My alarms are rubbish

I have a problem, and it keeps happening to me in bed. It’s quite embarrassing….

It starts out early in the morning, I wake up in shock and realise – as I hear the rumble of an approaching truck – that I’ve forgotten to put the bins out. Queue the embarrassment as I leap from my bed and streak to the street, desperately trying to get the bins in front of the truck, before the truck moves on. More than once I’ve not only had to dodge falling debris from the trash as I make my mad sprint, but also the smirking faces of neighbours and garbage truck drivers, as I hurl two bins towards the street dressed in a pair of PJ’s. Not fun.

It doesn’t help that we’re near  the start of the street, so you can’t hear the truck till it’s nearly on top of you. It helps even less that we’re obviously near the start of the run, so the truck puts in an appearance pretty damned early – normally around 6am.

But the real problem is a usability issue…

Bedside alarm clocks are made to work on a small time-scale. According to mine – and to most, currently – every day is the same. If I set the alarm to wake me at 7am for work, it wakes me at 7am, whether it’s Friday or Saturday. If I turn it off because it’s Sunday and I need that sleep-in, then it lets me sleep in on Monday too, unless I remember to change it.

Some do have weekday and weekend settings, but that’s relatively rare. What’s even more rare is something that would actually help me. What I would need is something that work me at 7am every workday, but at 6am every second Tuesday, for the bins.

Of course, calendar apps are made for this. It takes just a minute to put a repeating two-week reminder on my phone, to put the bins out. Equally I can set a wake-up event on the calendar for every two weeks to get me up in time to dress for the garbage truck, for once.

Again though, there’s a problem. My phone (A HTC Desire running Android) reminds me every time an email arrives or new social media content is posted – which can happen all through the night. Therefore I turn it to silent mode or switch it off, to avoid getting woken up constantly.

And in silent mode, it won’t wake me up at all, and I’m back to racing half-naked for the bins. Yes, I know, I could set a reminder for the evening before and avoid the whole waking up thing – but again, I have a tendency to switch off my phone in the evenings, as I have a few customers who regularly ring me late if I don’t.

What’s needed is a little intelligence.

With my phone (as with most) you can set an event and how often it repeats, you can customise when it will remind you, but you can’t customise how, or how important the event is.

There are lots of different ways this could be solved. For example, the phone could allow for a ‘make noise if ignored’ setting, globally or for certain events of importance. If the phone is in silent mode and one of these events occurs, then after a certain period of inactivity – say, 60 seconds without me switching it off – it makes a rising alarm sound, to alert you.

Alternatively, there could be a level of importance setting on events. Standard events make the normal soft ‘bing’ of an alarm, or no noise in silent mode, whereas high level importance events make a longer, louder sound no matter what setting the phone is in.

Either way, the technology is easily there, it just takes applying it to one device or another to make our lives easier.

Because I’m sure I’m not the only one racing for the bin at 6am in his PJ’s…

Gary Bunker

the Fore