A startup called Spark wants to help you connect all of your stuff — home appliances and anything else you can put a chip into — to the web, and it has just raised $4.5 million dollars to do it.
The race to build a smart home is big, and Spark’s tech stack may be able to widen the market. The stack involves two components, Spark Core and Spark Cloud. Spark Core is an Arduino-like system that makes it easy to connect products to the web — an often costly process for appliance makers.
Developers can build applications for their products on Spark’s cloud-based operating system. Founder Zach Supalla argues that having an operating system in the cloud as opposed to on a tiny chip embedded in an appliance will allow your products to do more complex intelligent tasks.
Spark is an interesting addition to the smart appliance market, in part because it doesn’t actually make your products more intelligent. “Your products are actually dumb, but they can behave as it they were smart because they’re connected,” says Supalla. Access to a powerful operating system and applications is what makes the product more capable — sort of like a brain in the cloud.
For appliance makers, the product could be a real game changer. Right now home goods manufacturers may be considering whether it makes sense to make their products “smart” and compatible with Wink or Apple’s yet to be released Homekit. Spark’s tech stack could ease the move to such networks by providing basic connectivity smarts to any product. Manufacturers could also use Spark’s technology to create a viable standalone “smart” appliance.
Supalla’s interest in connecting your stuff with the Internet of things, came from a project he was building to help his deaf father. His family had installed a light system that flashes when someone rings the doorbell. “I wanted the lights to flash when mom sent him a text,” he tells VentureBeat.
He founded Spark in 2012, and the first product he made was called Spark Socket, a web connected light system. But after an unsuccessful run on Kickstarter, the company pivoted and decided to focus on creating a platform for connecting any kind of appliance to Wi-Fi. “I still am surprised that there are so few products on the market that are actually great, and part of that is the difficulty to create connected products in general,” says Supalla. He’s hoping Spark’s tech stack will inspire more and better innovations.
Last year the company held a successful Kickstarter campaign, where it raised $567,968 for Spark Core — it was only looking to raise $10,000. The company’s latest round comes from Lion Wells Capital, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, SOSventures, Collaborative Fund, and a consortium of angel investors.