The Trojan Room Coffee Pot
August 8, 2017 by Bill Rosenthal

Security camera pointing at coffee pot

In 1991, at the Computer Laboratory of the University of Cambridge, England, the coffee machine was located next to the Trojan Room. In order to save people the disappointment of making a trek to the coffee machine and finding it empty, a couple of the researchers set up a 28 x 28 px greyscale camera pointed at the coffee machine and connected the camera to the Laboratory’s network, so that anyone who wanted coffee could check their desktop computer to see if the machine had any. 

In 1993, when web browsers gained the ability to display images, the camera was connected to the internet via HTTP and the image of the Trojan Room coffee pot became available to the entire world. The camera continued to keep the world informed about the Trojan Room coffee pot until 2001, when it was shut down.

The coffee pot itself was never connected to the internet, but I think of it as an early icon of the Internet of Things (IoT). The functionality was the same as that depicted in a television commercial in which the shopper checks his refrigerator on his smartphone to see if he needs eggs.

The television commercial that showed the man checking his egg supply at home from the floor of the supermarket barely begins to explore the benefits of IoT. IoT is already helping to provide robust security, environmental monitoring, home and building automation, efficient farming methods, energy management, and medical care, as well as a lot of other life-enhancing applications. As I noted in a blog posting last October, however, the proliferation of smart devices creates risk when when it isn’t done thoughtfully. Someone needs to be thinking through the issues of all this connectedness and setting standards for best practice. That’s where the IoT Consortium comes in.

The Internet of Things Talent Consortium (IoTTC) is a unique, non-profit community of human talent experts and practitioners. It works across industries to help inspire, create, and grow the organizations and workforces needed to drive IoT-enabled digital transformation in every sector. Its research has shown that talent and people are the primary barriers to implementing the IoT, and it is determining the talents needed and how to impart those talents to people. Its members include a cross section of academia, corporations, startups, and learning organizations, such as Cisco, General Electric, Rockwell Automation, Microsoft, Panduit, MIT Sloan School of Management, Global Knowledge, Pearson Workforce Readiness, New York Academy of Sciences, IQ Navigator, and Acuity Brands. And now, I am proud to say, Logical Operations.

As a member of the IoT Talent Consortium, Logical Operations will help to increase the reach and enrich the message of the consortium throughout the technology industry. We will gain — and provide — valuable insights on how the Internet of Things impacts lives, both business and personal. We look forward to sharing what we learn with our customers. 

There were several Trojan Room coffee pots, by the way, and the last one, a Krups, was sold on eBay for £3,350 to the German news site, Spiegel Online. It was later refurbished pro bono by Krups employees and today is on permanent loan to Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum in Paderborn. It’s not making coffee anymore. But today you can buy a wifi-enabled coffee maker on Amazon that actually lets you brew the coffee from anywhere with your smartphone.