Spark IO Offers a Button for Internet of Things

The Spark Internet Button enables users to interact with the IoT by creating triggers and responses in connected devices.

Spark IoT button

Spark IO is giving people a way to more easily tap into the burgeoning Internet of things and make it work they way they want.

The startup, one of several companies whose aim is to enable people to more easily connect appliances and systems to the Internet of things (IoT) via WiFi, is offering a tiny physical device that people can use to create their own interactions with the Internet.

The company calls the $49 device the Spark Internet Button, and it's hooked into the IFTTT service to more easily enable the interactions with a broad array of connected things. The company also has created its own channel on IFTTT, where users can create "recipes" to lead to actions between channels. There are about 160 channels on IFTTT from such established companies as ESPN, Facebook, Box, eBay, LinkedIn, Twitter, Sports Illustrated and Google's Nest connected device unit.

IFTTT, a separate company from Spark, stands for "if this, then that," and the recipes on the IFTTT Website enable people to create actions that can trigger a response. Through the Spark Internet Button—which can be preordered now and will be available in March—users can leverage the IFTTT site to establish responses to triggers.

In announcing the Spark Internet Button, company officials listed some examples of how the device, hooked into the IFTTT service, could work. Users could set up the button so that when they get home, they click a button and lights and devices inside the home turn on. The trigger could come from Google Calendar ("if this"), with the response ("then that") coming from the lights and other devices connected with Spark.

Similarly, the button can be programmed so that if the user's favorite sports team wins (if Sports Illustrated), a confetti-based celebration happens in the yard (then Spark). Or if an apartment that matches a user's search criteria pops up on Craigslist (if Craigslist), then a map of their city lights up (then Spark).

The Spark Internet Button includes built-in 11 smart LEDs, a three-axis accelerometer and four press buttons, and ships with Sparks Photon development board that lets users WiFi enable their products. It also includes sample firmware so users don't have to worry about coding if they don't want to.

In addition, Spark officials said IFTTT can be used independently from the Spark Internet Button via the Photon or Core development platforms, and the Button can be used without IFTTT. However, combined, the Spark Internet Button and IFTTT three key areas—hardware, firmware and Web access—are geared for people who want to build connected products, according to Spark officials.

Spark is one of a number of do-it-yourself companies—including littleBits and the Raspberry Pi Foundation—that are developing technologies that make it relatively easy for anyone to make electronic devices that can connect to the Internet.

In a statement made in November 2014 when the Photon development board was announced, Spark CEO Zach Supalla said the company wants "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."