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.