The Bttn Connects Businesses to Customers

Finnish company Bttn sells its eponymous products to companies that want to offer a quick and easy way for customers to beckon them.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

Telia sends its participating customers Bttns with cellular modems that are already provisioned to its network. In that way, all customers need to do, once they receive the device, is power it on.

When adding a Bttn to a Wi-Fi network, customers locate the Bttn's Wi-Fi signal through a computer's internet browser and key in their network name and password to connect the device. In Bttn's cloud-based software, the user associates the Bttn's unique identifier with a set of instructions. In Telia's case, the technician receives instructions to call the person to who the Bttn was commissioned.

The Classic model runs on four disposable AA alkaline batteries that have a lifecycle of between 800 and 1,000 pushes of the button when a Wi-Fi connection is used, says Jay Gross, Bttn's managing director, noting that AA lithium batteries last for up to 10,000 pushes when communicating via Wi-Fi. The Mini version runs either on rechargeable lithium-polymer battery, which lasts for up to 10,000 pushes when used via Wi-Fi, or through a micro-USB charger.

"We don't hold any information on the button," Gross explains. "The button itself is not 'smart'—it's just a trigger that sends a message to our cloud."

In France, taxi company Les Taxis Bleus, which operates a fleet of more than 3,000 vehicles, purchases Bttns and issues them to hotels, so that guests looking for a taxi can request one from the concierge, who pushes the Bttn. "If we put them out in the open," Gross says, "we'd have trouble with children passing by and pressing the buttons."

One short press engages the Bttn to trigger whatever instructions are assigned to its unique ID nuber. But users can cancel an order by pushing the button a second time and holding it down for three seconds. A green LED indicates that the order has been cancelled.

Rather than selling its hardware, Bttn uses a software-as-a-service business model, under which users pay a monthly fee. If the button transmits over a cellular network, the user also pays cellular subscription fees. In addition, Bttn sells its products directly to consumers, who can use third-party software such as IFTT to program them with reminders or alerts. For example, one could give a Bttn to an aging parent and ask that he or she push the button every time he or she takes medication. If the button is not pushed by a set time, the caretaker or child can receive a text alert.

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