Sparkpad: Making Customized Touch Screen Displays Easy

Just announced, Sparkpad, a northern Virginia based company, is introducing a customizable, wireless, touch screen platform that bundles a free software development kit (SDK) with made‐to‐order manufacturing of the Wi‐Fi enabled screens.

The goal of Sparkpad is “to make customized touch screen displays as easy for businesses to produce as web pages”. Their new line of Wi‐Fi enabled devices, which run on Linux, are designed to allow companies to easily develop and deploy their own digital signage and  interactive touch panels that require an Internet‐connected screen. Once a company creates their own app, they can purchase any number of Sparkpad devices that come pre-loaded with their app on it.

Sparkpad is a game‐changer for technology companies looking for a touch screen or digital signage platform that can be fully customized and deployed to their customers without getting entangled in costly hardware development projects… 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.

– Drew Weaver, CEO and Co‐founder of Sparkpad.


Sparkpad screenshot

Sparkpad overview

Founded by Drew Weaver and Heikwan Cheng, both previously at AOL, Sparkpad is currently self-funded with a team of eight (headquartered in Dulles, VA, with an R&D office in Shanghai) and already have some early pilot customers around the globe. From Weaver, “We actually already have a full pipeline of customers from dozens of companies around the world, all of whom found us by searching for open platform touch screens and first discovering our consumer product, the iGala digital picture frame, which is built on Linux and first offered the promise of an open platform touch screen device.”

Cheng created the iGala digital picture frame years ago, even demoing it at Tech Cocktail DC in 2008. The frame was the first consumer touch screen photo frame to connect wirelessly to the Internet for synching with photo sharing services such as Flickr and Picasa.

Sparkpad is geared towards small to mid-size technology companies who need a touch screen or digital signage platform that they can fully customize from starting-up to powering-down. The target companies are all over the map, literally, in all kinds of verticals, from a digital signage company in France to a senior living technology company in the U.S., and a home automation control panel company in Poland. According to Weaver, “the major OEMS are not set up to supply these niche companies with customized devices unless the companies order tens of thousands of units. We’re stepping in with an open, self-serve web-based platform that efficiently serves this long tail. And it’s really, really long.”

Allow people to build apps and they will! So far some of the more interesting apps for the platform include…

  • A real-time, animated weather info display currently deployed in schools and offices by a global data services company.
  • A real-time customer satisfaction touch panel currently used by a banking chain in Chile. Customers tap a “happy face” or “sad face” after their transaction with the teller.
  • An interactive, live video webcam viewer, now in development for various tourist locations in Canada.

The Sparkpad platform features 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, and the SDK, which can be downloaded starting today from Sparkpad’s website, complete with sample code and instructions for customizing displays in the LUA programming language (Android, Flash and HTML5 coming soon).

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Written by:
Jen Consalvo is the Cofounder and COO of Tech.Co. She previously worked in product development for almost 13 years at AOL for audiences of millions. Follow her on Twitter at: @noreaster.
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