Staying focused and concentrating when your smartphone is at hand is a perpetual problem. Tranquilo, a lamp by New Zealand-based designer Avid Kadam, offers a unique solution: the only way to turn it on is to switch your smartphone off. Luckily, it does the latter for you.
Kadam designed the Tranquilo as a lamp made of a few different distinct parts. First, there's the light itself, a detachable LED lightbulb with Philips Hue-style color shifting abilities. The base, meanwhile, comes with both near-field communication (NFC) support and wireless charging, so when you place your smartphone on it, the Tranquilo can turn on the lamp as well as start wirelessly charging your handset. But the Tranquilo doesn't just turn on a lamp when you place your smartphone on its base. It also does the opposite, switching your phone to "Do Not Disturb" mode for as long as that light is shining.
It's a genius affordance. These days, most of us don't actually use things like switch-on desk lamps—unless we're doing something analog: squinting over a book, for example, or writing something in our notebooks. But in the always-online 21st century, these analog activities rarely go interrupted by the blips, bleeps, and blurps coming from our smartphones. The Tranquilo makes going analog an exchange: to turn this lamp on, your smartphone must go off.
Unfortunately, the Tranquilo is just a concept for right now, mostly because there are a few practical details that would stop it from working. First, NFC can't be used to switch a smartphone like an iPhone into "Do Not Disturb" mode right now. Second, wireless charging support is still fairly rare among smartphones, and doesn't work at all on the iPhone without a special case.
So maybe the Tranquilo isn't an idea whose time has come quite yet. Even so, all the technology is technically there to make this product a reality, it's just a matter of the companies catching up.
Ultimately, the idea is more important than the technology itself. As our devices continue to impinge on our lives, there's an increasing need to balance things out. Perhaps this is the ultimate role of the Internet of Things: not to make devices smarter for the sake of being smarter, but to make them smart enough to turn themselves off at the right moment—and let us live our lives.