Spacetime alarms

Alarm clocks are temporal. They tell you when some time criterion has been reached. They’re very useful.

But often, I really want an alarm with a spatial criterion – a location alarm. Let’s consider some possible uses:

  • Beep shrilly if anyone tries to steal this device from its current location. [I think there are accelerometer-based programs for laptops that do this]
  • I’m snoozing on the train – wake me up when we get near Penn Station. [This is where I first came up with the idea].
  • Give me a kick if I’m still in my office when I’m supposed to have left for that meeting. After all, I don’t need the alarm to go off if I’m already on my way to the meeting. [though that’s a combination space + time criterion]

This would make for an obvious and delightful iPhone app. I haven’t found one yet, but I haven’t looked hard either.

UPDATE: there are some really superb suggestions in the comments, and in Hacker News that take this idea much further. I particularly liked these:

  • R.J.Google Maps needs this so when I’m walking down the street I don’t have to pay attention to street address numbers/keep my eyes glued to the screen.
  • FrankusMaybe something like that could tell me when I’m close to the grocery store that I need to buy milk.
  • Frankus: A game where you try and assassinate your friends by setting imaginary time bombs to go off at a particular location when you think your friend will be there.

4 thoughts on “Spacetime alarms

  1. I can't find it offhand but I know I read a post several months ago (on engadget, or maybe boing boing) about an iphone app that used the iphone's GPS functionality for a location-based alarm. They even specifically used the “wake up when your train arrives” example.

    edit: took another minute to check before I posted. Here you go!

  2. This would require a background process which AFAIK is not supported for apps on the iphone. Android has this capability though and there are apps like this available.

  3. Google Maps needs this so when I'm walking down the street I don't have to pay attention to street address numbers/keep my eyes glued to the screen.

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