Flic for professional athletes

Flic is a proud sponsor of Swedish Open. All tennis players get their own special edition Flic button to keep track on their training.

Flic - sponsors of Swedish Open

How it started

It’s a Monday morning, and I just arrived at the office sitting with my first cup of coffee and going through the inbox. There is a mail from a person who loves Flic and would like to give us the opportunity to reach out to the professional tennis players at Swedish Open in Båstad this year.

At first, I was a bit skeptical. How would professional tennis players use Flic? I realized that Flic could be the perfect training partner for athletes. We started the conversation to see what we could offer to the professional tennis players attending Swedish Open.

Just as any individual, you sometimes need some extra help to make it simpler and more convenient for you when training. As a tennis player, you need to keep track of progress and how you perform on each training to become a better player.

What if you could track how many successful aces you do, count your training reps quickly or, for instance, track your training exercise with just a click of a button. With Flic, you can do all that and more without touching the smartphone while doing it.

 

The sponsorship

To have a successful sponsorship, you need to find the correct audience and make sure your product and brand applies to them. We thought for a while on how to make this as good as possible. Our CEO Elin came up with the idea that we should create an exclusive Swedish Open edition of Flic to all the tennis players attending the tournament.

As we are an innovative startup, we do not hesitate to make things a reality when a good idea comes up. Our designer started working on a suggestion. The day after we had a clean design and roughly one week later we had the final version in our hands ready to send out.

Each professional tennis player attending the tournament gets one of these buttons together with instructions on how to use it for their training or other purposes. We have the opportunity to talk to the players and get their feedback on the button and see if we can find more use cases together for Flic.

Flic sponsor Swedish Open
Custom Flic buttons for the athletes.

Swedish Open

The tournament in Båstad, Sweden, is one of the highest ranked tournaments by the players themselves. They love the atmosphere around it and the treatment they get from the organizers. To be part of that and to be one of the brands supporting it is, of course, an honor. We are happy to show both the players and all the visitors our Swedish innovation that makes life simpler in so many ways both in your ordinary life and in your life as a professional athlete.

So, head over to http://flic.io and get your own Flic. Use it as your personal trainer just like the professionals, such as the famous player Tommy Haas who now uses Flic just as all the other attendees.

Flic sponsor Swedish Open
Tommy Haas, his Flic and me

Daniel Abdiu – Chief Operating Officer

How we chose the core of the Flic Hub to be GR8 – a processor.

When we dreamed up the Flic Hub, we had a wish list. It should be powered by a single board computer, an ARM System-on-Chip and run a new Linux version so we could run the latest Bluetooth version. It would retail for less than $100 and ship in October. For that dream to be a reality, we needed a dream component to power it. It was a roundabout journey, but we found it in Next Thing Co.’s GR8 microchip. It’s allowing us to build the Flic Hub that we and the Flic community dreamed it could be.

When designing the Flic Hub (determined in a rather unconventional way), we started off like a lot of people do, by building on top of a Raspberry Pi (RPi).

https://www.raspberrypi.org
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B (https://www.raspberrypi.org)

 

The RPi is awesome – cheap, available, well tested, and with a massive, dedicated developer’s community. Our tests with it went well, and we could achieve most use cases by porting code from our well tested Flic Android app.

But the RPi has way more stuff than we needed for the Flic Hub and it is too expensive. Even though RPi’s $35 may seem cheap compared to a $99 product like the Flic Hub, it’s not. Add memory chip, plastic housing, accessories, packaging, shipping, handling and reseller’s margin, and you won’t be able to make a consumer product selling for any less than $200 based on RPi.

Besides, we needed to remove some components and add some others to accommodate for our unique Bluetooth needs and the IR accessory. Both Farnell and RS components (both producers of the RPi) were willing and helpful to accommodate some changes, but the price tag was not decreasing.

With a short time-to-market, high demands and a small investment budget, we started at square one. For ages (probably more than two weeks) we sourced the earth for a feasible processor to power our Hub with the mindset that we would build the Hub from scratch.

As soon as we found a good match for a processor, they were either not available for us to buy (try buying RPi’s Broadcom processors as a small Swedish startup, I dare you) or too old. If they were not running a recent-enough Linux Kernel, we wouldn’t be able to run features of Bluetooth version 4.2 that we needed.

Another important aspect when sourcing a processor is the developer community and available documentation. If you’re a small customer to a large enterprise and you find a bug in their code, it will be tough to get the bug fixed. If you have a question, no one will be there to answer.

Our eyes turned to RPi alternatives, and after some turn-around, we were introduced to the team at Next Thing Co (NTC) and their C.H.I.P computer (then priced at $9). NTC started off with a successful crowdfunding campaign just like us. Having been in our shoes, the guys at NTC were incredibly easy to work with. When we asked NTC to fix a bug we found, they did – quickly – and they even helped us making design decisions.

C.H.I.P Pro  with GR8
C.H.I.P Pro (https://getchip.com)

Their product C.H.I.P Pro was pretty similar to what we needed for the Flic hub. For a long time (we’re talking weeks) we considered building the Hub by mounting the C.H.I.P Pro on a custom board that we made, adding the 3,5mm jack for the IR and our second Bluetooth chip. But, however small and cost-effective the C.H.I.P Pro is, it just didn’t fit in our industrial design considering our extra components. Flic Hub needs to be small and discrete.

Luckily, we didn’t have to start at square one again. NTC’s C.H.I.P Pro is driven by NTC’s GR8 chip, which in turn is based on Allwinner’s R8 processor. What NTC has done though, is to combine the cost-effective R8 with a compliant memory to reduce complexity, and they keep it updated with the right Linux Kernel. The best part – this is a processor unit we could easily buy it, in any quantity, with quick delivery.

GR8
GR8 (https://getchip.com)

The GR8 chip is well thought through and have all the things we need. It has pins for  WiFi (to connect a WiFi chip), audio (so the Hub can play music through the 3,5mm jack), IR receiver (so the IR accessory can “learn” IR commands), 5 volt digital output (so we can drive the IR LEDs) and much more cleverness.

NTC’s technical documentation is fantastic and does not require an NDA, a big differentiator to many other processors we looked at. They also have a large developer’s forum with thousands of GR8 experts and hobbyists we can ask.

The choice of GR8 was easy once we realized it was available and while the rest of the design of the Flic Hub wasn’t easy, we had the help and expertise we needed.

We’re proud to be building a new and crowdfunded product based on a fellow crowdfunded company’s GR8 product.

With Love,

Joacim

Beta testing the Flic Hub – Live!

Today, I am proud to announce that we have signed a deal with our first B2B client for the Flic Hub!

At Shortcut Labs, we always value creativity before anything else, especially formal processes and procedures. After the Flic launch, we did, however, learn the importance of continuous testing.

The Flic Hub is the perfect example on how we let creativity spur innovation and how early testing with real customers not only improved the product but also made it possible for us to launch a B2C- and a B2B line simultaneously.

The Flic Hub was not a business decision.

 

Despite no formal decision from the management, Fabian, one of our engineers, spent his last X-mas break working on the Hub. He had noticed that more and more users expressed their frustration over the smartphone dependency and Fabian himself, he also liked the idea of a Flic hub.

An alpha version of the Hub was ready for internal testing in late February 2017.

Since then, the team has made hundreds of iterations, big and small, more or less on their spare time, and almost always without anyone – or any business case – asking them to do so.

 

Creativity spurs innovation

 

One of the more notable things is an algorithm that our Lead Wizard Emil wrote. The algorithm makes it possible for the Hub to be connected to 64 buttons simultaneously, with next-to-zero delay. We’re not humble about this achievement – our industry partners are as stunned as we are and no-one has seen (nor would probably be able to replicate) anything similar.

Granted, 64 buttons at the same time may be too much for the regular smart-home use case, unless you want to build a piano. But for businesses and industries, the implications are huge. Ever since we started talking about the Flic Hub’s capacity, business opportunities and partner requests have been flowing in, way over our heads and sales capacity.

What can you do with 64 wireless buttons in a business environment? Here is a fun example that a big sales company wanted to do:

Give each sales person a Flic Button on their desk.

  • Click when they close a “small sale” – Slack in #sales and flash the room in green.
  • Double click for a “medium sale” – Notify everyone in the sales channel, flash the room in red and play a siren sound.
  • Hold for a “large sale” – Notify the entire company, flash the office in red for a long time and play the Imperial March. Message the office manager to bring champagne.

 

Live customer beta testing

 

To the team and me, testing of the Flic Hub is critical, and something we will not compromise on (we don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the first batch of Flics).

We have been running beta tests with real customers for the past four months. Without involving users early on, we simply would not know if our assumptions are right until it is too late.

Testing beta versions on loyal users are one thing, but some eyebrows were raised in the team when we set out to find live environments, with paying customers, and end-users not familiar with neither Flic nor the Flic Hub. But our curiosity overcame the fear of failure. If we couldn’t identify problems to solve and a business case to scale – why spend time on building it?

Instead of developing features for each idea that we had, (which we yet didn’t know would be attractive or not), we made the Hub compatible with Microsoft Flow, the latest contribution to automated workflows. Only by integrating Microsoft Flow, we could easily enable 100+ services for the Hub.

Flow allowed us to to be agile and test almost any request coming in from our sales pipe, without losing speed on our overall roadmap for the Hub.

One of the first live pilots we did was at Bergh’s School of Communication’s graduation show, AddX. We placed Beta hubs strategically on three different floors and set up Flic buttons in proximity to various exhibitions. Visitors interactions with the buttons were captured in a Google Sheet through Microsoft Flow and linked to a Dashboard – where the organizers could follow the visitor’s feedback.

We recorded more than 1000 interactions over the 3-day event, and we received a lot of constructive input from both visitors and the organizers.

The first big business case

So why am I so excited today? The Flic Hub is not only a big consumer success (judging from our crowdfunding campaign) but a business-to-business success as well.

Last week, in a pilot with one of the largest players in the Nordic hospitality industry, we successfully demonstrated how to connect 300 Flic buttons to 7 different Hubs.

We showed that any Flic button will work with any of the 7 Hubs and that different actions will be triggered dependent on which Hub the button is currently connected to.

The client, the use-case and the images? Sorry, secret. The outcome? Because we could prove the Hub’s capacity, we sealed our first Flic Hub business contract!

Stay tuned; we will share all details once the project goes live in September.

With Love,

Elin