Automatic Calling System using Raspberry Pi

If like me, you’re awful at remembering birthdays, you need Piyush Charpe’s Automatic Birthday Calling System. It’s the Raspberry Pi device that calls on your behalf – aka Heaven for Introverts.

Building business relationships through niceness

Piyush’s father works as an insurance adviser, and, because he’s a lovely chap, he makes it his mission to wish all of his clients a happy birthday. Nice, right? I hardly remember the birthdays of my closest friends: and here’s Piyush’s father sending his kindest regards to everyone on his client list.

Way to make me feel like a bad friend, Papa Charpe!

So good are Charpe Sr’s customer service skills that he’s unexpectedly built himself an unmanageable amount of birthday wishes to send. So that’s where his son comes in with his idea for an automatic birthday calling system. Huzzah! Take my money, etc. etc.

Automated calling with a Raspberry Pi

Piyush used a Raspberry Pi Zero W, 4G GSM module and Google Firebase for the system, alongside an audio recording of his father wishing a happy birthday, and some help from a friend with experience building Android apps.

Raspberry Pi automatic birthday caller

Acquiring a client list from his father that included names, dates of birth and telephone number (our GDPR manager is weeping into her compliance documents as she reads this), Piyush added the information to Google Firebase, an online real-time database system.

Raspberry Pi automatic birthday caller

The accompanying Android app allows his father to add and remove clients from the list, and updates him on successfully-made calls; it’ll also let him know who he’ll need to follow up with if they were unavailable to receive their birthday greeting.

The system updates at midnight, consolidating a list to be called at 10am the following day. And, at the end of the month, the system’s call history is deleted automatically after sending it in CSV format to his father.

The system has now been working 24/7 for eight months, and has been adopted by other business owners in the area.

You can read more about the project here.

Put down your phone!

What a lovely use of technology with great scope for expansion. Why stop at birthdays? Do I remember my parents’ anniversary? Of course not. And don’t get me started on updating my nearest and dearest on life events, changing address, etc. This system is genius! Introverts need never talk to another human being again! Rejoice!


Bob avatar

Robocalls are the worst !
Being spammed by a robocaller for my birthday would angry me for sure.

Ed avatar


Steve avatar

Personally, I find it creepy and intrusive when any kind of business calls regarding personal information like birthdays, regardless of the relationship. The notion that an insurance advisor somehow cares that much about every individual is silly, and falls flat — I doubt that anyone’s buying it.

Add to it that the call is automated and the voice is pre-recorded, and all you have left is yet another unwanted intrusion into your day, reminding you that businesses are storing personal information about you. An actual direct personal call might be a nice touch, but even then I doubt that it would feel like an appropriate interaction unless the relationship was already fairly close and personal.

This is a lovely use of technology? I disagree. Nobody wants or likes robocalls. In the U.S. we are flooded with them, and nobody has figured out a way to stop them, even when they’re being placed illegally (a large percentage of them are promoting scams). While potentially interesting from a technology standpoint, this is hardly the kind of project that the Pi Foundation should be extolling.

Will avatar

I’m inclined to agree with Steve. I love the Raspberry Pi Foundation, but this article is unfortunate in my opinion. Although there may already be businesses and services that exist around this sort of tech (automated calling), I think those systems are regularly abused, and encouraging this sort of behavior is problematic. Robocalls are a blight on US phone users and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is often seeking ways to thwart them. I think promoting a project to help *stop* this sort of behavior would be a far better thing. Interesting use of tech here, but the potential for abuse is not ideal.

Nev Young avatar

Totally agree.
If I get a robo-call the number into the block list right away.

Ron avatar

Robo calls could be stopped by phone companys easily. A simple matter of detecting continuous dialing with no letup. The only thing preventing this is apathy and terrible business models. Any phone provider would be an instant sussess if it eliminated robo calls to its customer. Do it!

Bobby avatar

The phone company could only reliably detect and eliminate outbound robocalls, not inbound. Only a small percentage of the people they helped would actually be their own customers. Yes, they should still do it but they probably feel they’re making more money from the telemarketers who are their customers than they’d make from advertising how they’re taking a stand against robocallers.

DT avatar

Quite surprised there’s no warning in here about illegal usage – you have to follow regulations for this to be ok. The project described might pass muster but you’re setting someone up to do serious crime if they use this in the US improperly.

And it’s annoying!

privacy advocate avatar

Promoting spam, AND posting personal information! Nice job RPI foundation.

Chris avatar

So in the US at least this is technically illegal, unprompted autodialing systems can cause a lot of problems fro people.

Timthy Legg avatar

What are you going to do? Call the police and be told they can’t police the telephones? In a lawless land, they exist only on paper.

Will avatar

The Federal Trade Commission has a service where illegal calls can be reported:

Thomas Picquet avatar

A toothless law that isn’t enforced. I agree it should be illegal and despise robocalls, but this project is better than being robocalls trying to sell time-shares.

Dan3008 avatar

I can see that others would disagree here, but I can see great potential in this system. No technology is inherently good or bad, and that includes robo callers. Its how the tech is used which may be bad.

Paul Webster avatar

In the UK there are rules about this …
Arguably he is making marketing calls so needs to check against TPS and have opt-in from the recipients of the good wishes.

Ted avatar

Imagine leaving the system up and you die, and then you receive a call, wouldn’t that be a bit scary lmao

Jani avatar

I am quite surprised that anyone would think a robotic call is OK as a birthday wish. I quite honestly have believed that any automated calls (that you did not specifically request) were universally shunned. But apparently, for eight months he has not been given feedback against using such systems, nor has this practice apparently caused any notable detrimental effects along his contacts. I would have guessed otherwise.

Unusually, this is one story that perhaps shouldn’t have been published at all. Now I hope this will not inspire anyone to build such things…

angry consumer avatar

Must every communications channel and every surface (real and virtual) be covered in advercrapping?

sponsor avatar

I think RP was just trying to show how people are being creative with the device … If you don’t like robo calls create an RP device to screen your calls!!!!!!

scott avatar

To learn more about the RP is great! Yes, a robocall not so good…but you could learn how to program and have the RP make outgoing calls to people in flood, hurricane, fire areas…and even add the alternate ability to send text, TTY too ?

Pidude avatar

Robocalls are only a problem in countries where the calling party does not pay for the calls made from his/her account because the spammers aren’t about to spend money to spam people.

So, while this article may seem bad for us Americans, it is harmless for others.

Neil Stoker avatar


10 out of 10 for automating things
0 out of 10 for automating BAD things!

Charlie avatar

Hmm considering setting this up to call all my clients on my birthday.

Enrique avatar

A robocall is calling me ALL NIGHTS between 4 and 5 AM since January 1th. Sometimes 4 and five times the same night. From monday to saturday. Due it calls with hidden caller number, I cannot do nothing. I supose the calls come from Vodafone or similar phone marketing company.

Please don’t put more robocalls on line !!!

Don'tGetMadGetEven avatar

Make a Pi project to note the caller ID of the Robocaller then automatically call them back on one minute intervals – say nothing – no recording needed. I know… this is just another SPAM in reverse. It was just a “inside thought” – don’t do it! ?

Bobby avatar

Unfortunately this would exacerbate the problem; where I live robocallers spoof other people’s caller ID. Most of the robocalls I get show the caller ID of local numbers that belong to real people. I’ve even gotten call backs from total strangers who missed a robocall displaying my number.

Martin McMerkin avatar

In think this is great.
I do actually agree with the opinions that marketing calls, automated marketing calls, are the pits and so miss used this would be so pants.
To use this on your family and friends would be so urgh! but so urgh that it is almost brilliant.
I think you would get away with this a couple of times before you would get a visit from “The Family”.
It has been said above/below, Good example of what can be done, good example of what should not be done, love it.

Rob avatar

This is a site displaying clever and curious thinking.
Why are so many people focussed on other aspects?
The robotcaller is an exercise.

Fred avatar

It might be an exercise if the article actually showed how the system was put together…but it doesn’t. I’m sure the OP had only the best intentions, but the effect is creating marketing robocalls. This is a posting that should never have seen the light of day on the official RPi blog.

David avatar

Sorry, awful idea.
I am glad he does not provide my insurance.

Jim avatar

Maybe – with considerable coding enhancements – for a video store whose custmers want notices about new movies, but as a birthday greeter this is so impersonal as to be an epic fail.

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