CrowdSwitch

The CrowdSwitch is the cornerstone of our efforts to bring IsoGrid to the world.

CrowdSwitch PCB Layout CrowdSwitch Top-Down Render

The CrowdSwitch is an open hardware product in development. It is the first concrete implementation of the IsoGrid protocol stack. When connected together, the switches form a streaming, scalable, mesh network. The full hardware design files (i.e. mechanical drawings, schematics, bills of material, PCB layout data) are open sourced on GitHub.

Our initial plan is to give low cost (or free) CrowdSwitches to people living in extremely high-density urban communities, who otherwise don’t have access to networks. One idea is to build it within a 501(c)(3) organization to make our altruistic motives super clear. Perhaps similar to the Mozilla model. Given that the funding model isn’t clear, another option could be a benefit corporation.

The CrowdSwitch is:

  • 4-port auto-configuring switch
    • 3x RJ45 ~100 Mbps full-duplex ethernet PHY with 1ms worst-case switching latency
    • 1x RJ45 Ethernet connection to an external controller PC or SoC with 8ms worst-case switching latency
    • 1x xSYS (JTAG) header
    • Powered by Micro USB
  • The core of the switch is an xCORE-200 XL216-512-TQ128
  • Target (bulk) BOM cost is ~$15
  • External controller PC/SoC (~$9) needs:
    • Ethernet, ~512MB of RAM, ~16GB of flash, ability to create a wireless hotspot

The Wi-Fi on the PC/SoC will be able to work in one of two modes:

1. Providing Internet access to a user
2. Connecting to a regular Wi-Fi Internet access point

The IsoGrid formed by the interconnected mesh of CrowdSwitches provides a redundant multi-path backbone to connect nodes operating in Mode #1 to nodes operating in Mode #2.

Production Plan and Status

CrowdSwitch Perspective Render

We want to give tons of these CrowdSwitch devices away or even sell them at a loss, so obviously, we’re going to be extremely price-sensitive. We negotiate with part suppliers directly to get the best price.

The first basic prototype built with the xCORE-200 SliceKit was validated in February 2018. Once the basic prototype was proven, we began building a series of small batches of prototype boards (100 total). Our first batch of 5 had significant issues, and were only partially functional. The next 10 are somewhat functional, and are being used to complete more of the software stack. The next 20 should fully validate the hardware and software design. Our manufacturing partner is Seeed Studio.

Once we have proven out our HW design, we’ll go into larger production. We’re considering starting a KickStarter where the proceeds from buying one for yourself would go to buying one for charity. We’re also considering applying for grants from other organizations with similar charitable goals. However, Travis and Lindsey are prepared to risk buy up to 1024 units using their own donated money in order to bootstrap the first IsoGrid meshnet in Dharavi (Mumbai), India. We plan to solicit donations directly from the public as soon as we have a product that is ready to scale up.

We plan to enforce trademark rights over “IsoGrid Foundation” and “CrowdSwitch”. We plan to use these brands as a mark of trust for buying quality hardware and software updates. For example, we could charge $0.05 to deliver a software update to deployed CrowdSwitch units. The price is low enough that it isn’t likely to inspire for-profit competition.