Connected devices start-up Spark raises US$50,000 on Kickstarter

19 Nov 2012

Pictured: Spark Devices founder Zach Supalla

Spark Devices, a start-up that has created an appliance that lets you turn on and off the lights and potentially other devices in your home with the power of a tweet, has raised US$50,000 in less than a week on crowdfunding site Kickstarter.

The Minneapolis-based start-up which will be joining the SOSventures-led HAXLR8R consumer devices accelerator in Shenzhen, China, in February had raised US$20,000 by Friday, rising to US$50,000 on Kickstarter at the time of writing. All by word of mouth.

Spark is a little device that sits between a light fixture and light bulb and lets you control your lights over the internet via smartphone, PC or tablet computer or through its specially developed REST API.

We spoke to Spark Devices founder Zach Supalla today and he explained his vision for the company.

“I love home automation but it’s never really taken off. Products developed so far have been okay but they have never really been well designed.

“We’ve created an open environment and a lot of people are testing our API. We started with lights and we plan to go beyond that.

“For example, imagine if you’re half an hour from home in your car or on a bus or train and your smartphone detects your geo-location and can communicate with your house to switch on the lights and heating.

“There are complexities to all of this and it’s not an easy one to solve. My perspective is home automation will work when you’ve got lots of companies focusing on different parts of the ecosystem.”

The device basically screws in between a light socket and the light bulb and has a Wi-Fi module streteched around it that receives the instructions from the Wi-Fi router or other nearby connected devices.

Supalla says the API lends it to many other potential uses beyond remote control.

Among the apps created so far is a Spark app that users your bedroom lights as a sunrise alarm clock, the ability to send notifications via flashing light patterns and geo-fencing whereby the lights in a person’s home switch off if their smartphone communicates that they are a certain distance from home.

A source of insporation, Supalla says is NeST, the company led by former Apple iPod chief Tony Fadell, which has developed a connected thermostat that has algorithms that learn all about you and could potentially save 30pc off the cost of heating a home.

“NeST is a great example of the kind of home automation that will one day become commonplace in our homes.

“With Spark Devices the first step is delivering on our product and as soon as the Kickstarter campaign closes it’s going to be all about manufacturing,” Supalla says.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years