Will Sony’s MESH Tag win the war of the (smart) buttons?

Start-ups that develop smart buttons are popping up everywhere. Buttn, Flic, Droplet, Hiku… There is something for everyone and who knows who will win the war of the buttons!

For us, Sony’s MESH Tag is playing its cards right so far. The MESH (short for Make Experiment SHare) Tag is a small module containing several sensors. By connecting with other single-task blocks (a microphone, LED, speaker, etc.), it allows users to create basic connected objects or prototypes without having to know about code or electronics. To get a better sense of the concept, watch the product’s launch video.

Image3What is particularly interesting about the MESH Tag is the DIY aspect, which makes the concept seriously fun. The small size of the modules allows users to integrate them into everyday objects, which can then be connected. Afterwards you can make connections between different MESH Tags using a specific application. It is then very easy to create, say, an « alert button », a sort of connected alarm, or a camera trigger. For the time being, the MESH Tag’s features are still fairly basic: movement sensor, push button, LED, voice recorder… Sony’s idea is to add to the list of features as the user community grows.

The MESH project is also interesting because of how Sony has managed it. The project actually started last year but was given new impetus by the Japanese company’s launch of First Flight, a crowdfunding platform designed to stimulate the creativity of Sony’s teams. To stimulate its employees’ drive to innovate, the company decided to create a web platform to promote their best ideas. First Flight features projects and products developed exclusively by Sony employees; users are asked to fund the ones that they think are most promising. This is also a way to test the public’s appetite for the innovative concepts.

Yet MESH will face many opponents in the war of the buttons. The Finnish start-up Buttn is aiming for simplicity with its game show buzzer-inspired push button, which can be used to trigger any number of interactions: tweeting, texting, etc. The Swedish company Flic is also banking on DIY with a button that covers a wide range of uses: starting up a camera or music player, controlling lights or objects in a smart home, location sharing, ordering pizza, warning systems, etc. It can even make your phone ring, giving you an excuse to slip away during a date gone sour! Taking a different approach, the American start-up Hiku has created a button in the shape of a fridge magnet, which helps users create shopping lists via speech recognition—products are automatically added to the list.

Smart buttons rarely introduce revolutionary concepts. That said, they are easy to use, instantly adapt to our everyday lives and help to simplify or make more boring tasks more fun. So, who will win the war of the buttons?

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