Hong Kong innovators

Wake up and say hello to Kello, a smart alarm clock developed in Hong Kong

The advanced sleep trainer, developed by a startup which raised funds through Kickstarter, aims to help users change their habits

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 8:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 9:52pm

Insomniacs who crave better quality sleep but find it difficult to change their lifestyles can now turn to Kello, a smart alarm clock developed by a Hong Kong-based startup.

Although Kello is described as a smart alarm clock, chief executive and co-founder Antoine Markarian said that it is more of a sleep trainer that aims to help users achieve better sleep through a host of habit-forming actions, including going to bed at a regular time, performing breathing exercises in bed and hitting the snooze button less in the mornings.

Markarian said that he came up with the idea of Kello after he ran a series of experiments on himself in a bid to become a better sleeper.

“I looked at studies [on sleep quality] to see what I was doing wrong, and I found that regular bedtimes work very well,” Markarian said. “This was what inspired me to fix sleep through lifestyle, and not by pills.

“It requires a lot of willpower to change sleep habits by yourself, but we’re trying to lower the entry barrier. It’s much more efficient to build a habit when you have a physical entity reminding you about it.”

A lot of people told us they didn’t want their smartphone in the bedroom any more, as it’s too much of a distraction
Antoine Markarian, chief executive, Kello

Kello’s programs are based on scientifically-proven methods to help users achieve better sleep, according to Markarian. The promise of better sleep through Kello has already resonated with more than 1,800 backers on its Kickstarter campaign, who pledged over US$200,000 in less than a week, 400 per cent of the original US$50,000 goal. The device costs about US$109 for backers on Kickstarter.

Markarian and his two other co-founders first moved to Hong Kong last July to work with Brinc, a locally based hardware accelerator, in developing Kello.

“Hong Kong is the best place to be because we have proximity to the factories, the research and development resources as well as the vendors [in Shenzhen], but we also have access to Facebook and Google without any limitations, which is important for marketing,” Markarian said.

The team spent the last year designing Kello with the help of a 10,000-strong online community who wanted to see the project come to life.

“A lot of people told us that they did not want their smartphone in the bedroom any more, as it’s too much of a distraction,” Markarian said. As a result, one of Kello’s primary features is that it works independently without constantly having to sync to a smartphone.

“You simply program Kello once with the companion app and then it works without your phone, it can stream music directly from Spotify as it’s connected to Wi-Fi,” he said.

There are several programs users can choose from. For example, a user who has a goal to wake up an hour earlier, by 7am instead of the usual 8am, can programme the clock so that it automatically flashes a reminder to go to bed a few minutes earlier each day, while at the same time adjusting the morning alarm several minutes ahead. This process is repeated through the month until Kello successfully adjusts the user’s body clock to wake up an hour early.

Other programs include ‘Snooze Less’, which gives users a limited number of chances to hit snooze each week. Users can set the number of snoozes allowed each week, together with a suitable “punishment” that comes with exceeding the limit, such as having Kello play an annoying song from Spotify after you hit your fourth snooze of the week.

The smart alarm clock can be connected to several other devices, including smartphones, wireless lighting such as the Philips Hue, and other smart home appliances. This means that users can program Kello to turn on the bedroom light in the morning when the alarm goes off, brew coffee, or even dim the lights when it’s time to go to bed.