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Android-based touchscreen router does home automation

Mar 22, 2014  |  Eric Brown
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A Kickstarter project called Soap combines router and home automation features in a quad-core, Android-based tablet with 802.11ac, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and BLE.

The Soap project has already surpassed its $80,000 funding goals, and there are still some packages left at discounted prices until the campaign closes Mar. 23 at 10:34 AM EDT. The touchscreen-enabled Soap Touch costs $150, and will retail at $200 when it ships in November. There’s also a non-touchscreen Soap Essentials version, which will go for $80 when it ships in August, but no more discounted versions are available at the $60 funding price. The Soap Essentials is otherwise similar except that it offers less onboard storage.



Soap Touch with smartphone app
(click image to enlarge)

The Soap devices mix a wide array of wireless routers in a touchscreen device that the developers informally refer to as a “rablet.” It joins a wide variety of Kickstarter launched home automation hubs such as the Ivee Sleek and the now Google-owned Nest.

While most of these run Linux, the Soap runs Android on an quad-core processor and features a 7-inch, 1280 x 800-pixel touchscreen. The Soap team went through most of the major open source hacker boards before basing the final prototype on a FriendlyARM developers SBC, apparently one of the quad-core, Cortex-A9 Samsung Exynos4412 based models.

The Soap is more of a multifaceted router than most other home automation hubs. Four gigabit Ethernet ports are provided for wired routing, plus the new dual-band 802.11ac, which is said to provide up to 1.3Gbps bandwidth at 5MHz and 450Mbps at 2.4GHz. The router can be configured as an access point or a wireless bridge.

Most smart devices that would enable home automation and surveillance features will use the ZigBee and Z-Wave routers. Closer range interaction is available with Bluetooth LE (BLE) 4.0, and for even a closer shave, NFC and RFID. The company, also called Soap, aims to get permission from Insteon to add Insteon RF and powerline networking support, but this may well be a future addition.



Soap SBC PCB plan (left) and current FriendlyARM based prototype (right)
(click images to enlarge)

 
The Soap ships with a 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 32GB SATA solid state drive (8GB for Soap Essentials), with options for larger SSDs and HDDs. A pair of USB 3.0 ports supports NAS (network attached storage) duty at speeds of “80 mgs per second,” says SOAP. As the project is currently at about $136,000, it’s unclear whether the internal battery stretch goal will be met, which is either $150,000 or $200,000 depending on different notes.

Like almost all recent home automation hubs, the device will ship with Android and iOS smartphone apps. The software stack is still under development, but it’s said to offer screen mirroring support, ad-blocking, parental controls, and a variety of security-minded applications.

The latter include Soap Flypaper, which is said to lure and trap potential hackers in an “artificial vulnerability” area, and a Soap Ninja mode for more secure Internet browsing. Another, rather sneaky, app lets you spy on other users on the network. The stack includes a wide variety of server, VPN, firewall, and DLNA/UPnP functions.

Preliminary specifications listed for the Soap Touch and Soap Essentials include:

  • Processor — ARM quad-core (likely Samsung Exynos4412)
  • Memory:
    • 4GB DDR3 RAM
    • 32GB SATA II SSD (8GB for Soap Essentials)
    • Optional 128GB SSD or 1TB or 2TB SATA HDDs
    • SD card slot
  • Display (Soap Touch only) — 7-inch, 1280 x 800 capacitive touchscreen
  • Router support:
    • 4x gigabit Ethernet
    • 802.11ac router (2.4GHz/5GHz
    • ZigBee (2.4GHz)
    • Z-Wave — North America (908.42 MHz), Europe (868.42 MHz), and Aust./NZ/Hong Kong support (919.82/921.42MHz)
    • NFC
    • Bluetooth LE 4.0
    • Insteon (RF/powerline) expected in future
  • Networking/security/firmware features:
    • Configurable as access point and/or wireless bridge
    • Supports VLANS, port forward/filtering, firewall, DMZ, priority control QoS, VPN, Samba Server, DLNA, UPnP
    • WPA2, WPA-PSK (AES, TKIP), 128/64-bit WEP, AOSS security
    • Soap mobile apps
  • Other I/O — 2x USB 3.0 ports; HDMI port (possibly Soap Essentials only)
  • Operating system – Android

 
Further information

Until Mar. 23 at 10:34 AM EDT, there should still be some discounted Soap Touch packages. Afterward, the Soap Touch sells for $200 and the Soap Essentials goes for $80. The Soap Touch is expected to ship in November, while the Soap Essentials is due in August. More information may be found at the Soap Kickstarter page.
 

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