If the “i” in iPad is Steve Jobs, then the “Spark” in Sparkpad is you.
Sparkpad, both a new technology services company and tablet computing platform, is officially releasing this week its suite of Wi-Fi-enabled devices the company hopes will make customised touch screen displays “as easy for businesses to produce as Web pages.”
What exactly does that mean? With Sparkpad companies and individuals are now able to develop and release customised interactive touch panels, digital signage and other solutions that require an “all‐in‐one” Internet-connected screen. Imagine a Xoom tablet gutted of the Xoominess and replaced with, say, interactive social games on tables at your corner gin mill. Cool.
“Sparkpad is a game‐changer for technology companies looking for a touch screen or digital signage platform that can be fully customised and deployed to their customers without getting entangled in costly hardware development projects,” said Drew Weaver, CEO and Co‐founder of Sparkpad. “With Sparkpad, companies large and small can now deliver unique digital experiences to their customers without needing to know much, if anything, about hardware design, manufacturing logistics or embedded systems software development.”
So why not just get an Android tablet and hack it or jailbreak an iPad?
The company notes that the Sparkpad platform is easier to customise than consumer tablets and digital picture frames – even those that run Android – because Sparkpad (and this is key) provides tools to control the entire experience of the device, from start‐up to shutdown, and allows
companies to pre‐load devices with their custom app at the time of manufacture, regardless of order size.
Sparkpad is a custom manufacturing platform, not just a device. Says Weaver: “Low-cost consumer Android tablets may be great for one-off hacking, but the Sparkpad platform bundles tools and services that allow companies — particularly small to mid cap enterprises without the large volume buying power required to work directly with OEMs — to develop and deploy custom display experiences at any size or scale.”
The Sparkpad line includes:
– Multiple hardware options, including a 15″ flat panel display, a 10″ touch screen
display and (coming soon) an 8″ tablet
– An open purchasing model that allows companies to order any number of displays at any time: buy one right away for app development and testing, then purchase tens or thousands, as needed, when ready for broad deployment
– A Software Development Kit, which can be downloaded starting today from Sparkpad’s Website, including sample code and instructions for customising displays in the LUA programming language (Android, Flash and HTML5 coming soon).
And you won’t be the first taking a chance on the device line. The self-funded company already has a dozen pilot customers in eight countries currently developing/testing on their platform — one is a global data services company based in the U.S. that has already made a large volume purchase, according to Weaver.
“Other companies working on our platform include a digital signage company in France, a retail bank chain in Chile, and a home energy control panel company in Poland,” he said. “The diversity of our customers to date has been really impressive, both in their planned product applications and their geography. Consumer tablets are driving huge interest and demand globally for customised touch solutions in the business arena, and we’re helping to fill that gap.”
Sparkpad is sort of a model startup: self-funded, already driving revenue, small tight team (eight people: two in the U.S. six in China). Two of the three founders, Weaver and Heikwan Cheng, are AOL refugees. In spite of that I’m guessing they would not turn down overtures of investment.
Still the company faces an uphill battle, but primarily in educating companies (and even individuals) of their currently unique proposition. Copycats may not be far behind so the sparks of innovation are going to have to start to really fly. (Hey, at least i saved the obvious play on words until the end.)