Will Your iPhone Be Your Light Switch — Or Will Your Light Switch Just Get Smarter?
In mobile, the UI always wins.
Remember what photo editing used to be like on the N95?
No, you can’t. And that’s because you never did any. Before pinch and zoom, the mere idea of cropping a photo on a phone was laughable.
History shows us that the simplest and most beautiful user experience always prevails when you have a complex task to perform and only five inches of screen to perform it on.
Think Instagram. Think Evernote.
Pinching, zooming, swiping, tapping. What could be simpler?
Actually, there is one thing and it’s called Bttn.
Bttn is about as simple as UI could ever possibly get.
Here’s how it works:
It’s a physical button.
You press it.
Bttn is made in Finland and costs $69. It’s causing a bit of a stir – as are other similar ideas like the Good Night Lamp – a connected light that connects to others so people can instantly see if their loved one is awake wherever they are in the world.
Of course, the important thing about Bttn is that it is programmable. Thanks to ubiquitous connectivity and the internet of things, what it does is up to you.
In the official literature, Bttn talks about setting up a button at home that your daughter can press. When she does, you get a text at work to say “I’m home.”
But, if you want, you can change its function. You could tweak Bttn so that a press will turn on the garden sprinklers instead.
If that means your daughter goes to the local crack house after school instead of coming home, well that’s the risk you take.
Needless to say, businesses are scrutinising Bttn closely. Already, Finnish cab service, Kajon Oy, has distributed Bttns to restaurants and hotels, so that ordering a taxi can be done with a single push.
Now, this is interesting because it’s more or less what the Uber app does.
And this raises the fascinating question of whether the IoT era will see the phone control still more everyday tasks (that whole ‘remote control for everything’ idea) or whether these tasks will be outsourced to a multitude of configurable dumb buttons.
(The irony being that, if the latter, then you will probably configure all these buttons from your phone anyway.)
It may not be too long before we know.
Last year, Google paid an obscene amount to land the smart home device maker Nest, while earlier this week Apple unveiled HomeKit, which lets you pair domestic devices with your iPhone.
Both firms clearly see immense value in the smart home revolution although, as usual, they’re coming at it in different ways. Google probably wants the data, while Apple wants to keep the iPhone front and centre of your life so you pay $600 for a new one every year.
So what’s next? Will we see the phone cannibalise the light switch, the TV remote and the tap as it has the camera, alarm clock and MP3 player?
Or will the light switch, the TV remote and the tap evolve into programmable, smart buttons?
I don’t know. But I do know it’s easier to remmber where you left the light switch.