Our latest Custom Raspberry Pi Hacks

There are about 25 of us in the office and two restrooms.  From where I sit in the office, I look down the hall and have a clear view of the doors of the restroom.  I often see people come out of their offices, walk down the hall, and try the handle on the door to one of the restrooms to find that it’s locked.  They then look around sheepishly as if to make sure nobody is watching, and then they try the handle on the other door.  It’s locked too.  So they go back up the hall to their desk.  A few moments later, one of the restrooms is now available, but the person doesn’t know it.

In speaking to others, I’ve learned that it’s a pretty common problem.  Even newer airplanes now have a lamp in the cabin to let you know if you should bother getting up or wait a little longer for the restroom to become available.

If airplanes can do it, why not us?

Raspberry Pi Hack and light sensorWell, we did just that. Being the nerds that we are, we set to work in creating our own restroom availability indicator system (we’ve gone through many different names for this system, and most people call it the Toilet Pi, or TP for short).  With about $50 in parts we have an awesome system that works well for us.

We purchased a Raspberry Pi and a pair of ditigal photoresistors (light sensors).  If the light in the restroom is on, the light sensors tell the software running on the Raspberry Pi that the room is occupied. If the restroom light is off, we assume it’s vacant.  Pretty simple.

There’s a web page and an API accessible only from inside the office that you can go to to tell you the status of the restrooms (see GitHub project). Since then developers here have created a desktop widget for the Mac, a system tray icon / indicator for Linux (Gnome Shell), a python script to run from the command-line interface. Oh, and another developer created an android app that will notify you (if you wish) when an occupied restroom is available.  I suppose this goes to show that we are indeed nerds and find any excuse to use technology to solve problems.

If you’re interested in a Toilet Pi system for your office, feel free to contact us and we’ll help you know what parts you need to buy.