Designed as a low-cost alternative to PCs, the Simputer is now seeing a greater degree of adoption in e-governance projects, education and NGO sectors besides enterprises in India. Experts however, feel the need to promote this technology better and educate the users on its latent potential.
It is a handheld device, reÂgarded as a PDA, having feaÂtures that enables
seamless connecÂtivity. It is a device that's a low-cost porÂtable
alternative to PCs, through which the benefits of IT can reach the common man.
This is the Simputer-an affordable PC with multiple connectivity options.
Launched in 2002, the Simputer was the result of an initiative from academics
and technologists in the industry with a broad objective of benefiting all
sections of the society. This group of people formed the Simputer Trust, which
comprised individuals from the Computer Science and Automation at the Indian
Institute of Science and from Encore Software in BangaÂlore. Two Bangalore-based
firms-Encore Software and Picopeta Simputers-later decided to commercialize
The Encore Simputer
This Simputer is based on GNU/Linux software technoÂlogy that is open and
moduÂlar. The Linux Kernel version 2.4 has been ported to it. The initial
version of the Simputer is based on Intel's StrongÂARM CPU, which is a
Reduced InstrucÂtion-set (RISC) microÂprocessor designed for embeÂdded
The StrongARM has a high level of integration and performance at a relatively
low level of power consumÂption. To enable rapid deveÂlopment and deployment
of application software, the basic developÂment platform uses GTK. A Java
Virtual MacÂhine can also be provided for those appliÂcation developers that
want to benefit from platform independence for their applications.
The primary connectivity option is a V.34/V.90 modem. There is also an IrDA
interÂface for inter-working 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 peripheÂrals that cannot be integraÂted within the device.
The Simputer operating system, tools and the main application reside 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 Encore SimÂputer is available in four models 6432C, 3216C,
|Variants of The Simputer|
The Picopeta Simputer
Picopeta's Simputer is gloÂbally marketed under the brand name of Amida
SimÂputer. It comes with a Linux-based operating system and has two USB ports,
which ensure that it can work well with an array of devices like printers and
digital cameras. This product is available in three models - Amida 1200, 1600
Picopeta's Simputer-based solutions provide their custoÂmers the advantage
of power, compactness and mobility, simple-to-use icon-based interfaces and
integrated SmartCard reader. The SimÂputer
includes a touch screen interface that does away with input devices like
a mouse or keyboard, and the developÂment of a standardized interÂface
language called InformaÂtion Markup Language (IML).
The Simputer works as a shared device that permits truly simple and natural
user interfaces based on sight, touch and audio, through a browser for the IML.
This has been created to provide a uniform experience to users and to allow
rapid developÂment of solutions on any platform.
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 SmartÂCard Reader/Writer in the Simputer increases the funcÂtionality
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
The SmartCard Interface
enables a diverse range of applications that require security. Electronic
commeÂrce, on-line banking and multi-purpose citizen-cards will all require
SmartCards in the near future.
A local community such as the village panchayat, the village school, a kiosk,
a village postman, or even a shopkeeper should be able to loan the device to
individuals for some length of time and then pass it on to others in the
Simputer, through its Smart Card feature also allows personal informaÂtion
management at the indiviÂdual level for an unlimited number of users. It can
also be personalized for individual use on a changing basis.
The SmartCard is 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.
Applications in diverse sectors such as micro banÂking, large data
collection, agricultural information and school laboratory are now being made
possible at an affordable price (Rs 8,000 to Rs 14,000).
In spite of its user-friendly features, the Simputer was not adopted as well
as it should have been by custoÂmers. In fact, four years after the launch, the
adoption at the customer level began showing an increment in the last year or
Indicating the reasons for
the slow adoption, Vinay Deshpande, Chairman and CEO, Encore Software said,
“First of all, the market believed that the Simputer was just another PDA.
What was not recognized was that the Simputer was a more powerful hand-held
device although it felt much like a PDA. In addition, customers who were given
the sample products indicated that they required at least 10 to 12 additional
features, which took time to get incorporated into the device.”
Adoption of technologies like the Simputer takes time because they begin as
pilot projects initially and only then get into large-scale customer adoption,
As it stands now, the SimÂputer is not yet available at any retail outlet
and has to be obtained by placing an order with the makers themselves. However,
Deshpande indicaÂted that Encore has begun talks with the channel community to
look for a viable channel model for distribution of its Simputer.
“The Simputer has begun to find application in vehicle diagnostics also.
Mahindra Scorpio is one example for this,” said Deshpande, while indicating
that the Simputer is also being used by migrant African laborers in the UK to
transfer money back home and also for micro credit facilities in Mysore.