Smart Food Containers

IoT Video Sketch Mockup

Holding the container

The Story

As part of my User Centered Design certificate coursework, I created a video sketch showing scenarios for a smart food container. I implemented a prop container used in the video with a small programmable microcontroller. I was responsible for all parts of this project.

Design process

  • Ideation
  • Sketches / Storyboarding
  • Presentation and group critique
  • Low fidelity video sketch (animatic)
  • Iteration of design
  • Filming and high fidelity video sketch


The issue of food waste interested me personally and I researched demographics that would be most sensitive to the problem. I considered older people who may be on a fixed budget and learned about age-related memory degradation.

This was a target audience who could benefit from the introduction of an IOT device if the interface was streamlined.

Sketches / Storyboarding

The physical manifestation of the device did not concern me as much as the interactions with it, so I began sketching storyboards.

Detail of storyboard sketch
Detail of storyboard sketch

Presentation and group critique

I created a script and slide show to present to my classmates. By reading the script while advancing the slides, I estimate the length of the video.

Feedback from the group critique:

  • Spend more time introducing the persona portrayed in the video and explaining their needs.
  • Preventing food spoilage is a compelling scenario for all users.

Iteration of design

I removed a scenario involving an intelligent fruit bowl and replaced it with a scenario about food spoilage. I also added more description of the reasons why seniors may face challenges with food waste.

Low fidelity video sketch (animatic)

After adjusting my design, I created a animatic video with the audio of my script. The visuals relied heavily on the existing storyboard assets so that I could focus on the wording and sequencing of the video.

This rough draft can be found here (2m 6s).

Filming and high fidelity video sketch

Filming was done at a friends house using my iPhone’s video recording capability. Audio was recorded separately (non-sync audio) to simplify editing. I made sure to capture B-roll to use while the narration introduced the persona and explained the design’s context.

Container being retrieved from the refrigerator
Retrieving container from the refrigerator

Challenges in the Design

  • How does the user inform the system of the contents of a container?
  • How does the user then later query the system for the contents of a container?

I decided the most natural way to “select” a container in the system was to hold it as if showing it to the voice assistant. This interaction mimicked the traditional query between two people in the kitchen.

Person A (holding a food container) What’s in this box?

Person B I think that’s left overs from last night.

The reverse operation of informing the system of a container’s contents is the interaction in reverse.

Person A (holding a food container) I’m putting the left overs in this Tupperware.

Person B Ok!

Launch / Results

  • The final video (2m 13s) was presented to class.
  • The project received full marks.


A container whose contents of spoiled
Container with spoiled contents

Reflection / Retrospective

I found the video sketch to be an effective way to convey a design in context. A video sketch would be a poor fit for communicating the design of a website, but worked very well for an IOT design.

The prototyped LED indicator helped sell the interface and took a short time to implement. In the future, I’d like to try some other simple electronics projects to mock-up device interface.

From ideation to completion of the final edited video took the equivalent of a full week’s of work. I think this could be shorted to about three days, opening the possibility of producing two video sketches a week. A longer project could also build a collection of suitable stock footage to repurpose in later iterations.