Press This Button and Something Will Happen on the Internet

Anything you want—it's called, appropriately, the 'Internet Button'

This is the Internet Button. (Photo via Spark)
This is the Internet Button. (Photo via Spark)

If there’s anything that Netflix, Tumblr and the Internet in general have taught us, it’s that laziness knows no bounds. Still, sometimes we all wish that there was a way to make the Internet do your bidding without actually having to type things out.

Luckily, Internet of Things (IoT) company Spark, a startup that makes kits and cores for building smart devices, is now selling something they call the Internet Button. It’s a physical, light-up, WiFi-enabled button that you can easily program to execute a single, potentially evil command—any command you need, like:

  • Get you out of a terrible date or conversation by acting as a panic button that sends your best friend an email saying “call me and pretend you urgently need my help.”
  • Send your significant other a text message reminding them to [insert most vital recurring need here].
  • Dim all of your lights, play some sensual music, and dial up Seamless to order you a personal pizza because you’re alone in the world.

The button works by connecting to IFTTT, a suddenly-popular web app that connects to your social media accounts and other online programs. You can use IFTTT, which stands for “if this, then that,” to, say, make your Twitter profile picture mirror your Facebook profile picture after any update, back up all of your Instagram photos automatically to Google Drive, or make it so that any text message with a certain hashtag is also sent to you as an email. This reporter, for example, uses IFTTT to check all of my reading apps for new highlights and notes, and then sends them to a digital quote book in Evernote.

IFTTT started as a simple way to link services up and make life easier, but Spark CEO Zach Supalla says that programs like IFTTT are integral to the future of the Internet of Things. By his account, just having a light bulb you can turn on with your phone isn’t an innovative technological breakthrough. Instead, your connected home devices should take cues from weather apps, social media accounts, and other apps that work together so that you’re not constantly managing them.

“All of these separate systems are walled gardens,” Mr Supalla said. “They’re valuable on their own, but they’re more valuable when you hook them together.”

Still, as much popular hype as connected homes and devices get in the mainstream nowadays, we’re still in the early days of the Internet of Things. Until these devices are more interconnected and smart homes are actually smart, the only people who will use these devices are early adopters and nerds like this writer who want to show off that they can unlock their apartment door from miles away, even if the capability to do so is almost totally useless.

“This year isn’t the year of IOT—that’s more like 2017—but hobbyists are doing a lot of the exploration and experimentation to figure out how this stuff is actually going to work,” Mr. Supalla said. “These are the commodore 64 days of the internet of things—the hacker days.”

Press This Button and Something Will Happen on the Internet