a pot is brewed. That way, everyone knows when a fresh pot is available (and when one is needed).

Click here to read more on Smashing Boxes’ smart office tech and other projects, and check out this article about other Triangle-based smart tech offices.

Open Lab Time for IoT Innovation

During Smashing Boxes’ open Lab Time, employees can choose to work on these smarter office projects, or can choose to explore other professional development opportunities or personal projects. The point of this time, according to Tom, is allowing the team to explore creatively.

“It’s about unlocking ancillary concepts to lead to revolutionary thinking,” said Tom, describing how working on something other than a client project can sometimes lead to the breakthrough that’s needed to push a client project forward.

“Working on something different to unlock something you didn’t think of,” said Tom.

This was RIoT’s first 2019 Lunch & Learn in Charlotte. For more on our Charlotte Lunch & Learn series, and for information about our Lunch & Learn sessions in Raleigh, check out

IoT and Charlotte

The Lunch & Learn was hosted at Advent Coworking, a creative coworking community, art gallery, event space, and podcast studio in Charlotte, NC.


Smashing Boxes designs and develops custom software applications for web, mobile, IoT and connected devices, with headquarters in Durham, NC and an office in New Orleans. Learn more at

RIoT is a non-profit economic development organization capturing and creating IoT opportunities locally, regionally, and globally. The next official RIoT event is Sports & Entertainment Tech in Atlanta, GA on March 26th. Follow RIoT at for news and updates about partners like Arrow Electronics and more upcoming Lunch & Learn events.