“I just remember staying up until 4:30 in the morning to see if school closed and then it wasn’t closed, so that sucked.”
This was the thought process for Towson University Professor Jal Irani before developing the idea for his inclement weather alarm app, SleepIn. The app adjusts a user’s alarm for school closings due to inclement weather. Professor Irani and fellow student Audrey envisioned the app while he attended graduate school at Johns Hopkins University to receive his masters in computer science. However, due to geographical differences, Audrey later sold her portion of the app to Irani and he became the sole producer.
The development process began in early 2016. He admits to having problems with the initial design, stating that he did not like how the app looked and was unhappy that users were only able to set one alarm. As a result, he scrapped the original product and began anew.
After graduating from Hopkins, Irani reevaluated his commitment to the app, noting nearly 400 hours spent working on the product. By the end of 2017, he completed the app and it became available for public download.
“The goal was to make the feel and look very similar to the native iOS alarm clock, just like you would normally set an alarm: toggle on and off the snooze and name the alarm,” Irani replied when asked about the accessibility of the alarm. The only difference between setting up this alarm and the iOS alarm is an added step of choosing a school. This allows the app to reference only relevant information when searching for school closings.
To obtain this information, the app cross-references multiple sources such as the Baltimore Sun and local news stations to determine if a school is closed. Once concluded as such, the alarm is turned off. Afterwards, the phone will receive a silent notification on the home screen, telling the user that their school has been closed.
Currently, Irani is working on an update for the app in the hopes of releasing it by the end of Summer 2018 — in time for the next school year. With this next model, Irani aims to reach a wider scope.
“It was initially designed for college students and faculty,” said Irani. However, after feedback and revision, he believes the next release will be applicable to grades Kindergarten through 12 and parents. He also hopes to expand the geographical compatibility of the app, making it accessible to regions in the northeast and midwest. Currently, it is only available in Maryland.
Another feature he hopes to implement in the next version is the ability for students to scan their schedule into the app by picture, allowing the alarm to account for delays as well as closings. Irani notes the increased variability of alarm times when a delay occurs and believes that, with this feature, he can program the app to change the alarm time when a delay occurs.
These, along with skepticism of credibility, have been Irani’s biggest concerns thus far. However, with increasing recognition of the app after being featured on WBAL and in local college newspapers, he believes the increased exposure will assure users of the dependability of the app. He comments that within the past week, he has received a surplus of downloads, reaching roughly 300 users over a month-and-a-half.
The app is currently available for download to students attending UMBC and all other colleges and universities in Maryland. For more information about the app and access to the download, visit https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sleepin-alarm/id1321674721?mt=8