Spark, the small startup company from San Francisco have always been exciting to follow. They debuted their first wifi enabled development board, the Core, on Kickstarter two years ago.
The Core was the first affordable and reliable tool to connect hardware projects to the Internet. Reading temperature sensors in your living room, or switching lights off from anywhere around the world has never been easier. With the code being stored in the cloud, you can even change your program while out and about. Being Arduino compatible, you don’t have to worry about learning a new language and can hit the ground running.
Spark Photon, the second generation of the Core holds similar properties except they halved the price to $19 and made it almost twice as fast.
This February Spark has started a brand new Kickstarter campaign to fund their brand new idea, the Electron. They decided to go back to Kickstarter to increase awareness of the product, and to make the community get excited about the new opportunities it holds.
The new Electron wants to solve the obvious weakness of both the Core and the Photon: Wi-Fi isn’t available everywhere and that’s quite restricting.
The Electron features an onboard cellular antenna to connect to the Internet wherever 2G or 3G network is available. With the Electron you get a special, M2M SIM card and an affordable data plan to go with. M2M (Machine to Machine) communication has never been available for individuals, only for large companies dealing with fleet management, point of sale, vending machines, alarms, smart meters and much more. Clear benefits are reliability, consistency and increased security.
The Electron will be able to receive commands and send status updates or sensor readings to you or another device through cellular network in the form of text messages. You will be able to connect your drone and their sensors to your phone, monitor your bird house or greenhouse or track your stolen bike all without being connected to the Wi-Fi.
The other exciting piece of news from Spark is the ‘If This Then That’ support. IFTTT is an amazing service that allows you to create personal “recipes” consisting of a Trigger event and an Action. Triggers are notifications from popular services like Facebook, Instangram, Twitter, Google Calendar or Gmail, events from physical devices like the Nest thermostat, the Netatmo personal weather station or all of WeMo’s smart home accessories. Actions can also be chosen from a list of dozens and dozens of services and devices, 167 channels in total (https://ifttt.com/channels).
For Spark developers this means that they can now connect their hardware projects to all 167 channels and setup hundreds of different tasks in a couple of minutes. Here are a few examples:
- Send a notification to my Android smart watch if my home temperature drops below 16 degrees
- Email me when the dog’s water bowl is empty
- Blink a green light when a new commit has been pushed to my Github repository, and orange after a fork
- Create a calendar event or update my to-do list when the soil moisture sensor is dry to water my plants
- Log home sensor readings into my Google Drive