Modular cellphone kit can be used for IoT and wearables

The crowdfunded RePhone Kit Create is now shipping for $59

You can assemble a rudimentary 2G cell-phone at home with the RePhone Kit Create, which can also be used to make wearables and IoT devices.

The kit from Seeed Studios ships with separate modules that can pieced together to create a 2G phone with a 1.54-inch LCD screen. Icons on the display can be used to make phone calls or send text messages.

There's more to RePhone than being a fun device. The kit also is a small development board to make wearable and IoT devices with cellular communication capabilities.

The $59 kit is now shipping, and comes with a small battery and modules for a SIM card -- that's how you connect to a carrier's network -- as well as speaker, GSM, NFC and Bluetooth Low Energy. It also ships with craft paper that can be the skin of the phone.

By October, the company hopes to upgrade RePhone Kit Create with a 4G communications module, said Wells Tu, marketing director at Seeed Studio in an e-mail.

Seeed Studio, which is in Shenzhen, China, received US$276,865 from 3,399 backers on Kickstarter to make the RePhone Kit Create. More than 10,000 kits have been sold so far, Tu said.

The kit has spawned interesting wearable and IoT ideas, Tu said. One project involves a homegrown traceable dog tracker, with a RePhone kit in the collar tracking and calling dogs back home through voice commands. 

Another idea floated in RePhone's forums is a simple tracking device for things not expected to move, like a parked car. The goal with RePhone is to have a basic device to allow new IoT applications to be explored, Tu said.

Most IoT development boards today have only Bluetooth or Wi-Fi capabilities. Wearable development boards like MIPS' Creator Ci40 don't have cellular capabilities.

The RePhone has two connectors so other modules for motion control and GPS can be attached. It has standard ports found on developer boards to attach cameras and other external devices.

The guts of the phone include an ARM-based microcontroller, 4MB of RAM and 16MB of storage. Programs for RePhone can be written using JavaScript, the Lua scripting language or the Arduino integrated development environment.

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