Remembering Lunch: an IoT Love Story

Article Written by Stefanie Danhope

We love playing with hardware at Thomas Street. For this experiment, we wanted to use technology to solve a problem that we encounter in our own lives: forgetting to bring lunch to work.

This seems like a problem that would have been solved by using location based reminders, but when I've asked my phone to remind me to bring my lunch when I leave the house—the notification doesn’t show until I’m well on the main road. Going back to retrieve it takes a while, and that isn't an option when I'm pressed for time in the morning (which is pretty much always 😓 ).

Lowering the Barrier

We ran a quick study by asking a handful lunch-forgetters to put handwritten reminder notes in various locations around their homes in the evening, well before the morning rush. Our research suggested that a well placed analog reminder did help our participants remember their lunch. It was effective, but how could I make the process easier?

To increase speed, I considered using a smart button to set the reminder. Users don't have to dig through app layers to access them, and since they're screen-free it won't be an invitation to enter a social media trance. There was some apprehension among the our study participants that it would actually cross their mind to put up the note, so I thought it would help to increase proximity by placing the button near the the refrigerator, where they store their food.

The research also suggested that domestic partners were often very happy to help, so another advantage to this placement is that it would reside within a shared space that everyone in the household has easy access to.

Timing is Key

Since poor timing is the reason that standard alarms and location based reminders have not been effective for me in the past, I wanted to nail that aspect for this new reminder system. The last thing I do before I leave the house is pick up my bag, so this movement would be the ideal event to trigger the notification in my case. For users who don’t take bags to work, they could attach the hardware to some other item they consistently take to before leaving for the day, like their keys. Allowing the user to define a window of time when they typically leave for the day would help prevent false alarms. 

How the solution would look to a robot’s brain

How the solution would look to a robot’s brain

Up Next

We want to validate these assumptions. Is the barrier low enough for people to remember to set reminders for themselves? Do the reminders continue to be effective? Is sound the best way to notify them? We could start to answer those questions by building a prototype based on the process flow above and taking it for a spin. We’ve already got our shopping list: a flic button, and an Arduino board outfitted with a battery, accelerometer, wifi radio and piezo speaker. With a little tinkering, we’ll be up and running in no time.