Turning a wall clock to smart one, what does it take? – Part 1


Wall clock with electronics in back. Below motion sensor without casing.

Ikea wall clock with electronics installed to backside. Below motion sensor without casing.

It is 2016 and we are about to have flying cars soon, it would about the time to start turning old non-smart objects to smart ones. How would one make a wall clock smarter, say by an epsilon?

For long I have played with the idea on turning the most mundane objects into something completely different – so when I saw  ¢ 50 Ikea RUSCH wall clock, made from semi-transparent plastic I knew it would be an opportunity to add some oddball functionality there. Ikea tuning it is, lets start putting the steroids in.

A wall clock – what possibly could it need?

Going back one step, an essential question is: what is a clock anyways? Thinking way too deep, it can be seen as a visual entropy change demonstrator object that has totally missing zero point calibration (when exactly was time zero?). Also the speed these units run vary a to some extent thus requiring manual re-calibration as time passes.

So, maybe adding a time reference isn’t such a bad idea – just to see how good mechanism we have at hand. And at the same time we get to see if the idea of using light to display time in semi-analog way would be useful: During day and especially at night, wouldn’t it be great to have a light-based clock? Would it be easier to read at the time when cognitive capabilities are limited – as in: no symbols to be read – and furthermore, would it look cool?

The design

I have internet connected micro controller that can fetch me NTP time, and a light strip. Starting by just getting time from network, and showing it with three light-based hands + four stationary dots to nail down the four quadrants of clock face. Resulting clock below:


Yes, this idea works. Also the Ikea clock is much more accurate than I expected. Now, one downside is that the LED pixel strip I chose is a bit too bright for use during night, as even with lowest brightness values it just provides a too much light.

<To be continued in part 2: More functionality in!>