Spark smartens up any standard light socket
By Darren Quick
November 27, 2012
The common thing amongst the various smart light bulbs we’ve seen recently, such as the Lumen, Philips hue, LIFX and INSTEON, is that all the enabling wireless technology is built into the bulbs themselves. This means that when the bulb inevitably fails, you’re faced with replacing the whole expensive kit and caboodle. Spark overcomes this problem by separating the expensive wireless components from the bulb, thereby allowing a standard bulb to be connected to the internet.
Spark is the brainchild of Zach Supalla, who is seeking funding via Kickstarter for manufacturing, tooling and government certification expenses and getting the device to market. Supalla’s father is deaf and relied on house lights flashing to let him know if the phone is ringing or if there is someone at the door. It was this recognition that lights could be a source of information coupled with the fact that the system on which his dad relied doesn’t work with mobile phones that prompted Supalla to develop Spark.
Designed the fit into a standard (E26, E27) screw light socket, Spark sits between the socket and the light bulb. It connects to the internet via Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) to allow any dimmable bulb to be controlled remotely. Apps will be available for iOS or Android smartphones and tablets, while control via a computer will be possible by logging into the Spark website. The device itself adds 32 mm to the height of a bulb and measures 54 mm at its widest point. There will also be smaller bulbs and “lamp harp extenders” available through the Spark website for light fittings and lamps with a tight fit.
Along with the standard on/off and dimming functions found on regular lights, along with more advanced features found on other smart lighting systems, such as acting as a “sunrise” alarm or enabling remote control while away on vacation, the Spark can also be used for notifications. Flashing lights can indicate a new text message or email, for example. Multiple Spark sockets can also be controlled individually or as part of a group.
And these capabilities are likely to grow thanks to an open RESTful API that allows software developers to create apps for the device. The creators suggest apps that change the lights based on on how far the user is from home or the current weather conditions to save electricity.
Intended as part of the burgeoning “internet of things,” the Spark team has also partnered with Twine to allow sensors around the home to control the lights, and Pebble, so they can be controlled from a watch. More partnerships are reportedly also in the works.
Spark has progressed through a number of prototypes and the US$250,000 Kickstarter funding goal will see the device go into production with deliveries set to begin in July 2013. The Spark is set to retail for $60 per unit, but Kickstarter pledgers can save themselves a dollar and get one for $59. The pledged amount stands at just under $76,000 with 15 days left to run.
The Spark Kickstarter video pitch can be viewed below.