The Internet is a many-splendored thing. For some it is a fount of knowledge and others a fount of porn. But for those with the Spark, it is a fount of illumination.
Minnesota-based Spark is a project that connects lightbulbs to the Internet. By adding a dongle between the lamp and the bulb, you can turn on lights in any room almost anywhere in the world. Want to try it? Go here and tweet #hellospark. It’s just about that easy.
Built by Zach Supalla and Dr. Zachary Crockett, the project aims to turn every lamp in your home into a web-based juggernaut. The Spark can:
“The product was inspired by my dad, who’s deaf, and uses lights for notification. At first, I was trying to solve a very specific problem that he has, which is that the old strobe systems for the deaf are intended for landlines, and now that he uses a cell phone for text messaging, he’s difficult to get ahold of when he’s home and takes his phone out of his pocket. I wanted to create a system that could flash his lights based on signals from the internet that he’s got a text message or an email. But once I started working on it, I started to realize how big the opportunity is for providing an open API for lights,” said Supalla.
The device has a RESTful API so you can program your Spark to interact with the web. “We hope that with the help of the software development community we’ll be able to provide a whole range of killer apps that interact with lights,” said Supalla.
They are running a Kickstarter funding round right now and they’ve already hit $20,000 of a $250,000 goal. A single Spark costs $59 but it looks like a few of these would be in order if you really want to have some fun. It was originally based on an Arduino board and a switch, but now it’s a self-contained device that would look at home on any Ikea FLÜRDÖR table lamp.
“I think the ‘Internet of Things’ is the next frontier for the tech world, and I think the movement will come through hardware start-ups creating incredible experiences around re-inventing old technologies with internet connectivity. I think that lights are a great product to improve because they’re so pervasive and they can do so much, but we use them for so little,” said Supalla. “Most people just use lights for illumination, but when you think about how lighting affects your mood, and how lighting can be used for notifications, or to present information in a non-obtrusive way in the home – there’s a lot that can be done with lights, and we want to build a platform to make that possible.”
Supalla spent a few years at McKinsey & Company before getting a Masters in Engineering Management from Northwestern. He interned at Groupon and then began to focus on hardware startups by playing with Arudino boards and LEDs. Crockett is a software developer and is a Ph.D in music composition with a minor in computer science. He also composes music.
The Spark should ship in July if they meet their funding goal. They’ll just have to be… light… on their feet.