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Linux phone ships with RF-enabled keyfob panic button

Mar 30, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

Italian startup Synaps Technology announced a Linux-based feature phone that ships with an RF-connected keyfob panic button for GPS-enabled security response. The Petra phone is equipped with an ARM9 processor clocked at 266MHz, and offers a 2GB SD card, GSM tri-band cellular service, a two megapixel camera, and a uBlox Neo 5G GPS receiver.

Marketed as a "bodyguard" system for fast, GPS-coordinated law-enforcement response, the Petra is designed to constantly communicate with a bundled, 1.4 x 1.3 x 0.3-inch keyfob, says Synaps Technology. Both phone and keyfob are equipped with 868MHz bidirectional radios based on Atmel 8051 microcontrollers.

In the event of an attack, accident, or another emergency, the user can press the red button on the keyfob to automatically send GPS coordinates and audio (via a built-in microphone) to the Petra phone over a distance of up to 50 meters. The Petra then immediately ferries this RF-transmitted information back to Petra headquarters via encrypted GPRS or SMS, where a response team can assess the situation and call the police or a security service, as deemed necessary.

Synapse Technology's Petra (left) and keyfob
(Click to enlarge)

With its unnamed 266MHz ARM9 processor, the Petra is at its heart a fairly basic feature phone, offering 64MB SDRAM, 128MB NAND flash, and a 2GB microSD memory card, upgradable to unnamed higher capacities. The Petra's active-matrix color display is a mere two inches, and the camera offers only two megapixel resolution, according to Synaps Technology. While there are accelerometers, a light sensor, audio jacks, and a micro-USB port, there's no WiFi, Bluetooth, or other extras.

Synaps Technology splurged, however, on the Petra's GPS receiver, a high-end uBlox Neo 5G model touted for its low power consumption and 2.5-meter accuracy. Claimed by Synaps Technology to be 10 times more accurate, 25 times more sensitive, and 50 times faster than competing technologies, the 1.8V uBlox receiver offers a technology called "KickStart" that is claimed to quickly achieve a GPS fix even under a weak signal. Other touted features include a 4Hz position update rate for tracking a moving target, and a SuperSense Indoor GPS tracking capability, which is said to offer -160dBm sensitivity.

The Petra comes in gray, blue, and red.

The Petra runs a Linux 2.6.18 based distribution, and according to one forum message that mentioned the phone on a technology website, it is easy to open a root console on the Petra and load new applications. It is an unclear from the Italian language site, however, whether Linux development tools are provided.

Specifications listed for the Petra phone include:

  • Processor — ARM9-based processor clocked to 266MHz
  • Memory — 64MB Mobile SDRAM
  • Flash — 128MB NAND flash; 2GB micro-SD memory card (expandable)
  • Display — 2-inch active-matrix TFT, 256K colors
  • Cellular — GSM/GPRS 900/1800/1900MHz
  • RF — 868MHz bi-directional radio based on Atmel 8051 microcontroller
  • Camera — 2-megapixel camera
  • USB — 1 x micro-USB port
  • Audio — 1 x microphone jack; 1 x headphone jack
  • Other features — accelerometers; ambient light sensor; tri-color LED
  • GPS (uBlox Neo 5G)
    • 1.8V power
    • KickStart fast start-up
    • 4Hz position update rate
    • 50-channel uBlox engine
    • -160dBm SuperSense Indoor GPS tracking capability
    • 2.5-meter accuracy
  • Keyfob:
    • 868MHz bi-directional radio based on Atmel 8051 microcontroller
    • Up to 50-meter (54.6 yards) range
    • 0.42 oz (12 g)
    • 1.4 x 1.3 0.3 inches (36 x 32 x 8mm)
    • Microphone for encrypted audio communications with Petra
    • Accelerometers
    • Tri-color LED
    • 100 mAh Li-ion battery with one-month life
  • Operating temperature (for both phone and keyfob) — -4 to 131 deg. F (-20 to 55 deg. C)
  • Battery — 1050 mAh Li-ion with 72 hours of duration
  • Dimensions — 4.3 x 1.8 x 0.7 inches (110 x 45 x 17mm)
  • Weight — 3.2 oz (90 g)
  • Operating system — Linux 2.6.18


The Petra is available now, says Synaps Technology. Pricing, which includes the phone, keyfob, battery, charger, headset, USB cable, and 2GB memory card, appears to be 492 Euros ($663) plus 9.9 Euros ($13.35) a month for the 24/7/7 Petra security service, or 274 Euros ($369) with a two-year contract for the service. It is unclear where the Petra response service is available, but the phone appears to be marketed only in Italy.

More information may be found at Synaps Technology's Italian-language Petra website, here.

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