Flic + Flow – get the most out of your working day

At Shortcut Labs, we are on a mission to defeat complexity. Everything we do is aimed towards helping people achieve more with less effort. This is where our new integration with Microsoft Flow comes into the conversation. For those not familiar with Flow, it is the latest contribution to automated workflows. It is an awesome suite of powerful and automated flows that will empower Flic users with even more options and possibilities. It gives full access to the Microsoft Suite as well as 100+ other services to get notifications, synchronize files, collect data, and more. By joining Microsoft in the quest of helping people work smarter and faster, we give you a convenient alternative to activating tasks and processes – a simple push of a button is all that’s needed.

Here are some examples of what you can do with Flow and Flic to get the most out of your working day;

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Block your calendar
Blocking your calendar is a super weapon for better focus. Are you in flow and don’t want anyone to interrupt? Press Flic to block a “Do not disturb” afternoon in your Office 365 calendar. Urgent meeting? Press Flic to block out your calendar for the next hour.

Press Flic to track working hours in Google Sheet or Excel
Don’t hassle with time tracking software on your smartphone. Mount a Flic button to your desk and track how much time you spend at work or on your different projects. You can track up to three projects with one button – one command per project. Afraid that you might be missing a billable hour? Don’t worry, you can get an email notification for every successful flow run.

I’m going for lunch, who is coming?
Although eating lunch alone while you unravel a report or scroll through a spreadsheet is a way to get more out of your working hours, leaving your cubicle for a lunch out with your co-workers is a great opportunity to recharge. But don’t waste time asking around who wants to join you for lunch, just press Flic to send a slack message to your colleagues. Customize the message according to your liking and send it as a direct message or to a specific channel.

We also see huge potential in how Flow and Flic can help brick and mortar stores track important events such as;

  • How many visitors did you have today?
  • How many of those were men, how many were women?
  • How many cups of coffee did you serve?
  • How many lunchboxes were left to waste?
  • How many customers were happy with your service?

These are just some key insights that you can track by pressing Flic and link the data to Excel or Google Sheets. If using Excel, you can also automatically forward the data to Microsoft’s powerful dashboard tool PowerBi. This way you can present real-time data in beautiful graphs and diagrams.

Check out all our templates here and stay tuned, we will continue to update this site with new, powerful ways to help increase productivity.

Don’t have a Flic yet? Buy it here!

Love, The Flic team

Introducing: Shortcut buttons for Mac

Actual, wireless push buttons, not much bigger than the keys on your keyboard, that connects to your Mac through Bluetooth. No dongle required.

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Today we’re proud to release the Flic App for Mac. It’s quite simple: we give you extra buttons for your Mac. Good’ol favorite buttons, but for your desk.

The Flic Mac App that we release today can be used to create shortcuts in two ways:
Pair Flic buttons to your Mac to quickly execute your favorite functions
Use Widgets to run shortcuts from your notification center without the need of Flic.

Download it here.

How to use it?
Here is what we thought about:

  • Keynote – use Flic as a tiny presentation clicker without the annoying Bluetooth dongle
  • Timely – use Flics to report time spent on multiple projects beautifully
  • Spotify – you know that play/pause function button that never prioritizes Spotify and that no longer exists on TouchBar? That, but wireless and working.
  • Smart home (Hue, LifX, Wink, Wemo)- Control light and music in the office without disturbing your workflow
  • IFTTT and Zapier to run Web scripts or controlling your other gadgets.
  • Slack – to let colleagues know you made a sale or that you’re going for lunch.
  • Internet Request – send a REST command on a click o a button.

Our Beta testers wanted this, so we added it:

  • VLC – Using a Mac as a media center? Flic to control it.
  • ChromeCast – stream pre-defined content with the click of a button. Your kids will love it.
  • XCode – automate your hacking.
  • Web browser – click to open a site.

If you miss a functionality, please suggest an idea here.

Just like in the Flic apps for iOS and Android, you can have multiple Flic buttons connected to a Mac. Each Flic can be individually configured to do multiple commands on either click, double click and hold.

In this setup, I have a green, a white and a turquoise Flic (all mounted on my external screen), a Widget to control the lights in my office and a widget to do this. Access the widget in the Mac notification center.

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If you already have Flic – good for you! The new Mac app is free to download here. If you don’t have a Flic yet – buy it here or start off by trying widgets in the Mac app without Flic.

Bringing our expertise to a new platform

When we invented the smart button in 2013, we wanted to create a tool to save people’s time and to reduce complexity in technology. We had several use cases in mind. Put Flic in your home to control lights and music. Wear Flic to send distress messages or tell RunKeeper to start tracking your work-out. Give grandma buttons to call you easier. Take smartphone pictures from afar.

We came up with hundreds of applications and things to control with the button and built one of the most extensive apps we have ever seen, natively on both iOS and Android, implementing almost everything our customers wanted a button for.

Now we bring all that to Mac, along with the FlicLib – probably the best Bluetooth Low Energy library out there. Expect lots of new functionality to be added soon, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Love, The Flic team

What is Flic?

A button with powers?

Imagine a button that can control your smartphone. A button that you could use to take control of your apps without having to fumble with your phone every time you want to do something.

Wait, what?

Well think about it. We use our smartphones on a daily basis to do a bunch of things. We make phone calls, send texts and emails, we set our alarms, we update our calendars, we play music and some of us even use it to control our smart home devices like our lights and stereos. These things become time consuming, so imagine you could do these things with a little button.

There’s this guy called Joacim. One day he decided to quit tobacco, so he decided to keep track of his tobacco intake through an app. Quite quickly he start finding this to be a time consuming task – getting his phone out, unlocking it and find the app that is tracking his intake. But what if I had a button? – he thought. And so this is where the idea of Flic was born, a button to control your smartphone apps.

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So what can it do?

Basically Flic functions as a remote that gives you the power to execute actions through your smartphone, without using your smartphone. An action, for example, would include the camera in your phone taking a photo, or the timer taking time. Your smartphone only acts as a medium and an object to store all your apps. So what happens is that you download the free Flic app to your smartphone and connect this little button to it using Bluetooth, and start adding your actions. Simple!

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How do I control my actions?

Well Flic has three triggers that actions can be linked to. These triggers are Click, Double Click and Hold. This means that for each of these three triggers you can choose to execute one action, or several actions simultaneously. So you could choose to trigger one action like sending a message that shares your current location. Or you could choose to trigger several actions at once, so that with one Click you could turn on your music, track your workout and send an email.

Pretty cool huh?

This means that you can perform the actions of several apps, with one push. Instead of going into each app and executing the action one by one, you can pre-define your Flic to do it for you, with one push of a button.

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Ok cool, but how can I use it?

Well first of all, you can use more than one Flic with one phone, or share your Flic with others. This means that you can have them all over your house, or your car, or even the office. Instead of carrying them around, you can also choose to stick them to any surface with the adhesive tape on its back! So as long as your smartphone and Flic are within 50 meters of each other, you can place them anywhere. Even outside, since they’re weather and dust resistant. Also, Flic will work for up to 18 months and then you can just change the battery. Easy!

At home you could use Flic to help you with your morning work out. With a single click you can turn on your music, start your timer, and have Runkeeper track your workout. With a double click you can keep track of your workout reps. Lastly, with the hold trigger you can hang up any incoming calls that might interrupt your workout.

In your car you could use Flic to help you keep your hands off your phone. With a single click you can play and pause your music, send a text message to a specified contact that you are on your way and start your navigation system. With a double click you can skip to the next track. Lastly, with the hold trigger you can share your location with a specified contact.

At your office you could use Flic to help you use your time in a productive way. With a single click you can set on a timer, and at the same time slack a post to your colleagues that you should not be disturbed. With a double click you can send a gmail to a group of people informing them that the meeting is starting in 5 minutes. Lastly, with the hold trigger you can hang up your incoming calls when you are in the middle of a meeting (and with Android you can even set a predefined message to be send to the caller to explain why you have hung up their call.)

These might be ways that I would use it, but if you can’t see an example that you would use, don’t worry because there are over 40 other actions on iOS and over 60 other actions on Android that you can execute with Flic using your phone.

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Eh, I’m still not sure – what else?

Hey, that’s okay! Why not try Flic for free first with Flic Tasks! Flic Tasks is a part of the free Flic app (download it here: Flic for iPhone, Flic for Android). It lets you test the process of how a Flic would work, but without the button and only using your smartphone.

So download the Flic app, open it and follow the five simple steps below:

  1. Tap on TASKS next to FLICS.
  2. Tap the “+” icon in the bottom right corner to add a new “task”
  3. Press the “+” icon to add a new action (iOS) / Press “Action Chain” (Android)
  4. Choose which action you would like to execute
  5. Execute your actions from the Notification Center (iOS) or Notification Bar (Android)

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What are others saying about it?

Over 150,000 Flics have been sold and shipped to over 110 different countries, so a lot of people are using it. Mainly they are calling it a great and smart little button that works perfectly. Even the press has been positive to Flic. Like The Wall Street Journal said that “Flic is creating value in the physical Internet-of-Things world…” CNET even made a cool video of their 5 favorite use cases for Flic.

So what are you waiting for?

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Okay, how do I get one?

You can order one here and it’ll be shipped to you!

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Take control and simplify your life with the push of a button.

Flic for Mac?

Hi,

Today we are trying something new. We have since the very first release of Flic received a lot of requests from you about using Flic on other devices than their smartphones. While we have had a beta version of a Linux SDK up for a while, Mac support is something we have always wanted to do.

Unfortunately we do not have the development recourses in order to expand our main application to multiple platforms. This has been bothering us since we know that we, and our customers, are missing out on potentially good use cases. It was due to this that we asked ourself a few days ago wether or not we could add Mac support within just a few days of work. The answer to that question turned out to be “Yes, if we cut the application down to an absolute bare minimum and let our users create the actions on their own”.

So, today we are taking our first small step towards Flic compatibility on Mac OSX with an application that we call HaxWithFlic. This application is very simple and in fact, on its own, does not do much at all. The only thing the app will let you do is to use Flic to trigger scripts on your computer. That’s it, no fancy UI, no user log in, no actions.

This application is available for download on GitHub along with a few sample scripts that we have added to get you going. We kindly ask you to submit your comments/suggestions/issues on GitHub rather than sending in support mails so that we can better keep track of it. You are also welcome to discuss it here on the forum as well. Please note that the application is in an Alpha stage and its functionality in upcoming versions may change without notice. While we do realize that this type of application is not for everyone, we still hope that it will be useful to as many of you as possible. Also, this should work perfectly fine with any Flic button, regardless of the batch it originates from.

Thanks,
Anton @ the Flic team


HaxWithFlic Requirements and Instructions

This app requires OSX 10.10 or above operating systems running on a machine that supports Bluetooth Low Energy. A Bluetooth Low Energy compatible USB dongle can in some cases work as well. Once installed, this application will allow you to connect one Flic button to your Mac computer and then select which scripts that you wish to execute on click, double click, hold, up and down.

Important notice:

Since this application will blindly execute the scripts that you tell it to execute, it is very important that you make sure that you know what these scripts do. You need to verify, or have verified by someone who you trust, that the code being executed is not malicious in any way. We will not take responsibility for any harm that you may cause to your machine.

Supported script files

The following files are supported:

  • Automator workflows (.workflow)
  • All other files that are executable (chmod +x a_script.py) and contains a shebang on its first line (#!/some/path)

Some examples of supported files:

  • AppleScript – .scpt, .AppleScript#!/usr/bin/osascript
  • Shell Script – .sh#!/bin/sh
  • Ruby Script – .rb#!/usr/bin/env ruby
  • Python Script – .py#!/usr/bin/env python

This can of course vary a bit depending on how your Mac is configured.

Installation

  1. Download the repository by pressing the “Download ZIP” button.
  2. Mount the dmg file and drag and drop the HaxWithFlic.app to your applications folder.
  3. When launching the application from the applications folder the first time it will ask you if you want to open a file that was downloaded from the internet. Press open.
  4. Press on the flic icon in the menu bar and start using the application. For example, press scan if you want to add a new Flic.

Configuration

  1. Press “Configure scripts..”.
  2. Add search paths to the scripts you want to launch.

Please note that some actions (like window resizing) requires that you add HackWithFlic to the accessibility list under the privacy settings of your mac. By default the app plays audio notifications on button presses, but these can be turned off by unchecking the “Play audio” option. If you are using the button for tasks that require very low latency then you can lower the latency by checking the “Low latency mode” option, but remember that this will decrease the battery life of your Flic significantly. The low latency mode reduces the latency down to 45ms from the normal 280ms. Notice, however, that these are worst case times and that the expected time is about half of that. The button down event always arrives before any other event, so it can be used for time critical applications.

Zapier makes Flic control over 500 web apps – a walkthrough

Did you know Flic can control over 500 apps using Zapier?

Flic is live on Zapier since a while ago and is used by heaps of Flicers every day. Chances are, if you thought about anything you want to do with Flic that is not yet available in the Flic App, you can do it with Zapier.

Say, for example, that you want to click a Flic in your car every time you see something interesting on your roadtrip. You need to save the time and position of each click into a Google spreadsheet.

Here is a walkthrough of how to set that up.

Set up your Flic

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Set up Zapier for Flic

Now, head to Zapier and create an account. Once logged in, time to make a Zap!

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https://i.imgur.com/DSwfGIG.png?1

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Set up your Zapier Action

Now your Flic is connected to Zapier! Time to decide what will actually happen when you click that Flic. Feel free to explore the Zapbook for over 500 different apps and endless possibilities.

Every time Flic ic clicked, Flic provides Zapier with four data points you can use in your Zaps:

  • Clicked At -Date and time of the click
  • Click Type – Click, double click or hold.
  • Longitude – optional GPS coordinate
  • Latitude – optional GPS coordinate

The longitude and latitude data is provided if you select “Send location data” in the Flic App.

To finish off my example of populating a Google spreadsheet, here is how to continue:

Select Google Sheets as an Action App
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Go and create a new spreadsheet in Google Drive. I named mine “Flic Presses” and added three column headers: Pressed At, Longitude and Latitude.

Select your spreadsheet and add the Flic data to each of the columns:
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That’s it! Make sure to turn your Zap ON in the top of the last screen:
https://i.imgur.com/ntu9Upl.png?1

Thanks for reading and if you find something fun, make sure to share your creativity in the Flic User stories section.

Joacim

The First Batch – A lesson learnt about hardware and early assumptions.

This Blog post was covered in The Verge Apr 19, 2016 [link]

The very first batch of Flic we created cannot be firmware updated. Unfortunately, this means that they are not future proof and cannot be used with much of the new functionality we are providing. That sucks.

The First Batch is the most important batch

Shortcut Labs is the first company we (ok, most of us) ever ran and Flic is our first product. We are a young startup with young employees and management, without any real experience in creating connected hardware products. Even though Flic is “just a button”, creating it has been far more challenging than we could have imagined.

The crowdfunding campaign we ran for Flic became one of the most successful in the Nordics. Thousands of people supported us just the first days of the campaign, believing in the idea and believing in us to make it happen. They put their real money at stake, at high risk.

These are the people that believe in technology, who are proud to support startups and that tell their friends about it. They spread the word and people listen when they talk. They are the seeds in grass root financing.

Yet these people, the early adopters, are the ones that we and many other crowdfunding projects manage to disappoint, over and over again. This is because they are the ones who suffer most from delays and because they are the ones that will receive the first batch.

Component cost googling

When trying to launch a hardware product for the first time, you need to do early cost estimates. It starts with component cost and an estimation of the price of each component. In the later stages of the design cycle you can quote factories about volume prices and delivery times for all the finalized components required to get a far more accurate cost estimate. But way before that you may do as we did, google component costs. Try to avoid that and more importantly: don’t trust it.

We calculated the maximum acceptable cost for manufacturing Flic, knowing that we had to stay under that figure to make a viable business out of the product. We googled component prices and got a basic understanding.

Memory, as it turned out, is one of the most expensive components in our design as the component size needed to be minimal to fit our very compact PCB.

From googling we quickly understood that doubling the memory capacity doubles the price.

We knew the memory size was needed for the firmware and some space for optimizations. With that memory space, we could update all the most important parameters such as connection time intervals and power saving algorithms, while still leaving some space available for the Flic buttons to remember which phones they are allowed to connect to. But to update the entire firmware from scratch, we would need to double the memory space.

Our lead engineer was clear: if we don’t get the larger memory we can’t completely update the product.

But why would we ever need to completely refresh the firmware? The core functionality was well tested, bug-free and all optimization parameters could still be updated. The functionality is so simple, just send a single event to a known host when you get clicked! Plus, we did not anticipate, nor did we promise, that Flic would get more core functionality over time (integrations on the App side, e.g. Actions, we would still be able to update).
Doubling the memory would double that components price based on our Google research, which would add around $4 USD to the total retail price.

The technology was supposed to be future proof

Flic makes use of Bluetooth Low Energy, which is an integral part of Bluetooth 4.0. When the idea of Flic was first conceived in 2012, this technology practically only existed on paper. Two years later as we were finalizing the design, Bluetooth Low Energy was built into every new smartphone and tablet on the market.

Google Android 6.0 Marshmallow is the first OS to implement Bluetooth 4.1. Differences from Bluetooth 4.0 are minimal.

The Marshmallow release was perfectly timed with the First Batch being shipped out.

In BT 4.0 a few bits in the pairing setup were reserved for future use. These parameters were supposed to be ignored since they could end up being used in future protocol specifications. In the core Bluetooth stack implementation in the chip, a code licensed by a third party provider, these ignored bits were not parsed correctly.

They were not ignored, they were null.

While that ridiculously small difference made no impact before, it suddenly caused all pairing attempts between new Android devices and Flic to fail. We noticed this as our first batch was just sent out. We asked our backers to not upgrade to Android 6.0 until we worked out a solution.

We also asked if anyone knew someone on the Android team who could help us out. Just a couple of hours later, we were introduced to the right guy at Google (the power of our community!) who helped us out and patched Android for Flic, basically whitelisting the Bluetooth MAC range of that batch. In Android 6.0.1 and future revisions, that First Batch still works.

How could we not have noticed before, in beta versions of Android 6? Mysteriously, the MAC range used by the development boards from our chip provider was already whitelisted in Android. No one knows why.

A quick reaction

From our side, the patch to fix the error was simple and we immediately patched future versions of Flic from the factory. The First Batch was not malfunctioning thanks to our friends at Google. But we also came to think about something.

Did we ever really check the actual price of that double memory component that would allow us to update the firmware of new Flics?

Turns out a double memory size is not equal to double cost. Quite the opposite, the price difference is only marginal when quoted by professionals. We quickly bought tens of thousands of the bigger memory, sold our current stock of the smaller memory and wrote the code to be able to update Flic over the air. Just to be on the safe side, if anything like this would happen again.

Unchallenged early assumptions

The false assumption that double memory equals double price caused a lot of trouble, not only for us but for our most important customers. It was also, in retrospect, stupid of us to not believe that full software updates would be necessary when dealing with a brand new technology.

We had another unfortunate early assumption that today really affects that important Fist Batch. We “knew from the beginning” that we would not be able to start Siri on iOS with Flic. Apple did not allow that kind of functionality using the custom Bluetooth profile and App connection that we had to create to make Flic what it is.

Turns out they changed that a while ago and that Flic, with a firmware upgrade, could implement new Bluetooth profiles with a (very!) clever code switching algorithm that our brilliant engineers invented. As of our Flic App 2.0 release earlier this week, Siri and many new functionalities that we assumed would be impossible are now possible.

But not if your Flic is from the First Batch with the smaller memory chip.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed a bit of insight to our challenges. If you are part of our First Batch, please find a kind offer for new Flics in your email inbox.

Joacim