The Simputer is a low-cost Personal
Computer with multiple connectivity options. It is designed
to be modular and extensible, and based entirely on free
software from the Open Source Initiative. Its primary input
is a touch-sensitive overlay on the LCD display panel.
The Simputer is not a Personal Computer
in the conventional "PC" sense. The "Win-tel" architecture
of the de facto standard PC is quite unsuitable for
deployment in the low-cost mass market in any developing
country. The entry barrier due to software licensing of
proprietary, though de facto standard, software is just
too high. While the Wintel PC provides a de facto level
of standardisation, it is clearly not an open architecture.
The Simputer, on the other hand, is
based on GNU/Linux software technology that is open and
modular. The Linux Kernel version 2.4 has been ported to
The initial version of the Simputer
is based on Intel's StrongARM CPU, which is a Reduced
Instruction-set (RISC) microprocessor designed for
embedded applications. The StrongARM has a high level
of integration and performance at a relatively low level
of power consumption.
To enable rapid development and
deployment of application software, the basic development
platform uses GTK. A Java Virtual Machine can also be
provided for those application developers that want to
benefit from platform independence for their applications.
An important feature of the Simputer
is the SmartCard Reader/Writer. The SmartCard is emerging
as a credible delivery vehicle for financial transactions
on the Internet and has become an important tool for
electronic commerce. The incorporation of a SmartCard
Reader/Writer in the Simputer increases the functionality
of the mobile device for deployment of a richer set of
value-added services, including services such as home
and micro-banking through personal ATMs, home shopping,
etc. The SmartCard Interface enables a diverse range of
applications that require security. Electronic commerce,
on-line banking and multi-purpose citizen-cards will all
require SmartCards in the near future.
The Simputer is targeted as a shared
computing device for a local community of users. A local
community such as the village panchayat or the village
school, or a kiosk, or even a shopkeeper should be able
to give this device out to individuals for a specific
period of time and then pass it on to others in the
community. This requires the device to be personalized
for individual use on a changing basis. The SmartCard is
again the basic method by which this device can be
personalized. A user's individual profile can be stored
on a SmartCard, which he can carry around with him. Once
inserted into the SmartCard Interface, the Simputer will
read the profile from the SmartCard and also update changes
if any, during the current transaction cycle.
The Simputer offers a wide range of
connectivity options because of its primary focus as an
access device. The primary connectivity option is a
V.34/V.90 Modem. There is also an IrDA interface for
interworking with PCs and IrDA-compatible peripherals
such as printers. Finally, there is a built-in USB Host
port that can be used for extension and peripherals that
cannot be integrated within the device.
The Simputer operating system, tools
and the main application resides in Flash ROM so that the
system can quickly start operation when powered up. User
profiles can be stored in Flash memory as accessible files
or also in the SmartCard.
The Simputer is a mobile computer
platform and will be applicable in several applications
of mobile computing. The Simputer platform technology,
being a cost-effective platform, can be used to develop
several other products such as Thin Clients, Kiosk Computer,
Cost-effective Point-of-Sale terminal and in embedded
for more details.