Clocks and timers are boring you say? Yes they are, and there are plenty of existing implementations. So, against intuition: let’s reinvent yet another egg timer to see how the idea twists with semi-analog circular LED-display-gauge-thingie.
Stealing is cheaper than iterating for innovation
Taking a look at physical, Android, and iOS down-counting timers there are some obvious-looking characteristics plus odd differences:
- Physical ones: They are round, mostly mechanical, and lost somewhere if not magnetically connected to fridge. Also they are typically limited to one hour duration (enough for me)
- Android: This is as basic as it gets. Set the time and go. Thank you Google for yet another engineering spec design that just works.
- iOS: Designed 95% like Android, but this goes clockwise – which is interesting choice for down-couting timer. Maybe Apple designers watch old-time action movies where hero or bad guy tunes mechanical clock work as a timer, dunno. Anyways, I have hard time telling if Apple copied Google here, or the other way around. I guess this is what you get with hourly rate workforce with tight design spec for non-essential feature – or maybe this model is the peak, absolute best design there is for this context. I cannot tell.
Wall clock egg timer – what’s the spec?
Here I have nicely different context from above, and context is everything. A wall clock is essentially na ultra-simple, stationary, and highly visible timekeeper/demonstrator. Supporting those principles the following would apply to egg timer:
- It should be obvious with a quick glance to see when the timer is running. (In the tune of movies: bomb timers have blinking lights)
- The timer should easily visually demonstrate whether there is plenty, some, or not much time remaining in timer. (Time is not enough, and yes, YMMV on what this means)
- The visual alarm should be visual enough to catch attention
- And obviously the timer may override all other functions, no clock face need to be shown during operation, to keep display clean focus on one task at hand.
How is this IoT?
As usual the UI for setting the alarm is through cloud via mobile app. The alarm part is the more interesting as it works with almost anything: IFTTT provides dead simple tools for triggering anything anywhere be it tweeting to twitter, saving to google drive or other.
How it works: The eClock device communicates back with private events through particle.io cloud. People at Particle have written connectors for IFTTT that can process particle cloud events, variables and cloud function return values. The routing via IFTTT is the final glue to a world of other apps.
I decided to be conservative and to launch a classic Schlager “The Preacher” by folk music orchestra Diablo on my phone whenever my egg timer triggers:
From my questionable quality camera work below one can see that while IFTTT is not perfect as the alarm takes some seconds to launch Play Music on my phone, it still works to required extent. This is about as easy as it gets to integrate IoT-spirited devices to any 3rd party system today.
Yes, the egg timer works, it is clearly visual enough. I am not happy with how it shows remaining time, alarm itself looks good enough, even from the next room during evening. However, I ended up putting the clock to my work space wall – where egg timer has very little continued use.
Field testing* results from wake up timer
The night time mode for remaining sleep time visualization simply rocks. Having now used it every night for way more than a month, the “why” -part is getting clear to me:
- The idea of showing only a color-coded bar that tells whether there is plenty, some, little, or almost no time left has the right amount of information for my limited cognitive capabilities during night time – it gives enough sensation on amounts, and..
- It does not clutter my mind with unnecessary time data: In very fundamental level I do not want to be reminded on actual numerical time as it has negative informational value for me: 03:14? 05:37? Even with known deadline this presentation has more noise than information I can use during sleeping hours.
Plus, I just love it when I am able to de-clutter stuff, even if it is one bit of information.
*= Yeah, my room does not classify as field.
Next episode: No more timers.