Ah, Mobile World Congress. You strange Spanish trade show with your 98 000 square metres of floor space dedicated to the latest and greatest in portable tech. Your hours of conferences. Your miles of walking. You’re fun, but I’m not sorry to be heading home after a week in Barcelona and days of little sleep.
What’s truly remarkable, however, is that while I was suitably impressed when I got to play with a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and I think Huawei’s Honor 6 Plus has the most amazing camera ever seen on a smartphone, the one piece of kit on display that actually made me grin like a fool is the one pictured above.
It’s a tiny little WiFi router called the VoCore, which was being shown off by British firm Imagination Technologies (which makes the graphics processors in many mobile phones, including the iPhone).
The VoCore was actually released last year, after a successful Indiegogo campaign to raise money to build the 25mm x 25mm x 25mm cube of silicon and plastic that is – as far as I know – the smallest WiFi router in the world.
It’s actually designed in two parts: the top layer is the system on a chip that Imagination makes that includes a MIPS processor capable of running OpenWRT router software and an antenna that’s built into the circuit board. The bottom half makes it useful, adding an Ethernet port and USB for power.
The main board costs $20 (R236) and the dock is an extra $25 (R295), which makes it a little expensive when you consider that you could use something like a Raspberry Pi for similar effect, but it’s the simplicity that’s the charm.
If you wanted to build a low-power internet access station to keep you connected during loadshedding, for example, this could be a great place to start. The ability to run it off of a battery or small solar panel make it the kind of kit that could be used for hacking together a WiFi network for internet access in township or rural areas too.