MOL

Stockholm

More of the world around us can now be controlled using our phones and watches but setting up so-called ‘smart homes’ can leave homeowners a little baffled.

A smart button that wirelessly connects to these and other devices could soon reduce the need to navigate endless menus to perform what were once simple tasks.

The device, called Flic, automatically adjusts lights, plays music, makes phone calls, orders taxis or acts as an emergency alarm at the touch of a button.

The developers, a Swedish start-up called Shortcut Labs, hope it can help to restore some of the intuitive physical contact we have traditionally used to interact with appliances around our homes.

It may also provide a way for the older generation to get to grips with devices that are controlled digitally without having to struggle with a smartphone.

Flic uses micro-suction pads to attach to surfaces, or can use a clip to attach to clothing and rucksacks.

Users assign three separate functions to the button - one for a single press, one for a double press and a third for a ‘long hold’. Shortcut Labs has already established partnerships that allow it to control Spotify playlists at the touch of a button, turn on smart lights such as the Philips Hue or order a taxi using Uber.

It can also be programmed to make phone calls or automatically order pizza, turn on the TV and dim the lights all with a single touch. Pranav Kosuir, co-founder and chief commercial officer at Shortcut Labs, said: ‘We have a growing number of devices that can be controlled wirelessly but they often make it more complicated too. ‘We all found there were situations where we were installing a smart device in our homes or those of our families and thought it would be easier to have a physical button to control them.

‘For example, I wanted my girlfriend to have a button she could wear on her coat so she could feel safe while walking home at night as she could press it and it would phone me. ‘I have also set it up so my grandmother can use Skype. I put one Flick button on a photograph of each grandchild so she can simply press it and it will call them on Skype.’

Shortcut Labs recently raised £583,000 ($900,000) from 13,000 backers on Indiegogo and it has sold already 0,000 buttons. It is due to start shipping the pre-orders next month before placing the button on general sale.

Kosuir said that as our homes become more connected, the number of functions Flic can control will increase.

For example, it is able to connect with the Nest network of devices and those on IFTTT web-based service. IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That, lets users control online services.

Mr Kosuir said: ‘The way we interact with applications is not really well suited to our busy lifestyles.

‘For example there is often occasions when a song comes on the radio when I’m driving and it is difficult to Shazam it to find out what it is.

‘By putting a Flic on my dashboard I could do it by touching a button.’