Marvell’s Smile Plug will let teachers run their own classroom wireless networks

Chip maker Marvell is announcing its Smile Plug development kit aimed at turning classrooms into much better computer learning environments.

To be unveiled this week at the Consumer Electronics Show today, the Smile Plug is part of Marvell’s larger “Classroom 3.0″ environment that is aimed at creating a connected, secure learning atmosphere that simplifies and speeds the deployment of technology to students around the world.

Marvell collaborated with Stanford University to create the Marvell Smile Plug (named after the Stanford Mobile Inquiry Based Learning Environment program), which uses Marvell’s Armada processor and creates a “micro cloud” wireless network within a classroom that is completely controlled by the teacher. The Smile Plug is essentially a small server designed for delivering classroom materials to students. It can be combined with the OLPC XO 3.0 tablets, a Marvell-powered education tablet created by One Laptop per Child.

Weili Dai, co-founder of Marvell, said that Smile Plug and OLPC XO 3.0 are both important additions to the world’s classrooms and show that Marvell is committed to improving education worldwide. She says they can help transform learning from a one-way process to a two-way interactive experience.

The Smile Plug uses the company’s Armada 300 series SoC processors and Marvell Avastar 88w8764 WiFi chips to create a small wireless network that can be used by as many as 60 students at a time. That network delivers safe and secure internet access.

Marvell created an easy-to-manage wireless access point for the Smile program, with tools that provide teachers control over the system. The Smile Plug computer features an open platform based on Arch Linux for ARM. SMILE Plug will be available in the spring.