SparkFun, the Boulder, Colo. company that sells DIY projects and boards, and even helps with fulfilling the orders from crowdfunding campaigns, has built a cloud service and an open-source project designed to get data online. The company laid out the new service, called data.sparkfun.com in blog post Thursday, and it also released code it calls Phant (as in elephant, the pachyderm that never forgets) so people who don’t want to use the service can still upload their data to their own servers.
With this offering it is becoming crystal clear that if you’re going to offer hardware to people building connected devices, you’re also going to have to offer a service to get that data online, where developers can then play with it. I was reminded of the Dweet.io and Freeboard projects by Big Labs while reading SparkFun CEO’s Nate Seidle’s description of the data service:
See the simplistic beauty here? All you have to do is string a bunch of sensor data together from whatever hardware you’re using and throw a link out into the world. Phant never forgets them. And almost any embedded device can stick a bunch of strings and variables together!
However, like many of the toolsets associated with the DIYers out there and even products like Electric Imp that offer both hardware and cloud, there’s still a level of expertise or comfort with physical tinkering and software required. The barrier is much lower, and clearly efforts like this are bringing more people and ideas into the connected device universe, but I’m curious how large this market is.
Either way, SparkFun, which is a private company with no outside funding, made the right call in creating this channel and offering some code. I think the big question will be whether open source projects like Phant or Azondi by OpenSensors gain much of a developer following outside the smaller maker market. For SparkFun it doesn’t matter, since it has other lines of business. For others, we’ll just wait and see.