Spark: Upgrade your lights with Wi-Fi and apps
Spark is a simple product that connects your lights to the internet so you can control them from a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
Available now for pre-order at sparkdevices.com!
TechCrunch: "The project aims to turn every lamp in your home into a web-based juggernaut."
WIRED Gadget Lab: "It's not hard to imagine using lights to display other types of data..."
Fast Co Design: "It’s all pretty neat for everyday consumers, but it could be revolutionary for the deaf or hard of hearing."
Forbes: "A light bulb socket that lets you manage one light bulb (or more) from the internet is groundbreaking."
Apartment Therapy: "Perfect for renters and upgrading over time, you can start with one sconce or one room and add Sparks as you go."
Silicon Republic: "Turn on and off the lights and potentially other devices in your home with the power of a tweet..."
The Spark Socket screws into any standard lightbulb socket, and connects to the internet over the Wi-Fi connection in your home, so that you can control your lights from a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Spark can make your life simpler, more streamlined and — just maybe — a little more fun.
Here are some of the great things that Spark can do:
- Turn on your lights before entering a dark house
- Use your bedroom lights as a "sunrise" alarm clock, slowly fading on over 10 minutes to help you wake up naturally
- Turn off every light in the house with a push of a single button
- Dim the living room lights when you're watching TV or eating dinner
- Turn your lights on and off while you're on vacation so it looks like someone's home
- Flash your lights to let you know that you've received a new email or text message
- Automatically dim your lights when it's bright outside to save energy
Spark sets up in minutes over Wi-Fi and is easy to use, easy to install, and just plain simple. And the "enlightenment" of your home (pun fully intended) will not end there. Spark has a software development platform that will allow people to create apps for Spark. The possibilities for Spark are endless.
The Spark Socket is a sleek device that sits between a dimmable light bulb (incandescent, dimmable CFL, or dimmable LED) and a standard light fixture. It connects to the internet over Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), so as long as you already have a Wi-Fi router, there's no need for any additional hardware besides your Spark Socket. How many people does it take to screw in a Spark-powered lightbulb? Just one.
Using Spark is just as easy as installing it. The attached light bulb can be controlled or programmed using an iPhone, Android smartphone or your home computer by logging into our website or using our native mobile apps.
Spark's most basic use is as a portable light switch, but it can do so much more. After all, we already have The Clapper for those times when we don't want to get off the couch.
What makes Spark really powerful is our open, RESTful API that allows any software developer to create apps that can interact with your lights. This means that any app on your phone, on your computer, or on the web can be connected to your lights. Your lights could change based on the weather, based on how far you are from home, or based on your Twitter feed.
For the techy folks out there, here's an example of one of our API calls:
This may look like gibberish to most of you, but the important point is that it's easy to create great apps with Spark. Want to know more about our API? Get more info here.
This isn't just about lights. The Internet of Things is coming, and it's being driven by hardware start-ups, many of which were funded right here on Kickstarter. We're partnering with as many of these companies as possible to create an ecosystem of products that work together through open standards and collaboration.
So far we've partnered with Twine, so that you can use sensors around your home to control your lights (see Update #1), and Pebble, so that you can control your lights from your watch, without even taking out your phone (see Update #4). We've got more partnerships coming, so stay tuned!
Some of the Spark's abilities wouldn't be out of place in The Jetsons' futuristic home, but unlike George Jetson's flying car, Spark is already working and is only months away from arriving at your doorstep. We already have a working prototype that can be operated from our website; also, check out the video of Spark in action at the top of this page.
Spark has been developed over the course of the last year from a very basic concept using an Arduino and an LED all the way to a fully functioning prototype of the final product. Check out our progress:
Spark (formerly known as SWITCH): First Prototype (January 29, 2012)
Spark (formerly known as SWITCH): Second Prototype (March 27, 2012)
Spark (formerly known as SWITCH): Third Prototype (June 28, 2012)
Spark: Fourth Prototype (November 2, 2012)
We need your help in three important ways:
- Back our campaign! Of course, in typical Kickstarter fashion, backers will earn various rewards depending on the size of their contribution. Pledge levels are detailed in the right-hand column.
- Send us ideas! We want to know what you would use Spark for. And be creative; we want to hear your let's-use-Spark-to-keep-track-of-how-far-our-kids-are-from-home-by-making-the-lights-brighter-when-they're-coming-home-like-the-magical-clock-that-the-Weasley-family-had-in-Harry-Potter ideas. Click the little link in the upper-right corner next to our logo to contact us, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Make great Spark apps! We can't wait to share our API with the developer community to see what great apps people will create. If you're interested in creating Spark apps, we'd love to hear what you've got in mind; email us at email@example.com.
Many thanks to all Kickstarters that share our vision and are helping us achieve it by backing us and spreading the word. If you have feedback, questions or ideas, we would love to hear from you!
Thank you to the amazing people who have devoted their time and energy to making this product a reality. If you count the many wonderful people who gave me some quick advice over the phone (each of whom I am grateful to), the number of contributors would be in the hundreds. A special thank you to those who truly went above and beyond with their contributions:
Stephanie Rich (community management); Zac Crockett (software development); Tim MacGuidwin (supply chain); Jordan Husney (advisor); Jay Schrankler (advisor); Betsy Ziegler (advisor); Jordan Dalton (advisor); Justin Grammens (advisor); Scott Herbst at Herbst Produkt (industrial design); Bill Drislane and Scott Miller at Dragon Innovation (supply chain); Jim Meyer, Joe Tretter, and Glen Schlegel at North Pole Engineering (electrical engineering); Paul Detjen (video production); Sean Martin (animations); Chris Reynolds (script writing); Andy Timko (Kickstarter preparation); Keith Schreer (software development); Ryan Scherf (UI design); Ilya Mikhelson (electrical engineering); Greer Karlis, Gaby Berger, Kevin Alley and Dan Farkas (video cast); Jess Porter, Jafar Owainati, Nilam Shah, and Ben Bonnet, who helped me write the original business plan; Brian Vaughn, Aaron Gough, and Vikas Checker for helping me revise it; the great folks at The Mill, CoCo, and 1871 (the various co-working spaces we have used), my parents for their inspiration and support, and my fiancee Ashley Soloff and her family for supporting me and putting up with me when all I do is work.
Will Spark work in my home? Three things must be true for Spark to work for you:
- First, you must have Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) wireless internet in your home.
- Second, you must have a light fixture that takes medium-sized Edison screw bulbs (E27 in the US, E26 abroad), or as most people call them here in the U.S., "standard light bulbs". If you are anywhere in the world other than the UK, Australia, or New Zealand (where bayonet-style fixtures are common), you're probably good here.
- Third, you must use a dimmable bulb. This includes any incandescent bulb, any CFL bulb that is labeled "dimmable", and any LED bulb that is labeled "dimmable". Most LED bulbs for residential lighting are dimmable; in contrast, most CFL bulbs are not dimmable, so please check the packaging before using a bulb with a Spark Socket. If you're concerned about what bulbs to use, we'll be making bulbs that pair well with Spark available for sale on our website, and we will keep a running list of all the bulbs that we have successfully tested with the Spark Socket.
What is the range of the Spark Socket Wi-Fi? The range of the Spark Socket is comparable to the range on a smartphone (100-300 feet, depending on the home). In other words, if you have a Wi-Fi connection on your smartphone from a particular spot in your house, the Spark Socket should work fine there. If you need more Wi-Fi coverage in your home, there are plenty of Wi-Fi range extenders available.
Will the Spark Socket fit in my lamp or light fixture? The Spark Socket fits in most lamps and light fixtures without issue. The Spark Socket is 54mm wide at its widest point (a little more than 2"), and adds 32mm to the height of your bulb (about 1.25"), so you can check your light fixtures and lamps to be sure. If the Spark Socket won't fit in your fixture with a normal bulb, we'll be selling smaller bulbs on our website, as well as "lamp harp extenders" that can give you a little more clearance for lamps that use lamp harps.
Do I have to pay anything for Spark service or Spark apps? Our software and apps are free! However, developers who create Spark apps may choose to charge for them, by selling their apps through the iPhone App Store, Google Play, or on their own websites.
Will I still be able to use my regular light switch? Yes! A quick toggle of your lights (turning them off and then on again) will either turn your lights on or off, while keeping the Spark Socket powered up and letting you still control your lights through Spark. Also if you want to deactivate the Spark Socket for normal control through the light switch, you'll be able to do so without uninstalling it.
What happens if the internet goes down? You'll always be able to control your lights from the light switch. We're also working on a back-up system that uses local communications when the internet is down.
What if I want more than one Spark Socket? If our Kickstarter project is successful, we will provide our Kickstarter backers an opportunity to expand their orders as we approach our delivery date.
In what countries will Spark work? The short answer is that it will work everywhere. However, Spark will initially be certified only in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. If you'd like to see Spark in other countries, please contact us and let us know!
Where shouldn't I use Spark? Spark Sockets should not be used with bulbs greater than 100W when facing up (like in a lamp) or 60W when facing down (like in a recessed light fixture). Spark Sockets should not be used outdoors.
What will the Kickstarter funding be used for? If we can reach our target of $250,000, the money will be used for the following purposes:
- Manufacturing: First and foremost, the majority of the money that we receive in our Kickstarter campaign will go directly to paying our manufacturing partner to make and deliver the Spark Sockets.
- Tooling: The biggest up-front development costs are tooling costs for the plastic parts. This basically involves paying an extremely skilled engineer to make a "tool" out of very hard metal that can be used as a mold for the plastic parts.
- Certification: A product of this nature must be certified by the FCC (and equivalent international bodies) for RF emissions, and UL (and equivalent international bodies) for safety. Safety and reliability are paramount for a product like this, and we'll go through the rigorous testing to ensure a high-quality product.
Who are you guys, anyway? We're a team of engineers, designers, and creatives who wanted to create something new and exciting. Many people have been involved in various ways, but the core team is as follows:
- Zach Supalla. Built the first four Spark prototypes using Arduino, Node.js, and a soldering iron with a steady hand. Worked in operations and product development at McKinsey & Co. Loves gadgets, coffee, arcade games, tinkering, and his dog Hunter.
- Zac Crockett. Making Spark a secure, reliable, and scalable software platform. Professional software developer for 10 years. Has a Ph.D in music composition, and bikes everywhere when his leg isn't broken. Ask him about his earworms.
- Stephanie Rich. Spends every day thinking about you, our community of users and supporters. Worked in international sales and marketing in the film industry. Wrote a book about her grandfather where she re-traced his steps through Europe and re-took his old pictures eighty years later.
What is the current state of the prototype? Our current prototype that is featured in the video and pictures is both fully functional and a good approximation of the appearance of the manufactured product. The shell of the prototype is an SLA model that has been painted to look like the final product; if you look closely in the pictures and the videos you will see some scratches and imperfections from the sanding and the painting. The finished product will be injection molded plastic. As for the electronics, the PCB in the prototype was manufactured at a quick-turn PCB house in the U.S. and the components were hand-soldered onto the board by Zach and his trusty sparkfun tweezers. The final boards will be mass-manufactured using pick-and-place technology. The circuitry will likely go through a couple of rounds of revisions to optimize the design, but the functionality will be the same as today.
Who did your video? We worked with a dear friend of Zach's, Paul Detjen of PCD Productions. He's awesome, go check him out if you need video support. Also amazing is Sean Martin, our animator - he did 2D work for us but is equally talented in 3D.
What happens if I plug one Spark Socket into another Spark Socket? You will tear a hole in the fabric of space and time. Or something like that. Don't do it, anyway.
Risks and challenges
There are significant challenges in manufacturing and delivering any hardware product at scale. Mass manufacturing isn't the same as prototype development; besides making our products work, we have to make sure they're safe and reliable, and that they can be manufactured cost-effectively in large quantities. We also have to go through expensive processes like tooling development and certification.
Luckily, we're working with the right people. Our team includes a number of experts, including Dragon Innovation, a manufacturing consultancy that has supported great products like MakerBot, Sphero, and Pebble. Dragon's experience in factory selection, sourcing, and quality assurance will be instrumental to Spark's success.
We're also working with North Pole Engineering, an electrical engineering firm in Minneapolis with extensive experience in Wi-Fi communications and embedded systems design. North Pole has already reviewed our electrical design and will continue to work with us through the development process.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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