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Spark smartens up any standard light socket

By

November 27, 2012

Spark connects to a home network via Wi-Fi

Spark connects to a home network via Wi-Fi

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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.

Spark allows standard light bulbs to be controlled over the internet

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.

Source: Spark via Kickstarter

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
6 Comments

I'm not sure if I read it right but is there an opportunity for someone to come up with a cheaper flouresent bulb? If the electronics are the most expensive part why not sell a base only that screws into the socket and also sell a replacible bulb that screws into the base. Question is, is it the bulb that burns out or the electronics?

The Hoff
27th November, 2012 @ 04:55 pm PST

@The Hoff

My thoughts exactly. It's the bulb burning out even with the cheap disposable electronics in current CFLs.

kwarks
28th November, 2012 @ 08:19 am PST

I was putting a light sensor on my porch light the other day and had a similar thought. What if they put the parts that have mercury in a detachable base. Then we could toss the disposable parts in the trash and reuse the toxic part, keeping them out of the landfill.

TJG
28th November, 2012 @ 10:03 am PST

This article is not about CFL. In fact, CFL bulbs are not suitable for frequent on/off switching. For those applications, use an incandescent or LED bulb.

Insteon control modules can be installed as a wall light switch, or insert between the wall outlet and the light power plug. The only complain I have is insteon modules are expensive (compared to x10). In addition to insteon, there are several competing systems.

Also, is it possible to do this with $250K? I think one or two patent lawsuits would exhaust that quickly.

MrGadget
28th November, 2012 @ 01:59 pm PST

Let me know when they get down to $6.

Captain Obvious
28th November, 2012 @ 05:23 pm PST

@The Hoff that's how the early CFL's were, the ones with the straight tubes. The first folded fluorescents were a simple "out and back" shape with a single bend. Then came the quad tube type which essentially doubled the length of the single fold style and folded that in half.

I have some of those over 25 years old and they still work. I suspect none of the companies that made those lamps ever made many replacement tubes and they certainly don't make them now.

It's more cost effective to make the entire lamp a single unit, eliminating the connector plug which also reduces the size. The electronic bits have been simplified and compacted to the point where they're one of the smallest parts of the manufacturing cost.

Gregg Eshelman
29th November, 2012 @ 12:28 am PST
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