Digital Design Wall Clock Project

My dynamic wall clock shows relevant information such as the date, time and weather in style.

As the lead developer for the app store apps Clockology and Faces, I have been working with software to make custom clocks and watch faces for a long time, but have always wanted to see the designs people made with it on a “real life” clock on my wall.  In fact, the original project started as a screen saver for MacOS that was inspired by vintage wall clocks re-created in 3d with dynamic 2d clock faces, so it’s interesting to see the project go “full circle”.

Here are the most interesting features of my dynamic custom design wall clock:

  • information such as weather, date, time, and more will show
  • clock designs rotate like a photo frame with adjustable frequency
  • I can update the content using iCloud on my mac laptop or my phone
  • the clock will sleep when no one is in the room and open up when you look at it.  The sensitivity is adjustable ( more on that later )

Parts List:

  1. iPad ( needs to be able to run iOS15  )
  2. Clockology ( app store download ) 
  3. Picture Frame: I used an 11×11 one
  4. Mat Board: I used 11×14 and cut it
  5. Foam Roll or Sheets : ¼ or ½ inch thick worked well for me, weather strip also works
  6. Arduino UNO or Mega. It needs ability to act as a USB keyboard
  7. HIR sensor : I used this one
  8. USB dongle for iPad, USB C or lightning depending on your iPad.  This is used to power the Arduino in the frame and send the USB keyboard signal to the iPad
  9. USB Elbow connector ( optional depending on your frame )
  10. LED ( optional ) for indicating when the sensor detects a human


    1. Set up iPad nothing special here, just make sure it works properly and is running the minimum iOS version supported by Clockology.  As of time of writing, it is iOS 15  
    2. Install Clockology and try out some designs.  Several hundreds if not thousands are available on the telegram channel 
    3. Cut matte.  Measure the inside of the frame, cut the outside of the matte, then measure the size of the screen you want to expose minus the bezels.  I suggest opening a design full screen on clockology and tracing the correct size on to paper.
    4. Replace original matte from the frame with the once that fits your device
    5. Add foam blocks or weather strips to help keep the device centered and showing correctly when you have it in the frame. Lining up the device in the matte first then drawing the bounds helps to know where to put the foam blocks.
    6. Set up Arduino
      1. Computer / coding 
        1. Here is a good overview of setting up an arduino for sending keyboard commands based on a button.  For this project, we will be doing something very similar, except the input will be the HIR sensor.  The HIR sensor gives you a value of “Human heat” it detects.  
        2. At a high level, what happens is the arduino run-loop will inspect the HIR sensors current value and if it’s above a threshold you set, it will send a few spaces to the USB keyboard. This action will wake up the iPad when you walk in front of it.  
        3. The code is linked here on the website
        4. Testing
          1. The iPad should automatically dim then go to sleep after a certain amount of time.  If you want to clock to dim faster, change those settings to your liking.  I initially set this value to be very quick ( 1 minute ) so I could test if the arduino was waking it back up.  Another great way to test the arduino is sending keyboard presses is to wave your hand in front of it with the Notes app open.  You can see the keys being sent.
    7. Elbow: I found the elbow is nice to be able to connect the dongle and charging cable on the side of the iPad for a better fit inside the frame.
    8. Dongle: The USB or lightning to USB dongle ( I used Apple’s ) was needed to plug in the Arduino to the iPad to give it power and to receive the keyboard commands
    9. Tape and/or hot glue 😛 : Once you are happy with the placement inside the frame, tape or hot glue everything into place
    10. Block Notifications and Set Focus:
      1. Since the iPad is mounted inside a frame and it can be difficult to tap or swipe on the screen, you will want to minimize all popups and system alerts.  II found focus mode was a great solution for this this and still allow me to use other functionality such as siri or iCloud connectivity.  If you don’t need any kind of network connection or are just setting up the clock for the first time for testing, you can just use airplane mode or disconnect from Wifi.
      2. Focus mode settings:
        1. Allow notifications set to none
        2. Turn off share across device
        3. Set 24hr schedule ( 9:00 – 8:59 )
      3. Delete unused apps
      4. Check all notifications are turned off for each app and service
    11. Updating the designs:  Before putting the back on the frame, you will want to get the device showing a clockology fullscreen slideshow with a few designs you like:  open the clockology app then import or start a new design.  Next, when the preview popup in the bottom slides up, tap on the clock to open it in full screen.  Once in full screen, tap on the design to toggle the overlay and set the slide show options:  
      1. Toggle “Animate automatically” to on
      2. Set the frequency to the speed you like the designs to change 
      3. Toggle “Refresh from iCloud Folder” to on
      4. Add or remove folders on other

Lastly, close up the frame and prepare for mourning on a shelf or wall. Mine has little metal clips to bend around the cardboard backing.  This also helps to keep everything mounted well inside.

More Pictures