Charging Docks in the Connected Home

Every evening I plug my phone into the charger and set my alarm for the next morning. I could keep doing it this way, but I thought there should be a more elegant way that combines these two activities. So we prototyped a connected inductive charging dock.

The animation on the phone forecasts the position of the sun / color of the sky for the selected wakeup time. The forecasted weather could also be added.

Putting the phone on the bedside charger in the evening opens an alarm interface with a proposed wake-up time. Sliding the phone horizontally lets one tweak the proposed alarm time. Similar to the Tap-to-Tweak experiment, this is an example of our belief in the critical role of physical interactions to surface intangible features of connected products.

Beyond triggering a context-specific UI on a phone, the dock could trigger other connected devices in the connected home. For example, the system may propose turning on the reading lamp if it detects I am in bed earlier than usual.

Putting a phone on a desk dock can be used as conditional trigger for the work lamp.

I also have chargers on my office desk and on my kitchen counter. I use these chargers mostly, because — sadly — my phone doesn’t make it through the day without charging. These could also be used as triggers for the connected devices in the space of the charger.

By using this connected dock as a conditional trigger for both connected devices and phone interfaces, we spend less time deep-diving into apps to turn things on or off, and we also add a little delight to an otherwise dull process. This is one of the reasons why we think that exploring the possibilities of charging docks as conditional triggers is interesting.

A smartphone dock can trigger different events depending on the context.

We also see this as a promising space, because it requires minimal embedded technology; the mobile device can supply the majority of connectivity and processing. This also means these docks can leverage device-granted data — user identification, user preferences, time, location, etc. — to interpret into some very interesting automata.

But, of course, we’re also cracking open a can of worms. Here’s a few of the questions we’ve stirred up.

What if you just want to charge your phone and not trigger an automatic behavior? Perhaps a physical ‘off’ button?

On the other hand, what if you want the automatic behavior but don’t have your device?

Can these smarter docking stations be leveraged to help negotiate control and preferences when multiple users and devices are present in the same space?

Can these smarter docking stations be leveraged to help negotiate control and preferences when multiple users and devices are present in the same space?