Siddhi Surana

With classes, practices, rehearsals and the litany of extracurriculars Yale students undertake, it can be difficult for Yalies to keep track of their commitments. To combat this problem, Derek Lo ’17 developed a reminder app known as “Daybreak,” which started off as a personal project to keep track of his own schedule and later got downloaded by thousands.

Lo said the idea came to him last spring during finals period. He found himself “setting tons of reminders with the built-in iOS reminder app and found it to be tedious.” Lo decided to develop his own reminder app using a combination of simple natural language processing, machine learning and user interface design to make setting reminders an easier, more painless process. This app, at first made solely for personal use, was the first version of Daybreak, he said.

“I view the process of designing and developing Daybreak as analogous to painting or drawing; it’s a form of artistic expression,” Lo said.

Lo later decided to release the app on the App Store. He noted that he did not release it for monetary reasons, but instead made it public for family and friends, hoping they would find the app helpful and simple to use.

“I really never thought it would receive so much attention,” Lo said.

After the release of the app on the App Store, Lo consulted with fellow students Ryan Reza ’17 and Ermal Hajrizi ’17 on how to improve the system. The goal for them was to improve the workflow, design and user experience in order to make the app as easy and as quick as possible for people to use, Reza said. But they worked on more than just how to make the app more user-friendly — they also worked to make it more visually appealing, Hajrizi noted.

Currently, Lo’s personal reminder app has received nearly 10,000 downloads. According to Lo, this sudden outpouring of interest came about when Daybreak was featured on an article in Boy Genius Report, an online site featuring mobile and technology news, titled “7 Awesome Paid iPhone Apps On Sale for Free Today.” The app gained even more attention when the article was reposted on Yahoo Tech.

Reza attributes the app’s success to the way it simplifies the process of keeping a person organized.

“The less time you spend reminding yourself to do something later, the more time you can spend doing things now,” Reza said.

Currently, Lo is working on a second version of the app. The original app was “made in haste,” Lo said. With more time on his hands, he has been able to spend time perfecting the feature set and user interface. Lo also mentioned upcoming improvements to the app, such as an integration with Google Calendar, an option of syncing reminders to the cloud and more flexibility in setting repeating reminders.

Although Reza noted that the app is especially helpful to Yale students for managing their hectic lifestyles, he and Lo ultimately hope to expand the app’s reach to a broader audience, Reza said. Lo’s ultimate goal in creating the second version of his app is to distribute Daybreak to as many people as possible, Lo said.

“As students ourselves, we are naturally able to anticipate the needs of students more, but we hope that Daybreak will be useful to a much broader group of people,” Reza said.

Daybreak currently can be downloaded on the App Store for $1.99, and a new updated version will be released in the coming weeks.