We first met Spark this summer when it raised more than $560,000 on Kickstarter for its Arduino-like Spark Core Wi-Fi connector kit. It subsequently went on to raise a $4.9 million Series A round and launch a cloud OS to power its Internet of Things (IoT) enabling hardware. Now it’s back with the Spark Photon, a postage stamp sized Wi-Fi development board for building connected devices.
The Spark Photon costs just $19 and is so small it comes packaged in a matchbox. It’s designed for putting together prototype devices. Once you’ve finalized your prototype, Spark is making the Spark P0 ($10) and P1 ($12) Wi-Fi enabled modules available for integration directly into a product.
We caught up with Spark founder and CEO Zach Supalla at Dublin Web Summit where he told us he hopes the Spark Photon will become “the next Raspberry Pi”. The idea of the Spark Photon is to give anyone an entry point into building connected devices while keeping the kind of options enterprise customers need.
The Spark Photon, P0 and P1 modules are all powered by Spark OS, Spark’s open-source cloud-based operating system. Spark OS connects the low-cost micro-controllers to the Web with a set of open standards.
Supalla says the company has grown to 19 employees since its Series A funding and has shipped more than 40,000 of the $39 Spark Core kits since July. He hopes the Spark Photon will sell even more thanks to its much lower price point. He says: “If we can give engineers, students, artists and designers more affordable and easier to use tools, they can focus on what matters, the experience that they’re trying to create.”
The Spark Core has already encouraged a wide-range of new Wi-Fi connected devices that Supalla says go from the “super-useful to the super-weird and crazy.” His favourite application from the way-out end of the spectrum is WarKitteh, a connected collar that maps vulnerable Wi-Fi connections as the cat makes its way around the neighbourhood.
As awesome as the Wi-Fi spy cat is, Supalla says he hopes the Spark Photon will encourage makers to create connected devices that “break out of the gimmicky”. The Spark OS cloud back-end means creators can benefit from secure communications and don’t have to write features like connectivity from scratch.
Supalla says: “We want to make the path from prototype to production quicker and smoother. What started as a simple hacker toolkit is turning into an enterprise-grade solution that’s used by engineers at multinational companies to develop their new connected products.”
To make that even more appealing, Spark has partnered with Broadcom to integrate the latter’s WICED platform, which simplifies the implementation of Wi-Fi connectivity, into the Spark Photon. Prototypes built using the Spark Photon development kit can then be redesigned as manufacturable products using the Spark P0 and P1 modules.
The Spark Photon as well as the P0 and P1 modules are available for preorder from the Spark website from today. Custom kits are also being offered by Adafruit and Seed Studio with further stockists on the way. Spark also promises further integrations for the Photon later this month.
➤ Spark Photon, $19 [Spark]