Amazon's customizable Dash Button for the Internet of Things
With its line of Dash Buttons, Amazon looked to make it easier to resupply specific household items at the press of an Internet-connected button. Now the online retailer has expanded the idea with the AWS IoT Button, which can be programmed to perform various Internet of Things (IoT) functions.
The original idea is simple: when you find you're running low on an everyday product, press the Dash Button and Amazon will ship more out. Each button is associated with a brand, say Red Bull or Glad, and when you first set it up via the smartphone app, you decide which specific product and quantity are ordered when the button is pressed.
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The AWS IoT Button – that's the Amazon Web Service Internet of Things Button – is based on that same technology, but is designed primarily for developers to program their own functions in, beyond just ordering more of something.
Amazon suggests you could program it to instantly call a cab, order a pizza, turn smart appliances on or off, post to Twitter or Facebook, or send a message. The device can also be programmed to respond to different inputs, like a double-click or a longer press, and perform different functions accordingly.
There are a couple of downsides, though, with this extra versatility coming at the cost of user-friendliness. Amazon is marketing the device to developers looking to experiment with Amazon Web Services (AWS), and as a result the set up side of things might be tough for the average consumer to get their head around. Additionally, Node.js, Python, or Java coding ability is required to connect the button to third party devices.
That's not necessarily a bad thing – it's just a different market – but it would be nice to see a more accessible model released in future. For now, Nanna will be better off sticking with the existing Dash Button range or opting for a device like Bttn, which relies on IFTTT (If This Then That).
There's also the chance that Amazon's button might not be as useful in some situations as the interfaces that already exist for IoT devices. We can already control Netflix through smartphone apps and smart TVs, so setting it up to be a remote control for that service, as suggested, doesn't quite seem worth the effort. But the potential is there for developers to find other interesting uses for it.
Amazon also says you'll get about 1,000 presses out of a button, but once it's gone, it's gone, as the battery isn't replaceable or rechargeable.
The AWS IoT Button retails for US$19.95, but initial stocks have already sold out. However, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels assured customers via Twitter that more will be available at some stage. Maybe the company needs a Dash button to order more.