WiFi Connected Button Streamlines online tasks

Kazendi came to Zoetrope with a great product vision inspired by the need of one of their clients. The vision? A whole new way to interact with the web, making the web more physical than ever.

The product was to be a unit which would seamlessly perform a user configurable action on the web at the touch of a button.

Some of the initial use-case ideas included:

  • Adding items to a shopping list (like washing powder, or shampoo)
  • Setting IM status
  • Sending a notification to caretaker or hotel staff

Zoetrope’s solution

Zoetrope quickly set about developing a proof of concept device, allowing us to see how people would react to the product and what other use cases could be found. In less than a day the following rather rough and ready (but importantly working!) proof-of-concept was up and running:

The guys at Kazendi loved the prototype and were keen to see what Zoetrope could do to further develop the project though to a more polished prototype product.

Design Goals

The specification for the prototype was as follows:

  • A wifi-connected (b/g/n) button that can be easily configured via a user’s mobile phone.
  • As small as possible while still having a battery life of at least six months.
  • Rechargeable using a micro USB connection.
  • Feedback through LEDs when the button is pushed.
  • Really simple and broadly compatible set-up process.
  • Integration with Zapier to implement internet functionality.

Based on the proof-of-concept, we sketched out some ideas for a more polished product including a case, and after liaising with Kazendi decided on a hexagonal design with lights around the edges to provide feedback.

Software and Hardware

Meeting the goal of six months battery life required careful design of both software and hardware to minimize quiescent power consumption. We used a Lithium polymer battery to minimize volume while providing a high power budget. Safety is paramount when designing Lithium cell based hardware and as such protection circuits were designed into the device.

The setup process was reduced to a very simple web-page based set-up. When the user first turns the button on, it creates a WiFi access point which the user can connect to through their smartphone. All they need to do is enter their wi-fi details and hit ‘go’, allowing the button to connect to their wi-fi network and start taking actions when the button is pressed.

Integration

To configure the button, we integrated it with Zapier, giving users a huge range of apps to choose from and making the device as flexible as possible. We also worked with Kazendi to come up with a number of new use cases that could use to market the device including:

  • Sending a Yo! messsage
  • Setting timers and alarms
  • Setting home heating controls using Hive or Nest thermostats
  • Controlling your lighting using home automation such as Lifx
  • Ordering food through APIs like Dominos
  • Silencing all notifications for a set period of time.
  • Starting and stopping a time tracking system

In a few days we had designed the PCB for the electronics and sent off the CAD files for manufacture while also getting started on a 3D printed case.

The Outcome

Zoetrope delivered a polished prototype ready for Kazendi to test the product with clients and market the idea to a wider audience. With our help they went from a rough idea to a fully functional product. We used rapid prototyping tools to keep costs to a minimum. Zoetrope will continue to work with Kazendi to further develop this prototype to be used with clients.

 
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