Mad about Thermodo - Simon Støvring on building software that measures temperature

As soon as I got my Thermodo — a small gadget that allows the iPhone to take temperature readings — I went out and looked for projects that would use these newly gained powers in cool ways. I had been following the Robocat Kickstarter campaign and knew there was an SDK for any dev to integrate in their app. First I reached out to the developers of Shade, Henri Normak and Simon Gustavsson, who incorporated the Thermodo input to replace the 'feels like' section on their app. I thought that was an interesting use but I wanted to see more. Then I met Simon Støvring.

Simon's story is one of iteration, perseverance and interest in a field that would leave your average iPhone user bewildered. At the time of this writing he has coded four different apps and continue working on with the Thermodo SDK. While these days it seems that weather apps are the new playground for developers to experiment with new interfaces, back in 2009 Simon already had an eye for Outside. Coincidentally developed by Robocat, this was one of the apps he bought when he got his first iPhone, followed by Thermo, which also sported an unconventional interface to make something bland a little bit more exciting.

As an advantaged Kickstarter backer, the news of a public SDK to play around with a product that was a prototype at the time was a huge motivator: "I immediately knew that I wanted to utilize it somehow" he says. During the campaign Simon started working on apps that would eventually take advantage of the SDK.

The first of what would become an impressive list of Thermodo-focused applications was Gradus: a simple Mac app that could display temperature on your Mac's menubar. This effort got the attention of the Copenhagen-based studio and was featured on one of the Kickstarter updates.

From this first initial contact, things started getting a bit more experimental using a couple of Philips Hue lightbulbs. These are LED lightbulbs that can be controlled remotely with an app to change the ambient of a room. Simon managed to tie Thermodo readings to the colour output, creating an app — Bulbometer — that could change the colour depending on the temperature in the room or outside (video of Bulbometer in action). This one also made it to one the Kickstarter updates featuring creative uses of the kit.

Back to the Mac

With these projects under his belt, Simon was invited to try an early version of the SDK for OS X and iterated on one of his ideas building Temperatus. This Mac app sitting on the menubar would give you the temperature when you plugged the Thermodo on the headphone jack. What was originally made as a small device to take with you and use on your phone had a new home. I could image multiple uses for this, especially leaving it on desktop computers in a room, but also useful with your laptop if you didn't want to use your phone for some reason at that time.

Fruit of his own interactions in Twitter came his fourth project. Originally thought of an app to monitor temperature with several Thermodos at the same time, Simon took the challenge and built Hub. As the original concept envisioned by Ian Bauters, this new functionality would allow you to keep track of several Thermodos without having them in front of you. Behind the scenes, the measurements are uploaded to iCloud so you can access the information remotely.

His persistence, passion and arguably, his expertise with the SDK, led to a job offer with Robocat. Since February Simon has been working on the official Thermodo companion app and the SDKs. With this track record, I could not help and ask how something like Hub and a Mac app could lead to some very creative uses. Simon admits "OS X offers some great opportunities for Hub. It is definitely possible to combine Hub with a Mac app. It's actually one of the things that I have on the road map".

Some of the most creative uses however, come from the needs in everyday situations. One of my favourites is chucking the little Thermodo out of the window with an extension cable to track the temperature outside. Simon tells me how one of the fathers of the Thermodo, Michael Flarup, is using it to monitor the crib of his newborn baby.

"Hub fits perfectly in some of the scenarios that the Thermodo owners already utilize the device. Hub makes it even easier to monitor the temperature of a crib because you can do it from anywhere in the house and by using Hub you don't even have to go out to the grill to check the temperature. You can do it from the kitchen while preparing the marinade" he says.

Christopher Parthier reports it works just fine to measure the water temperature for bathing his daughter while Trevor Prentice shared his very cool hack installing the thermometer on his jacket with an extension cable, making it so much easier to plug and unplug when you're wearing gloves.

There are people using Thermodos in creative ways without relying on software, mixing it with cheap extension cords and everything in between. After backing the project and see it come to fruition, now it's the time for users to tinker with our new gadgets and see what comes out of it. This is the real Thermodo story.