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Want to track something? You can repurpose Amazon Dash buttons

Well, that was fast. Amazon Dash buttons have only been available for a few weeks, and someone has already figured out how to use them for a completely non-commercial purpose.

Amazon intended the $5 buttons, available to Prime subscribers, to be an easier way for you to order everyday household items (or as a way to integrate itself more deeply in your home … or both). Assign one as your “Brawny” button, and you’ll get an order of paper towel sent to your home whenever you press it. (You get a notification on your phone, so you can cancel the order if someone else pushes your buttons.)

The button is outfitted with a battery and Wi-Fi connection, and Ted Benson in repurposing his took advantage of the fact that the button is almost never on.

Writing over at Medium, new father Benson explains how he co-opted a Dash to keep track of his baby. He wanted a clear picture of how often his infant was waking up in the night (or pooping). Tinkering with the button, he figured out that if you never connect it to a specific product, it doesn’t matter how many times you press it. Phantom coffee beans or diapers won’t arrive at your doorstep.

To save battery life, the buttons only connect to Wi-Fi when you push them, so the trick is to listen for the sound of it reconnecting. Instead of purchasing products, you can use python code and a spreadsheet to track your button-pressing history.

While Benson’s buttons are now baby-centric, he figures you can follow his instructions (which are detailed in the Medium article) to turn your Dash into a time-tracking device for whatever you want. Not bad for $5 and something everyone was convinced was an April Fools’ Day joke.