MUNICH, Germany – U.K. component distributor Premier Farnell has announced it has an exclusive deal with OpenLX SP Ltd. to distribute the PiFace Digital I/O board and will be able to supply both it and a 5-megapixel camera board in the first quarter of 2013. Both items are designed to complement the low-cost, credit-card sized Raspberry Pi computer.
On its Element14-branded booth at Electronica Premier Farnell was showing demonstrations of both peripherals working with the "double-memory" 512-Mbyte version of the Raspberry Pi. It was also demonstrating the first I/O board, the GertBoard, developed by Gert van Loo.
Van Loo said that addition of third-party I/O boards was an essential next step in making Raspberry Pi relevant to developers. "It gets them off the screen and able to do things in the real world," he said.
Raspberry Pi was originally developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation as a means of teaching computing in U.K. schools but the diminutive single-board computer is gaining traction in commercial markets according to Mike Powell, technical development manager at Premier Farnell.
No information of the breakdown of Raspberry Pi sales between educational and commercial applications was available on the booth.
Unlike the GertBoard, which is powered by an AVR 8-bit microcontroller, the Pi Face runs of the host 700-MHz ARM based Broadcom BCM2835 processor on the Raspberry Pi. It is somewhat more limited than the GertBoard but stacks neatly on top of Raspberry Pi. It accepts four momemtary push-switch signals and has four on-board LEDs. There are two 10-A relays and 8 general purpose open-collector outputs. The board allows the Raspberry Pi to control and sense physical devices such as lights, motors and sensors.
Pi Face Digital I/O board sitting on top of Raspberry Pi computer board
The Pi Face board comes with learning materials designed by the University of Manchester aimed at making the device easy for teachers to use in the classroom.
The separate camera unit developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation comes on a small PCB with an Omnivision 5-megapixel CMOS image sensor that is capable of 1080p, 30 frame per second imaging. The Raspberry Pi board is capable of H.264 encoding. The camera uses a CSI connection (camera serial interface) to output data at 600-Mbits per second.
Although originally developed for use inside mobile phones the ribbon cable is good for distance of up to about 15-cm, said Powell.
The Pi Face board will sell for about 45 euros (about $60) and the camera board for $25 without a stand, Premier Farnell said.
A point of momentum seems to have been reached whereby inertia will carry it forward.
Here in VietNam a USD$35 hits the USD$100 mark, about one-third of most families incomes in Ho Chi Minh City, by the time it has been sourced and shipped from Singapore and our national government has imposed it's duties and VAT!
Notwithstanding these impediments, there is a fledgling User Group, with a bilingual chatroom and great enthusiasm building.
I like the PiFace design because it adheres/is compliant to/with the physical shape of the R Pi Motherboard.
The preceding I/O GERT PCB did not and thereby reduced it's utility for professional use with consideration to 'packaging'.
Another factor that has hopefully been eliminated are the physical variances, and connector locations, between the various versions. Maybe I've been working with MILspec too long, but it sure is nice to have the board dimensions and connector definitions stabilised!
It's an amazing product which can cater to numerous segments like hobbyists, education and small commercial startups which even they didn't think of. It just goes to show how a simple and efficient design can address multiple needs.
This is one nifty board with lot of software support for anyone to dabble in.
Raspberry is a great success story. I am sure we will see many new interfaces/upgrades to this useful device. Many students/developers have ordered these kits and have already started developing applications.
The GertBoard does not have to be "powered" by the 8 bit AVR processor. Any of the other digital circuits on the board can be directly connected to the Raspberry Pi through the 26 pin I/O connector by using GPIO or SPI.
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