Matthew HughesFormer TNW Reporter
Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Follow him on Twi Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Follow him on Twitter.
London-based startup Smarter Time has an ambitious goal: it wants to make it easier to keep tabs on your day-to-day activities, so you can completely optimise your routine, and spend more time on the things you actually care about.
To do that, the company has created an Android app that does much of the hard work for you. Based on your location and your previous activities, the app makes a guess at what it is you’re doing. So, if you’re in an office building from 9 to 5, it’ll assume you’re hard at work.
If you walk along a certain route, and you tell the app you’re walking your dog, it’ll learn from this, and use the information as it goes forward.
It can also look at your phone’s information, in order to track what you’re up to. So, if you’re messing around with Facebook, or binging Rick and Morty on Netflix, it’ll know. It can also track your call logs, so you can see how long you’re actually spending on meetings.
It also offers a Mac and Windows app that does a similar thing. It tracks what you’re doing, and uses the data to build your daily profile.
The aim is to allow users to exercise discipline in their life. If you want to learn to play an instrument, it might be useful to know how much time you’re wasting watching movies, browsing Reddit, or spending down the pub.
Anna Winterstein, the company’s founder and CMO, spoke to TNW a few months ago. According to Winterstein, the company plans to stick with Android for the foreseeable future. That’s because iOS doesn’t allow apps the same level of granular access to live user data. Recreating the same experience across platforms simply isn’t tenable.
I’ve spent the past few months playing around with Smarter Time. It’s an ambitious concept, and once I’ve had a great deal of fun experimenting with. Its biggest weakness is that it relies on user discipline in order to work. For Smarter Time to actually be good at tracking what you’re up to, you need to (at least, at first) be willing to spoon-feed it your daily routine.
At first, the app will make some pretty sketchy guesses. That’s often because indoor GPS signals (it uses location data extensively) are seldom precise. You need to be disciplined, and make sure you proactively correct Smarter Time when it errs.
At first, that’s a bit of a nightmare. Things get easier as you use it more though. Given that Smarter Time is aimed at those who want to add a bit of discipline into their routine, that probably isn’t much of a hard sell. However, if you’re as scatterbrained as I am, you might struggle with it.
In the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit I really struggled here, and I feel as though I didn’t get as much out of someone who would approach Smarter Time with a sense of military discipline.
My only other major criticism of the app is that it’s pretty taxing when it comes to battery life. I used it primarily on my BlackBerry KEYone (although in the pictures above, it’s running on a Xiaomi Mi Pad 3), and found that it cut my phone’s otherwise sterling stamina by about a quarter. That’s because it’s constantly awake, and constantly pinging your location services.
One of Smarter Time’s strongest features is that it’s private by design. Data is stored on the phone. If you pay for the premium version, it’s uploaded to the cloud, where it sits in a form that’s entirely unreadable to Smarter Time. While they can do backups, they can’t do any analysis of the data.
That’s pretty laudable, considering the company could probably make a shed-load of money by selling it. They’ve signed up 100,000 users, who are using the app to build detailed records of their life, which are attached to a personal profile. Imagine how valuable that would be to a marketer.
If you want to check Smarter Time out, you can download it from the Play Store here.
Get the TNW newsletter
Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.