Spark Socket Kickstarter Pushes for the Internet of Dimmable Things

By Wesley Fenlon

The Spark Socket connects to an app for remote dimming, but its API, which developers could use to integrate lightbulb control into other apps, is the real draw.

Some high-end LED lightbulbs, like the recently Kickstarted LIFX, pair their long-lived light sources with Wi-Fi chips that can be used to control the bulb from afar (or from a chair which happens to be out of reach of any light switch). Another Kickstarter, from a company called Spark Devices, offers the same functionality--control your lights from an iOS or Android device--but it'll work with any old bulbs currently installed in your house.

The catch: You'll have to pledge at least $59 to guarantee yourself a Spark Socket, which is a lot of money to spend just to control one single socket via a smartphone app. The Spark plugs into any regular ol' light socket and has its own socket for a lightbulb, be it LED or incandescent, to plug into. The Spark houses all the electronics necessary to control the bulb wirelessly. Everything else is done on the app side.

Some of the ideas Spark Devices proposes on its Kickstarter page are more interesting than the basic concept of a remote-controlled lightbulb. Sure, dimming your lights automatically or turning all the lights in the house on/off would be nice, but the latter would also require a lot of Spark Sockets. The programming possibilities are cooler.

For example, Spark could dim lights based on weather or light data about the outside world. When it's sunny, your lights chill out to save electricity. Though it's not one of Spark's example, we'd like the option to have lights in the living room dim whenever the television comes on. It should be possible: Spark has an API that it wants developers to use. Lightbulb integration with other apps could be useful.

But useful enough to shell out $60 for a couple dozen Sparks? We're getting closer to the Microsoft Future Home, but the affordable Future Home is still a ways off.