A Finnish Phone Developer Wants to Turn Old Smartphone CPUs Into a Scalable Supercomputer

With modular mobile devices a hot topic right now, one developer has turned its attention to what to do with discarded parts after consumers upgrade their phones.

There's not much you can do with  modules that fail, but Finland's Circular Devices, the company developing the Puzzlephone (a Project Ara competitor), has a suggestion for how to use old CPU modules after consumers upgrade. It's called the Puzzlecluster, and it's a scalable supercomputer.


The concept is pretty simple. After a consumer replaces the CPU module, the old unit can be repurposed as a CPU core in a Beowulf computer cluster. Combine enough modules and you could be able to create a moderately powerful parallel processing supercomputer. Circular Devices says that the Puzzlecluster's "applications can range from research and data analysis, to rendering farms and in-house cloud services, as well as any other case that requires parallel computing."

It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure it's going to work.

For one thing, it's dependent on consumers regularly upgrading the CPU module.

I don't know about Finland but here in the US I would expect consumers to keep a CPU module until it dies.  Based on the tech support I have provided to consumer with older devices, I think the average US consumer won't be upgrading willy-nilly. So long as it works they won't replace it.

But other countries are different. I've heard that the Japanese do upgrade to get the latest gadget, so if consumers in Finland behave similarly then there could be a steady supply of CPU modules.

Assuming, that is, that this phone is sold in large numbers and that the CPU modules don't all tend to fail at the weakest point (the plug).

At this point we still don't know how popular modular phones will be or whether current manufacturing tech is up to the task of making plug-and-play modules for a smartphone, so really this design is a case of putting the cart before the horse.


The Verge

About Nate Hoffelder (11219 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

1 Comment on A Finnish Phone Developer Wants to Turn Old Smartphone CPUs Into a Scalable Supercomputer

  1. It’s an excellent idea and I like it!

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