SOAP Drama: Another Go At Crowdfunding

SOAP

SOAP, the people behind what was initially a sketchy Kickstarter that turned into something reasonable is having another go at crowdfunding their touchscreen router with every radio imaginable. This time, however, they’ve crossed all their ts and dotted all their lowercase js to turn what was a very…. odd Kickstarter into something really cool.

The original specs of the SOAP router were impressive – basically, a touchscreen tablet with an ARM Cortex A9, USB 3.0, 802.11ac, gigabit LAN, and every radio module you could imagine. The goal, of course, being a completely open, hackable home automation system capable of talking to Zigbee and Z Wave, and X10 modules, all while being an easy to configure 802.11ac router with a touchscreen. It’s a great idea, and considering you could spend $200 on an ac router alone, without all the radio modules and touchscreen.

Judging from the updates to the original Kickstarter, the SOAP guys have come a long way in three months. They’ve moved away from a custom-designed iMX6 board to a Congatec System on Module in a move that could be described as the smartest move in the history of Kickstarter-funded consumer electronics. They’ve also fixed the Ethernet bandwidth limitation of the iMX6, although there’s no word on how that works.

To be fair, the SOAP Kickstarter should be studied by business students as the exact opposite of how you should run a Kickstarter. When the project first went up, there were inconsistencies that ranged from not having a functional prototype to lifting images from unrelated open source projects. In the past three months, though, it looks like the team has managed to pull something together. Whether or not the SOAP router will see the light of day remains to be seen, but the team is now in a much better position than they were three months ago.

Comments

  1. cactuardotnet says:

    It didn’t get funded because it’s a stupid idea

  2. koswix says:

    Is that a Unix book?

  3. dext0rb says:

    Their updates are still riddled with errors and inconsistencies; I don’t understand how anyone could trust these guys to know what they are doing. “Gigabyte 10, 100, 1000 Ethernet” ??? Still showing renders instead of anything prototype, not even a video of the software in action? I still really want to see the “flypaper” software that “traps” hackers. The board layouts still look goofy. They keep changing specs every other update. These guys are off their rockers and people just keep throwing money at them. How can you expect to go into production level quantities if you’re offering two different battery sizes? Why not just have one battery size and meet your quantity goals. Why does a router need a battery anyways? How long is it going to last with all those radios blasting? Who knows…they never said. Why aren’t any of the backers asking questions of a technical nature? Every update, the backers are like “Oh wow, thank you for feeding us more bullshit! Yum! Keep up the great work!”

  4. Z00111111 says:

    “2. Use any of the share buttons below the campaign video or copy and share the link in the browser address bar. If anyone contributes to our campaign by using your link, you get one point.

    3. Every point you get puts you closer to free Soap.

    Below is a list of how many points are needed per Soap model.

    Soap Solo – 9
    Soap Dual – 12
    Soap Quad – 15
    Soap 8.4 – 18″

    So if you get 18 people to make $1 contributions using your link, you get a free top of the line one? Not bad for $18.

    Seriously though, having 4 different versions, none of which actually exist yet, screams “I don’t know what I’m doing. What is this thing?”.

    The chance of anything that works properly coming out of this seems about zero.

  5. Pyro says:

    So its a router, a stationary device for connecting wires.
    And its a tablet, a mobile device for handheld use.
    And its a media server, with 32gb storage .
    (really gonna need that usb3.0 for external storage)

  6. There is not a single trace laid out on those boards lol.
    And having all those radios on top of each other, yeah, that might work well, also FCC compliance will be fun.

  7. rexxar says:

    I think these guys fully intend to make this thing, but they have no idea what the hell they’re doing. They’ve probably never even heard of FCC compliance. Speaking of, wouldn’t trying to put every radio they can think of in those four antenna cause some issues? Not to mention using the same size antenna for all these different bands…

    • Rolph says:

      Totally agree with you and why I pulled out of the first Kickstarter. These guys seem to be “pure” at heart, just extremely naive on what it takes to create something like this. I wish them the best and will buy a Gen 4 (2 from the latest campaign) after they deal with any growing pains and reality.

    • camerin says:

      My god getting an FCC mark for this will probably cost >50,000 they will never make it.
      Just in testing time (for the radios) we are talking >50 hours. you have to do RSE/TRP/Occupied bandwidth on. 10 radios? That and those antennas will never work that close together, at-least not at the same time (if you disconnect the other antennas you may reduce the de-tuning).. You will de-tune one because of mutual coupling. if nothing else they will make the pattern have huge dead spots. Then self jamming happens, Getting all of these to work is going to be a logistical nightmare.

      Forget about CE mark, All of the operational testing you would have to do to make this work… ESD/interferer forget it…

      I am not saying that this project isn’t possible, i am saying it isn’t possible for $42,500.

      • Rob says:

        Beyond all the other issues with reality, the antenna issue is what confirms the issues for me. I’m in RF and the amount of dev work that would have to be done to get all of these systems using a handful of antennas is a nightmare, never mind getting the certification. this is a very expensive, titanic no-go.

      • Frank Cohen says:

        I looked into designing a custom BT board. FCC compliance testing alone would have been $75,000 – $100,000. And that’s ONLY FCC compliance. Based on the quotes I got, I would expect 10 radios to be closer to 500K or a mil.

  8. the gambler says:

    I’m normally not super negative but I do have a serious question about this post. You are basically promoting a group of people who are already known to be super excessively sketchy and not looked well upon in the crowdfunding world with their previously unreleased product. Now they have an equally sketchy vaporware that only has renders to it and giving them more links to a product that will likely never ever exist. so my question is simple, why? I understand some of the kickstarter stuff posted but why on earth keep promoting a group of individuals that are pulling this type of garbage?

    • Rob says:

      because the Soap folks *promised* to send HAD their first completed unit for evaluation… sigh.

      • That is incorrect. I am offering the soap guys $500 to review the completed hardware, then send it back. That’s $500 out of my own pocket, for them to prove it’s a real device.

        Care to tell me how that’s an example of selling out?

        • the gambler says:

          I never used the words selling out. I was simply pointing out these guys are scammers at best and was curious why HAD keeps giving them coverage is all.

        • AC says:

          Exactly like I posted in your last soap article, what you are doing is using words like…

          “sketchy Kickstarter that turned into something reasonable”
          “they’ve crossed all their ts and dotted all their lowercase js to turn what was a very…. odd Kickstarter into something really cool.”
          “the SOAP guys have come a long way in three months”
          “it looks like the team has managed to pull something together.”

          What you are doing is encouraging people to contribute to this project while there is still no evidence that they will be able to produce a real product with anywhere near the specs they are claiming.
          You are giving it the HaD stamp of approval. Either you also have an equally naive view of what it takes to make a real live product and are just as scammed as everyone else that contributed initially, or you are working with the soap guys and getting a piece of the action to push more suckers their way. That is why people think you are “selling out” and at this point it’s a reasonable assumption.

        • dext0rb says:

          Brian,

          You are absolutely being too nice to the Soap project and giving them way more credit than they deserve at this point. In the process, you are making yourself look slightly bad, as indicated by AC’s points. You should really call them out on their bullshit – aggressively and repeatedly!

  9. haddyhad says:

    The smartest move is choosing to use a module that only drives up costs? For a DIY project, yes, but for a retail product, no. They are still showing only (poor) renders, and listing every company they’ve bought parts from as a “partner”? The only attractive thing about the original project was the ridiculously low price. With the new pricing, I’d rather just buy a separate router and tablet.

    • dext0rb says:

      Using a module, like the Congatec iMX6, makes sense in certain situations.
      1) Design experience/risk – a pre-made module will work “out of the box”. You don’t need a designer to do the layout, PMIC/power, thermal calculations, make sure DDR routing is OK, etc. All of the actual engineering should be done for you. There is less risk if you or your team are unfamiliar with the product and its technologies, its quirks and/or errata.

      2) Time – You can save a chunk of time by dropping in a single connector vs doing a schematic, layout, design reviews. Time = money.

      3) Future upgrades – you can drop in an upgraded model, should your design require such flexibility.

      You have to weigh the cost of dropping in the module vs. cost of paying somebody to do the engineering. Since these guys don’t have a clue, it’s a no-brainer to use the Congatec module.

  10. TinBane says:

    What did I just read? Magic hacker trapping bait? (more like, open ports that can be used to characterise the device and automate anti-soap exploits). Soap mesh that runs “checks and balanced” to make sure your network is secure? Four models, multiple battery packs? How does that contribute to savings through scale?

    Loss leader only makes sense if you up-sell the same customer who is buying your below-cost product. Selling just the below cost product to many customers, in the hope that they’ll talk about your product, is how you make a popular product, that forces your company into bankruptcy. Otherwise HP had one of the best tablet sales of all time…

    “Soap is your own personal cloud and allows you to makes content you want available online but not require you to store it away from home. ” Soo, it’s not in the cloud then?

    “Soap is the security and privacy chief and there is nothing that will give you the ability to control and manage the content that comes in and goes out of your home. To think you actually can see what is being taken and not.” ???? I have no words any more

    “More Soap the merrier! Soap is able to link with other Soaps and will actually create a cluster. This means two Soaps will team up to work as one Soap. This increases security, wireless signal strength, cpu power, ram, storage and a whole lot more.” Soap is some kind of transforming mesh network AI system.

    I mean, this even declares it has IR, but there’s no IR spot on any of the renders.

    It’s capable of 1.7 GB (that’s giga BYTES) per second? It’s almost like they’ve multiplied the maximum speed for a/c by four, for the aerials. Taken off 100mbps (err, “overhead”? Because you know, 1.7mbps totally isn’t just a theoretical maximum right) and forgotten that they need to divide by 8 to get the actual speed?

    If it was an ad, then this indiegogo page would fall under false and misleading representation of a product, under Australian Law.

    • dan says:

      “Soap is your own personal cloud and allows you to makes content you want available online but not require you to store it away from home. ” Soo, it’s not in the cloud then?”

      Yeah, that bugs the crap out of me too. People using the term “cloud hosted” to meant available on-line when what they actually have is a physical server set up at home…

      I blame the marketing tossers who sell products like this using ill defined buzz words.

  11. janostman says:

    Anyone can see that its a scam.

    Except for Hackaday

    • repkid says:

      Too true.

    • Tony says:

      Those backers can’t all be HaD editors.

      • (HaD writer here) I think you guys underestimate how hard it is to actually write a politically correct HaD article, especially when it is so controversial. There will always be persons in both sides so we usually try to write something as neutral as possible.
        However it seems we’re even criticized for that. So what do we end up writing?
        Articles asking for readers opinion… that end up making people argue with each other but not with us (the writers).
        The solution? Perhaps a karma based comment system… however we’re not there yet.

        • janostman says:

          No. I know how hard it is to write a neutral article.
          But this crowd funding is so obvious that when it comes time to deliver they have gone underground.

          And you have actually helped them to to scam some more money out of people who cant tell the difference between a nice gadget and an unachievable gadget.

        • Dan says:

          I’ll agree it’s hard to write a neutral article.

          But here there is some dodgy idea clearly created by a bunch of guys who lack fundamental understanding to get what they want off the ground,
          They make outrageous clad about being partners with various companies. Seemingly have no idea about how much money they actually need and the article seemingly has nothing but praise for them…

          And that’s the weird thing… There are thousands of other kick starters that HAD don’t mention, this one is singled out for positive review…

        • Tony says:

          Where’s the controversy or “political correctness” here?

          It’s fund raising for a product that will never exist.

          (Do you even know what “political correctness” means? A negative question like that might imply you’re an idiot for using that term, but that’s not being politically incorrect.)

          HaD editors should be able to spot items that don’t spot the ‘sniff’ test – in this case Brian did and still gave it a thumbs up: “yeah the first one was a crock but we’re certain this one is better”.

          Here’s another scam: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/skajaquoda/trinity-the-portable-wind-turbine-power-station. While it may (eventually) exist their numbers are wrong – by a factor of 10. Even if you get your turbine, you’re still a sucker.

          I amuse myself by backing scams and leaving negative (factual) comments, whether that makes a difference, who knows. Perhaps fools needs to be parted from their money.

          For Trinity, a poster on another forum stated he signed up to leave the “your numbers are wrong” comment, and that seemed to have an effect: http://www.kicktraq.com/projects/skajaquoda/trinity-the-portable-wind-turbine-power-station/#chart-daily

          Too little too late, but anyway.

          Indiegogo is the scammers ideal fundraising spot, it’s no surprise SOAP went there.

        • tekkieneet says:

          It is *hard* to write well. So is the math/science/engineering. That’s is hard part of this type of writing *career* that people choose. A job worth doing is worth doing well.
          (Hell I can’t even write a small paragraph without having to go back to edit it a dozen time if there is even such an option.)

          What I usually mad at HaD “writers” is that when he is *supposed* to write a summary for a blog/project and not writing fiction making sh*t up and not even bother to check the technical details or *inserting* personal feeling/preferences into it. If you want to voice your own opinion, put it as a comment like us lowly reader. :P

          Also check the use of proper technical terms instead of using the wrong ones. Afterall, you *should* spend some time to research into what you are writing that you are *paid* for.

        • tekkieneet says:

          If only the karma system also applies to the HaD writers themselves.

        • TinBane says:

          Hi Mathieu,
          I understand how hard it can be putting your work up, and being subject to criticism. As a whole, Nerds are pretty good at raging about things on the internet. However I did want to pick up on part of your comment: neutrality.

          Being neutral in the context of journalism doesn’t mean you should always position yourself in between two conflicting points of view. Being balanced, doesn’t mean presenting two different views as if they are equal. Some users are going to buy into this kickstarter on the basis of journalism written about it. In particular, a lot of people have cited a wired article. If you are a journalist writing on this, then of course you need to give your opinion. But you should talk to some engineers about it too, and see what they think. I mean, this is a group who got caught out putting up images that weren’t what they claimed on their original kickstarter.

          They go into this one, with claims that obviously indicate they neither appreciate the difference between hypothetical maximums, nor the units of measurement involved. They have all kinds of pie in the sky concepts, none of which make a whole heap of sense.

          By all means, make a user-friendly, net filtering router with a touch screen. But just tacking on ideas, and adding cool things like hacker “fly traps” which make no sense to anybody whose every worked in IS security, is just going to bloat your feature set, and turn an already challenging idea into one that is literally impossible.

          It is impossible for them to provide the features and performance they mention. Buyers should be buying with knowledge of what the actual products performance and features will look like. And no amount of “SDK” diagrams where you kludge on a block and call it “soap services” helps. I mean, the soap apps are apparently running on android (from that SDK diagram), and yet they are leveraging an entirely separate stack with extra features that aren’t available to android? Even if it’s real (which I highly doubt) it’s the kind of thing that makes no sense. Why are you doing that, and are you sure you know that it’s a good architectural idea?

  12. joee says:

    “Soap is a Android tablet.”…
    …”you will now be able to control your Soap device with Siri. “Siri, please close the garage.” ”

    hmmm…..!

  13. justice099 says:

    I hope they don’t drop it in the shower…

  14. Mike says:

    I’d love to hear more about this magic flytrap that somehow traps hackers. Anyone gullible enough to fall for this scam shouldn’t be allowed to use a router. Besides, who the hell wants a tablet router?

  15. Les-M says:

    “To be fair, the SOAP Kickstarter should be studied by business students as the exact opposite of how you should run a Kickstarter.”

    Yes. And adding a new offer via another crowd-funding platform while they still keep moving the goalposts is just more of the same. Complete BS in my humble opinion.

  16. Chris C. says:

    Soap with a prize inside!

  17. Torque says:

    Why does a router need a touchscreen anyway?
    Wouldn’t it be better to optimize the usability and security of the user interface for any device that can communicate with it?
    Particularly with smartphones and their small screen (and the non cellular variant known as Personal Media Players).
    Besides, what about those people who place their routers where it isn’t in the way (say a well ventilated closet that’s been retrofitted for anything technical such as home automation, servers and networking patch panel) in order to achieve the all important ‘Spouse Acceptance Factor’ approval (Formerly known as ‘Wife acceptance factor’ ) ?

  18. Truth says:

    So they have not fulfilled their kickstarter backers, and now they have launched a new indiegogo project, sounds totally legit. No they are not bringing any fools to the cleaners, totally legit.

    • peterkoz says:

      don’t take care of users from kickstarter jumping to ANOTHER crowd funding site? Yeah that screams legit. Like your store cheated customers and you moved to another town to setup shop yet again. Hoping the same cheated customers wouldn’t noticed.

      HAD can you please screen the stuff you promote a little better? Promoting companies/ideas when they have a sketchy past does not look good.

  19. Andrew says:

    Why build a device with all of these radio interfaces in it? My* home automation system will only have one particular interface, so the others are wasted.

    * Mine, yours, anybodies.

  20. Bogdan says:

    Almost everything they show the box without antennas inside and claim beauty and stuff…
    then you put the antennas on: https://images.indiegogo.com/file_attachments/630245/files/20140606082846-the-intelligent-router.png?1402068526 and BAM! right in your eyes.
    How on earth am I supposed to think this is esthetic when it has 4 antennas an potentially more than 10 cables connected to a screen that is supposed to be accesible.

    It might be an interesting project if they just develop a box that speaks all those sensor/device languages that connects to my existing router(that I already paid for) and uses my existing tablet(that I already paid for).

    Ill say it again: do they realize how those antennas look on the damn thing in real life and how unpractical their box is?

    • Torque says:

      Speaking of the antennas, doesn’t having the four antennas THAT close to each other cause RF problems?
      Because I’m sure there’s a reason average home and office routers have them on each end of a side instead of hugging each other.

      • Dodo says:

        Putting them close together has several issues, foremost the MIMO advantages will be partially nulled. After all, the signals are very strongly correlated if the antennas are close together. If the antennas would be in exactly the same position they would get the same signal. You can consider them almost uncorrelated if the distance gets larger than 0.5-1 lambda (6.125-12.25cm at 2.45GHz).

        Another issue, that will probably manifest itself much more prominently compared to a simple limited reduction in throughput will be coexistence. If the Zigbee radio is transmitting while the Wifi radio is trying to receive, it is likely that the receiver will get blocked completely, even if they are not exactly on the same channel. There exist coexistence strategies where you try to transmit as much as possible with all radio’s at the same time and receive at other times, but it would surprise me if they thought about that seeing the rest of the design.

        • camerin says:

          Not to mention that none of them are big enough for 433MHz. well i mean anything is an antenna if you put enough power to it, but seriously these renders are done by ID person who has no idea about RF… As mentioned above, a FCC cert budget of 50,000 probably wont get you though filing for this project… not to mention buying the stuff to make it…..

  21. millsy says:

    It’s deeply disappointing that HaD would post this with anything other than excoriation and large disclaimers shouting BEWARE.

  22. tekkieneet says:

    MIMO antennas should be spaced apart, not together for ergonomic and technical reasons. At 2.45GHz, 0.5λ is 6.25cm. That shows how much they know about what they are rendering.

    >Also [11] takes mutual coupling into account to theoretically show
    that capacity is decreased substantially if the spacing gets
    smaller than 0.5 λ.

    [11] B. Lindmark, “Capacity of a 2×2 MIMO antenna system with mutual
    coupling losses,” in Proc. Antennas and Propagation Society International
    Symposium 2004, vol. 2, pp. 1720–1723, June 2004. [Online].

    • camerin says:

      It is possible to do mimo at .1 λ, you just need to decorrilate the antenna patterns. as mimo is about phase and path diversity, not just spatial.. I have seen this done in the past. Using parasitic elements between closely spaced antennas to decouple them and alter the pattern…

      that being said, it is not provisioned for in that render.

    • tekkieneet says:

      Given enough “enginerity”, it can be done. The ones that knows how to do this (with the RF & communication backgrounds etc) would not have done that placement.

      It is silly to paint yourself in a corner especially if you don’t have to in the first place.

  23. rasz_pl says:

    Did HaD really just post “Hey fellow hacker, someone dropped a soap over there, please bend over and pick it up for me” ?!?!?!?

  24. Peter says:

    Hate to be the skeptic. But this plan still has holes and I’m still very leery that they know exactly what they are doing. I’m not even sure if hackaday even reviews these things even when the whiffs of scam are right there. My q is why does hackaday promote these things regardless of the validity of said product.

  25. peterkoz says:

    Sketchy as hell the fact they got burned reputation wise and needed to move to another crowd funding site. Why is had so eager to promote them and not being more skeptical?

    No offense to this site but it seems like there’s 0 effort here in screening stuff getting promoted. Until they send out hardware to get properly reviewed by independent sites I personally wouldnt give a dime.

  26. peterkoz says:

    Am i missing something here? maybe i’m naive or stupid. Haven’t read the details on this so excuse me if i’m mistaken. But isn’t this just a router with a touchscreen?? whats the point? how often do i walk over to my router and was like damn i have to open up my machine to change software settings!

    about as pointless in practicality as those refrigerators with a touch screen i’m guessing.

    So yeah someone please correct me if i’m wrong because not seeing this as really practical.

  27. Technoshaman says:

    Attach all this hardware together, use kplex and u connect everything to everything…

  28. Adam Claassen says:

    This is stupid. If I was going to build a home automation system with my router, I would run OpenWRT on it. And if I wanted a router to give people who just need internet with ease, any router will do that for a lot less than 250 dollars.

  29. moxlon69 says:

    If I didn’t see this project in the past I’d assume it’s some sort of late april fools joke. I can already see some clutz poking their eyes with the antennas, or not paying attention to the various devices plugged in and yanking something off of the shelf (or breaking ports, for that matter).. Everyone has an off day sometimes.

  30. Fred Soap says:

    We have done an update on https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/soap-the-android-tablet-to-replace-your-old-ugly-router/x/7885881 that address some of the questions you have on the specs of the Soap device. If you have any further questions please contact us directly. We look forward from hearing from you.

    Fred Martinez
    Soap INC

  31. Andrew says:

    “SOAP Opera”, surely?

  32. millsy says:

    I love some of the comments on the IndieGogo site.

    “Fredrick, 2 days ago
    This product looks AWESOME. Finally get ride of this ugly router in my house and keep my family and home safe. Keep up the good work.”

    All with their 1 comment for 1 campaign with a $1 pledge.

    It takes me straight back to my days as a dev for little e-commerce sites, pre-filling the reviews section.

  33. Rob says:

    Man, did you see the amount of logo’s on that page?
    Some serious namedropping going on.

    • Tony says:

      Someone needs to explain to them what a ‘partner’ is.

      Buying something doesn’t make the vendor or manufacturer your ‘partner’. Sometimes people get touchy about that.

      • Peter Kozlowski says:

        Yeah anymore than a celeb looking at your product or buying it implies endorsement. But considering the haphazard way they are going about this they should probably invest in a lawyer but i doubt they are that smart

  34. OpenglMan says:

    is it an open source project ?

    What is the github link ?

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