The hottest gadget on Indiegogo is… a router?

The title, which I took the liberty to borrow from the German site MacLife.de, quite nicely captures the pleasant surprise we experienced during the campaign for Turris Omnia. I admit that the amount of collected money came as a bit of a surprise even to us. Just by the way, in our guessing competition among the team members, the most daring guess was USD 560 thousand, almost USD 300 thousand less than was eventually collected. We perceived this campaign only as a test, whether there is any interest in the market. And now we know there is, especially when we remind ourselves that certainly not everyone would contribute to the crowdfunding. Sending money to some of such campaigns means that the person prefers a pig in a poke to the bird in the hand. It already happened many times that a promising-looking project simply wasn’t finished or that the result didn’t live up to the original promises. Another problem is that businesses do not usually purchase through such campaigns, as it is not simple for them in terms of accounting. This also makes the collected amount a great promise for future.

What actually makes Omnia so interesting? We didn’t do any research, so please take the following text as my strictly subjective opinion, which developed on the basis of conversations with our supporters. If I had to characterize it with one word, then I’d say OPENNESS – the openness of the concept, the openness of the source code of software and hardware, the openness of our team’s approach. From many people I heard pretty much the same story about how they bought a home router and then found out that it was missing some relatively small feature, some settings, VPN, etc. And although fixing such a thing would be trivial, say, under Linux, in these closed systems it couldn’t be helped. The only way was to buy a different router, unfortunately, again with the risk of the situation repeating with some other feature.

Another thing related to openness is safety. We have written several times about what is happening in the world of home routers. I recommend a bit old article by our colleague, Mr. Košata on a fairly large botnet including, according to the latest information, more than thirty thousand routers. Most of the security components are usually not open. It is rather believed that it’s better to write about it as little as possible. But our perception of it is quite the opposite. Our router is safe mainly because everyone can check what is being run on it. Everyone can see how the firewall rules are set, everyone can check how the upgrade system works, etc. We believe in the quality of the code that we produce, and therefore we can afford to publish the source code. And by the way, speaking of the source codes, let’s not forget that most of today’s equipment does not have only one processor, which means that an attack may be directed at multiple locations. For example, Omnia also has another chip, specifically the STM32, which takes care of the management and control of the power supply and LEDs, among other things. Of course, we will publish this code as well. And if someone does not trust our distribution, they can just make their own.

Another thing that increases the attractiveness of Omnia is openness and extensibility of the hardware. We really tried to live up to the slogan of the campaign, “More than just a router”. With the exception of the fridge, the home router is probably the only device that is permanently switched on in most households. And it would just be a waste not to use it for some other things. That’s why Omnia has so many miniPCIe slots, that’s why mSATA, that’s why SFP, that’s why 2x USB 3.0, that’s why a special plug where you will find SPI, I2C, 10x GPIO and UART. By the way, in the stretch goals we promised to port the Python library Rpi.GPIO from Raspberry PI, so certainly don’t dump your application on this platform. I’m not gonna spill any more beans, but it definitely won’t be the last thing about this connector.

And what is next? The Ingiegogo campaign continues in the so-called InDemand mode, in which we’ve already collected another USD 50 thousand (CZK 1.25 million) and we’re doing everything to launch the production. The moment we produce our routers and send them to our backers, it will be the end of only the first stage of our journey. Unlike most of the other producers’ of home routers, our work doesn’t end with the sale. On the contrary, we want to keep taking care of the software and constantly adding new features. So if you are going to own an Omnia, you can look forward to your router being constantly improved and offering more and more new features. After all, we’ve been doing it for two years now; the participants in the original project Turris can certainly testify how much their routers changed in the last two years.

The entire project is open and we hope that we can gain lots of fans who will add various software and hardware improvements, from which all the other owners of Omnia and original Turris routers will benefit. I hope that we all have something to look forward to.

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