Kickstarter Project: Spark Socket - How About Controlling Lights Via The Internet?

By Alexandra Burlacu | Nov 17, 2012 01:09 PM EST

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Spark Devices just launched on Kickstarter a working prototype of its flagship product, the Spark Socket, aiming to take home lighting to the next level.

While giant companies such as Google, Comcast, or Electric Imp have more ambitious plans to connect home appliances to the Internet, Spark Devices started out modestly, with one of the most used items in a household: the light bulb.

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Spark Devices put its flagship product on Kickstarter, offering investors of $49 and above a free Spark Socket that connects standard light bulbs to the almighty Web. By connecting a light bulb to the Internet via the Spark Socket, users can control the light through an Android or iOS app that allows them to turn lights on and off, dim, monitor use, make them flash, etc. Moreover, the company has also released a Spark Devices API, which allows developers to integrate light control into third-party apps or Web sites.

"[The Spark Socket] was inspired by my dad, who's deaf and uses lights for notification," Spark Devices founder Zach Supalla told Wired. "At first I wanted to solve a specific problem he has. Now that he uses a cellphone for text messaging, he's very difficult to get a hold of when he's at home and takes his phone out of his pocket. However, once I started working on it I realized that there was a lot of potential for broader uses by providing an open API."

The minimum pledge for the project on Kickstarter is $1. Those who pledge $25 or more will get a Spark T-Shirt, the first 200 backers who pledge $49 or more will get an early bird special Spark Socket, and those who pledge $59 or more will get the Spark Socket regardless of how many other backers came first. Pledges of $84 and more will get backers a Spark Socket in July and a T-Shirt in December. The estimated delivery date for the Spark Socket is July 2013, but backers who pledge $300 or more will get the ProtoSpark test unit in February. The company is trying to raise $250,000 on Kickstarter by Dec.13.

The Spark Socket was built by Zach Supalla and Dr. Zachary Crockett, and has a number of potential applications according to Spark Devices, including:

  •  Turn on the lights before entering a dark house;
  •  Use bedroom lights as a "sunrise" alarm clock, slowly fading on over 10 minutes;
  •  Use a single button to turn off every light in the house;
  •  Dim the room lights when watching a movie or having dinner;
  •  Turn lights on and off while away so it seems like somebody's home;
  •  Flash lights when receiving a new email or text message;
  •  Automatically dim lights when it's bright outside to save energy;

"Products like these will definitely get cheaper over time," said Supalla. "Just like computers, videogame consoles, and smartphones, they get cheaper as the technology improves, and in our case as we grow and scale up our production. In the short term I think there's a lot of great uses for a couple of Smart Sockets in the home, and in the long run, I think we'll see technology like this not just in every light socket but in every electrical device in the home."

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