Alarm Clock

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mosc
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Alarm Clock

Postby mosc » Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:30 pm UTC

So I'm sick of all the awesome alarm clock apps in my BATTERY OPERATED smartphone and my straight out of the 1980s alarm clock. No, I don't check the 9V battery very often and no, I have no confidence it would work off of the battery anyway. I also don't like having to pull out my phone to check the weather and all these metering stations seem unnecessarily complex when simply asking google gives a far more detailed and accurate answer. I have looked in vain for a device I don't think is more complicated than a smart watch. An alarm clock with an internal battery and a wifi connection with a display that can show me the weather.

Option 1: Some type of alarm clock
I see some stuff with a weather station which picks up outside temp. I'm more interested in what I should be wearing not current temp and the variation between sunlight and not on where the shadow hits the sensor is of no benefit. Battery backups go out the window too when we get more complex than 80s tech. It does have a snooze button though, points for that.

Option 2: A bluetooth speaker
Well, it makes sound and has a battery. Plenty of them have clocks too but they're amazingly poor alarm clocks. A snooze button please? I think there are one or two. Showing the weather seems right out.

Option 3: Some type of android device
It's sad that a multi-function tablet is close. It has a battery and the apps give you access to a lot of stuff. I've lost my physical snooze button though and showing the clock when you roll over and debate getting up early is very cumbersome.

I dunno, nothing seems right.
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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby speising » Mon Feb 06, 2017 10:29 pm UTC

You know what they say: "When life gives you a market niche, start a kickstarter!"

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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby KnightExemplar » Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:32 am UTC

No, I don't check the 9V battery very often and no


Ehh? The Alarm Clocks I buy have a lithium-ion battery that automatically charges. Lithium-ion eventually fails, but that takes thousands of charging cycles. So I'd expect any decent Lithium-ion battery based Alarm Clock to work.

An alarm clock with an internal battery and a wifi connection with a display that can show me the weather.


That doesn't sound simple.

You'd need a WiFi radio (2.4GHz), which somehow would need to interpret modern routing protocols (802.11n or something in a lot of people's houses), with password requirements and possibly encryption. That would require a relatively beefy CPU.

You don't want the weather... you want a "weather forecast". Some basic research says that NOAA has standardized radio stations where you can listen for this sort of stuff. That's likely where Google pulls the data anyway.

https://www.amazon.com/Midland-WR11-Clo ... B000P0RPNA

What about something like that, except with a modern Lithium Ion battery instead of a 9V backup. Set your "wakeup tune" to the Weather Station, and you're all set.

Honestly, I'd just get a normal radio alarm clock and set my alarm to my local news station. On every "eight", my local news gives out the weather forecast anyway. So if I set my alarm clock to 7:47, I'll get the weather forecast at 7:48 from my local news station. But a NOAA-based answer intrigues me.

With a WWVB-radio (aka: the "Atomic Clock" signal), you can get daylight savings time and everything through the continental USA, once you set your time zone.
Last edited by KnightExemplar on Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:36 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby Soupspoon » Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:35 am UTC

Tempted to make something like this?

https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/magic-mirror/

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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby mosc » Tue Feb 07, 2017 3:59 pm UTC

That's pretty awesome. I don't think building it into the mirror adds much though. Furniture has long co-existed with a clock of one sort or another.

It's not a problem of price. The battery doesn't need to last more than overnight and the display doesn't need to be that big. I look at a $39 kindle fire and see a plethora of excess screen, processor, and battery but it lacks physical buttons.

Does seem like a cool kickstarter thing but I lack chinese hookups for cheap electronics.
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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby KnightExemplar » Tue Feb 07, 2017 6:32 pm UTC

mosc wrote:It's not a problem of price. The battery doesn't need to last more than overnight and the display doesn't need to be that big. I look at a $39 kindle fire and see a plethora of excess screen, processor, and battery but it lacks physical buttons.


As far as a product goes: configuring an "alarm clock" to a WiFi router sounds like hell. And after that, figuring out the issues revolving around the subscription model of weather data (Does the clock know to pull data for New York City or San Francisco?).

The reason why it works on a Tablet is that the Tablet / Smartphone can do a lot with WiFi stuff. You can browse movies, check email and everything. But an Alarm Clock is a dedicated appliance for one purpose. Any "configuration" of it should be kept to a minimum.

------------

Note that Amazon is selling the Kindle for a loss at this point. But even then, there are some finer details about its design.

Physical buttons are more expensive than capacitive buttons. Not just high-quality arcade buttons ($3 a pop), but even just your normal tiny $0.50 button costs almost infinitely more than a capacitive button.

A capacitive button "senses" when water is close by. There's a delay and it takes far more CPU power to do. Its a simple algorithm: send a carefully measured current down to the capacitive button to measure its capacitance (the faster it charges, the less capacitance it has). When a bag of water (or human-shaped bag of water) comes close, the capacitance skyrockets due to physics.

You gotta have a CPU constantly checking the capacitance however, which means an algorithm constantly sending carefully measured currents to and from the button. But it costs $0, absolutely ZERO, to do. All your "cost" is in software (and maybe the printed circuit board traces). In essence, a $2 or $3 chip can constantly be measuring the capacitance of dozens... or even hundreds... of capacitive pads arranged in a matrix, so as your finger glides from one pad to another, the CPU can "trace" your path. The CPU has to do a lot of computational work to calculate all of the issues that come up ("Ghosting" and whatnot), but the problem is basically solved now with software packages.

In essence: if you wanted to make a "mass produced Alarm Clock" that had WiFi and all that... it would probably be cheapest to just buy a tablet (ie: Kindle Fire) and then load an App so that it permanently runs on Alarm Clock mode. Adding stuff like Physical Buttons or an FM Radio would be relatively expensive, although doable.
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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby Zamfir » Mon Feb 13, 2017 5:55 am UTC

If the physical button is not a complete deal breaker, you could buy a old used phone with amoled screen (say, a Samsung S3) and build it into a nice box. The amoled screens have perfect no-light black, so apps with a black background would look very nice this way.

Adding a physical button is remarkably hacky (like, add a hidden bluetooth keyboard, then wire your physical button to the enter key of the keyboard). It's probably easier to have two devices ,perhaps in one box: a dedicated alarm clock with buttons, and an old phone showing some weather app with the screen always-on.

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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby mosc » Mon Feb 13, 2017 1:56 pm UTC

That's true. The weather, and the clock for that matter, are fairly unrelated to the alarm. Simply showing the weather and the time fulfills that function while having a traditional alarm clock next to it works fine for waking you up. Looking at alarm clocks though I am continually puzzled by their lack of integration with ancient tech rechargeable batteries. Surely 4x AA batteries is enough voltage (5V easily) and a built in charger with shutoff is something you could rip out of a wireless phone from decades ago.

Surprisingly hard to find a modern screen that's designed to be left on too. Your standard 7-segment display can run continuously for years but you get all kinds of problems with more flexible solutions even in this wonderful era.
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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby KnightExemplar » Mon Feb 13, 2017 5:36 pm UTC

mosc wrote:That's true. The weather, and the clock for that matter, are fairly unrelated to the alarm. Simply showing the weather and the time fulfills that function while having a traditional alarm clock next to it works fine for waking you up. Looking at alarm clocks though I am continually puzzled by their lack of integration with ancient tech rechargeable batteries. Surely 4x AA batteries is enough voltage (5V easily) and a built in charger with shutoff is something you could rip out of a wireless phone from decades ago.


I think the main issue is that most AA batteries are non-rechargeable, and the circuitry to detect the non-rechargeable AA battery costs more than $0. So most manufacturers would rather just package a lithium-ion battery into the wall clock rather than risk the users sticking in non-rechargeables into the clock.

In any case, Lithium Ion based alarm clocks seem to be relatively common. Rechargeable AA (with a built-in top-off recharger) would have been my preference for easy replacement (all batteries wear out over time), but with Alarm clocks being like $20 or so... its not a big deal to just replace the whole thing every 8 years or whenever the backup battery goes kaput.

------------

Another issue: modern microcontrollers can keep time and keep their RAM active on just 2micro-Amps of current and 1.8V. So 2-AA batteries gets you above the 1.8V minimum, and they have 2000milli-Amp Hours of stored energy. At a rate of 2-microAmps of current draw, that's 1,000,000 hours (aka 110 years) of "battery backup" on just two AA batteries.

In practice, the AA batteries will self-discharge to nothingness in that timeframe (probably only last 10 years or so). But yeah... modern microcontrollers definitely make the non-rechargeable backup battery thing a valid solution.

Surprisingly hard to find a modern screen that's designed to be left on too. Your standard 7-segment display can run continuously for years but you get all kinds of problems with more flexible solutions even in this wonderful era.


As far as screens go, my favorite is E-Ink. Color E-ink is still expensive, but black-and-white is sufficient for clocks and stuff.

There's no need for a backlight, and its basically superior LCD technology. Its very slow on the refresh... but Clocks only update maybe... once per minute. So the slow refresh (in the ~1 second region or so) is basically a non-issue in clock-applications.

The only "clock" that I know of that used the E-Ink screen was the Pebble Smartwatch. RIP Pebble :-(

E-Ink only uses energy when the screen changes. It takes a bit of energy to "push" the ink to new locations, but once there... they stay there without any power. There isn't much volume of E-Ink screens however. Pretty much the Kindle is the only winning design as far as I'm aware.
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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby Zamfir » Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:52 am UTC

Kindles have a built-in browser that runs javascript, and HTML canvas etc. There's also an odd trick to turn off the screensaver.Combine those things, and you can make a nice clock from a Kindle. They don't seem to have speakers anymore, though the old ones used to have them.

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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby mosc » Tue Feb 14, 2017 1:55 pm UTC

So this is close:
https://www.amazon.com/Zettaly-Wireless ... 00WR3W2TA/

They call it a "smart speaker", but it's really just a cheapo tablet with overgrown speakers. It does not have a snooze button on the top but the screen is massive enough to use an app based capacitive button.

Problems:
1) It's too big
2) Pricey
3) the clock doesn't show all the time. If it did, the entire room would be lit by the backlight on a 7" screen.
4) I would still greatly prefer a giant snooze button on the top
5) "My alarm clock crashed overnight" causing you to oversleep is a real threat.

I dunno, it's close. There is some appeal in having the ability to listen to podcasts, siriusXM app, other things like that on it.
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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby speising » Tue Feb 14, 2017 2:25 pm UTC

It would probably be easy to cobble something together with a Raspberry Pi. A few buttons are easy, and there are even e-ink displays available.

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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby mosc » Tue Feb 14, 2017 4:56 pm UTC

speising wrote:It would probably be easy to cobble something together with a Raspberry Pi. A few buttons are easy, and there are even e-ink displays available.

I agree. However I'm too lazy to get out of bed in the morning effectively so the level of effort involved in what you're proposing is several orders of magnitude beyond what I'm willing to contribute.
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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby Flumble » Tue Feb 14, 2017 5:16 pm UTC

mosc wrote:
speising wrote:It would probably be easy to cobble something together with a Raspberry Pi. A few buttons are easy, and there are even e-ink displays available.

I agree. However I'm too lazy to get out of bed in the morning effectively so the level of effort involved in what you're proposing is several orders of magnitude beyond what I'm willing to contribute.

This doesn't follow directly, though. Getting out of bed isn't a hobby of mine either, but building a super-clock would be. Especially when it's for someone I know, rather than for myself.

Maybe ask a technically inclined kid in your neighbourhood to make it, with you providing the budget; it's a great learning opportinuty for them and you get a clock to your desires. :mrgreen:

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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby KnightExemplar » Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:34 am UTC

mosc wrote:4) I would still greatly prefer a giant snooze button on the top


From an Android perspective, it should be rather easy to convert a microphone jack into a giant button. That microphone jack is used for a lot of inputs: credit-cards are swiped through the microphone for example, and then the "sound" is analyzed to turn back into credit card data.

IIRC, there were some advanced joysticks in the 90s era where the analog-to-digital converters (representing X-axis and Y-axis on the joystick) were changed into more complicated signals: multiple buttons or similar.

So maybe something like a tablet + a control panel of buttons... with a dedicated app running all the time that's an alarm clock? The screen issue is still a problem though, because LCD screens aren't exactly good for sleep (too bright, too much backlight)
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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby mosc » Fri Feb 24, 2017 8:08 pm UTC

I still think this would be an interesting kickstarter project for somebody more techey. You get an e-ink display, probably an old phone chip, a small lithium battery, a button hooked up through the headphone port (or perhaps some legacy supported android buttons we used to get like menu or somesuch), and a small android app to run as a clock. Watching a SiriusXM app or some other thing shown on e-ink would be cool enough on it's own. How many things would really break if they were monochrome? Probably needs a backlight button, Timex watch style would work fine.

Can't imagine it would be less than $100 though, not sure there's much alarm clock market up that high.
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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby Katsuray » Sat Feb 25, 2017 7:15 pm UTC

I was under the impression that e-ink panels were opaque (unable to be back-lit). There might be a solution with side-lighting but that would either require optics and/or annoying—when seen from the side—lights.

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Re: Alarm Clock

Postby mosc » Mon Feb 27, 2017 2:10 pm UTC

Kindle Paperwhite is what I was thinking of. The screen is lit... if you don't want to call it backlit. Side lighting built into the screen functions the same way.
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