The Internet of Things at the Push of a Button

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The Internet of Things at the Push of a Button

Opening garage doors, adjusting thermostats, setting home security, turning on lights, and even ordering pizza delivery! You name it and some developer somewhere is shipping or working on an app that will let you use your smartphone to do something that some day you’ll wonder how you ever lived without. 

With all the apps cluttering up our smartphones these days, quick access can be an issue if you have a lot of apps to scroll through, never mind whether or not the device itself is nearby and in easy reach. True, you can create shortcuts on your smartphone to deal with the clutter, but what if you could have hardware shortcuts planted throughout your home, or office, that let you access your favorite services and functions without having to grab your phone?  Or had a button in your pocket that you could use to activate an app such as the camera, or streaming music? Such a button would need connectivity, a source of very low power, some smartness, and of course be low cost and unobtrusively small. 

Such a button is shipping today, and soon you may find you can’t live without one.

A team of Swedish engineers and entrepreneurs called Shortcut Labs has come up with a solution to apps clutter called Flic, a wireless smart button that offers physical shortcuts to digital functions in mobile devices. Flic is already making headlines* as Shortcut Labs teams up with companies like Dominos Pizza, Spotify, and Logitech to deliver services over the Internet, or digital control over Bluetooth, literally at the click of a button.

Flic wireless smart buttons use Bluetooth Smart technology to interact with your smart phone from a distance of up to 150 feet. Setting up a Flic button is a simple three-step process that lets you choose different applications to run. It’s up to you which applications the button accesses, giving you endless possibilities for interacting with your favorite services or features.  For example, Flic can be integrated with your home automation systems and configured to turn on your lights, raise the room temperature and turn on your favorite playlist with a click of a button as you enter a room.

Covered with a soft silicon overmold that comes in various colors and about the size of a large coin, these little wireless devices are even designed to deliver the clicking sound and feel you’d expect from buttons on your most used gadgets. A re-useable, double-sided adhesive on the back of Flic enables it to stick to any indoor or outdoor surface for quick and easy accessibility to your favorite or most used applications.

Flic’s intelligence is packed on a PCB smaller than a U.S. 25-cent Quarter, while still managing to obtain its amazing range and capacity. The standard CR2016 coin cell battery that powers Flic will last up to 18 months and can be easily replaced.

Shortcut Labs used Bluetooth enabled SoCs (System on Chips) to bring their concept of a hardware shortcut for apps to reality. These highly integrated ICs (Integrated Circuits) combine a Bluetooth Smart radio with an application processor, most often something like an ARM Cortex-M0, which means application software can run on chip instead of requiring a discrete processor of some sort that would use up space, consume more processing energy and increase BOM. For an application like Flic, the extra overhead of a discrete processor could be a deal breaker. 

Smart SoCs with Bluetooth capabilities are the perfect solution in this dawning era of IoT and wearables for delivering the connectivity, small size and low power that companies like Shortcut Labs are looking for to complete their designs.

For Flic, Shortcut Labs used Dialog’s DA14580, which enabled them to develop and implement Flic’s intelligence and connectivity in a single chip that has peak current of less than 5mA and comes in sizes as small as 2.5 x 2.5 mm. 

Processor resources can be accessed via 32 GPIOs and intelligent power management circuitry is included. Designers can power their applications from coin cells as well as single or dual NiMH or alkaline batteries.

It’s incredible to think how quickly smartphones have become indispensable in our lives. Not only are we using the nifty little devices to make calls, send text, download email as well as stream music and video, the Internet of Things means they will increasingly become the hub for controlling any number of applications. Innovators like Shortcut Labs and large manufacturers alike are increasingly depending on Bluetooth Smart SoCs to bring more and more IoT, wearable, and mobile apps to market, which means gadgets like Flic will have every opportunity to be just as indispensable.  

*

Domino's makes ordering pizza dangerous with 'Easy Order' button - Engadget-Nov 23, 2015

Flic: The wireless button which brings the connected world into your home (hands-on) - ZDNet-Sep 7, 2015

Flic controls phones, lights, plays music and can even order you a pizza - Daily Mail-Aug 31, 2015