Each year, almost 40% of all edible food is wasted in the U.S. In response to this crucial environmental and economic issue, MITRE and the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic conducted a pioneering household food waste study, enlisting a volunteer, representative sample of people to report their actual food waste.
To make this idea a reality, the MITRE Food Waste Tracker app captures data from a Bluetooth-enabled kitchen scale and transmits it to MITRE via a mobile device.
First, we had to validate assumptions and deliver a proof of concept showing how data could be gathered during the study phase. Then, we needed to take those learnings and create a consumer-facing app that could help households across America be part of a collective solution.
Our Plan and Process
By listening carefully to key MITRE stakeholders, we were able to synthesize their operational goals with the needs of the user. We researched many different Bluetooth scales, taking into account commercial availability, cost, quality, ease of use, technical documentation, and feasibility.
Each scale’s protocol was reverse-engineered through trial and error, with a focus on deciphering the storage location of data and the specific commands sent. We knew that the scale we eventually chose wouldn’t just be a one-off experiment in a lab. Eventually, thousands of these devices would be out in the world collecting data.
During the study phase, you’re asking volunteers to do something physically for two weeks, so our design team made the UX as encouraging and frictionless as possible. Working closely with the team at MITRE, we created a non-judgmental environment that reinforced more consistent usage from the volunteers.