One of the most powerful things you can have in your pocket right now, apart from a wallet containing Beyonce and Jesse Heiman’s personal phone numbers (google it), is a fully armed smartphone. The computing power of these things is amazing, and yet, as with our brains, we usually end up using a fraction of their full capacity.
The problem is no-one has the time to keep digging out the handset to do this or do that, and so the phone remains in our bags and pockets, ready for dull stuff like calls and texts. But what if there was a way to automate cool stuff, so the phone would do tasks for us automatically, without our needing to manually operate buttons?
Yeah, now that would be more like it!
Atooma is a free Android app which aims to offer just that level of automation, and crucially, without you having to be a techie or coder to get it working. The app basically lets anyone create a number of automated routines which can be triggered automatically depending on various criteria. Examples:
* Get your phone to automatically sound an alarm when you reach your train or bus stop, so you can grab a snooze on the way.
* Switch off WiFi and switch on GPS automatically when you get into your car for a journey.
* Get your phone to read your messages to you automatically when you’re driving to work.
…and so on.
The key to the whole this is the clever icon based interface which lets you set up automated actions based on triggers which you also set. So for instance if you want your phone to automatically switch on Bluetooth every time you enter the office, then you set up a set of conditions based around a GPS location (when you reach your office) and an action (turn on Bluetooth).
There’s a cool set of options you can choose from and you can stack actions per trigger to obtain the result you want. The awesome bit is that once you get the hang of the interface, creating new tasks is trivially easy, and what’s more there’s a community in place which also shares tasks via The Wall, which is an in-app location where you can browse other people’s tasks and download them for yourself.
The task above I created in about 2 minutes and it tells the phone to switch off WiFi every time I leave my home. All I did was specify the trigger (leaving a location on the map) and what I wanted to happen. Faultless and mind bogglingly easy.
So why is it ‘almost perfect’? Well it’s nothing to do with Atooma we don’t believe, but the app does really impact on your battery life. Significantly, especially if you use things like GPS as triggers. The reason for this is obvious. If you’re asking the app to trigger something based on a location, then it has to keep checking that location using GPS, which means triggering the radio, and hence using battery.
We can’t really see a way around this from where we’re sitting, but if the techs do ever come up with a solution, then this could end up being the single most important app that anyone will ever install on their phone. It’s that useful.
In the meantime we’ll keep an eye out on the technology and report back if a power management breakthrough happens.