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World’s Most Useful Button Turns On the Internet of Things

Press to activate the Internet of Things.


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I love smartphones and touchscreens as much as the next person, but don't you ever miss the simplicity of just pushing a button? It seems high time for a device that allows us to engage with the internet while also ungluing our eyes from these bright, blinding digital displays. That’s why we were stoked to hear about a new interface called bttn.

As part of Indiegogo’s partnership with home automation service Icontrol Networks, a Finnish startup called The Button Corporation launched bttn to bring the familiar physical button back into our lives—and to help us interact with the Internet of Things. The device is currently awaiting funding on Indiegogo with over a month to go.

So what does bttn do? On its own, it's just a comically large standalone button, but its real power comes from integrated services like IFTTT and Zapier—both of which allow consumers to unify their various apps into simple, automated ecosystems.

A press of the bttn allows you to trigger preset tasks, such as ordering your favorite meal, calling for a taxi, or texting a friend to let them know you got home safely. The options for personalization are limited only to your creativity with IFFFT and Zapier, which are both pretty exhaustive.

Related: Is IFTTT the Missing Ingredient in ADT's Smart Home Recipe?

But if bttn has a chance to really shine, it will be in the smart home. The company has joined OpenHome Labs, a smart home incubator, and as a result will connect seamlessly with all OpenHome services and devices. The promo video (above) shows users adjusting the thermostat, setting security alarms, turning lights on and off, making coffee, and more, just with a push of the bttn.

bttn and OpenHome technology

The bttn works with OpenHome technology to connect to smart items in your home.

This simplification of previously complex processes should enable young children or tech-shy grandparents to interact not only with the internet, but also with the much larger, forthcoming, and somewhat daunting Internet of Things. In some ways, it’s like the Yo messaging app of user interfaces.

In some ways, bttn is like the Yo messaging app of user interfaces.

Unlike Yo, however, the bttn can be set to trigger an action if it hasn't been pressed within a certain time window. (Imagine how that could be used as a medication reminder.) A series of colored LED lights at the base of the device light up red, green, or yellow depending on whether a task has completed, is in progress, or has failed.

A $99 donation on Indiegogo before October 16 will get you a bttn of your own, with an estimated delivery in December. Yes, it turns out you can put a price on convenience, and a rather hefty one at that. Still, this is one button that we’d like to press.

Related: The Internet of Things Is Neither Dystopian Nor Utopian