“... we can be a catalyst. We want to see cheap, accessible, programmable computers everywhere” -- The Raspberry Pi Foundation
"After a mammoth first year, the credit-card sized computer is looking at a new family of accessories and a growing world of users to fuel its adoption" -- David Adams, Technical Marketing, Newark element14.
The year 2012 will be remembered by many in the tech education and tech consumer space as the year of Raspberry Pi. This credit-card sized computer has made a very big splash with engineers, makers, and students of all ages, since its launch at Germany’s Embedded World design engineering exposition in February 2012.
As one of the Raspberry Pi's manufacturers and distributors, we’ve been fortunate enough to serve as a Pi educator through the element14 community’s popular Raspberry Pi Group, and help drive the industry activities and resources supporting it. In addition, Newark element14’s parent company, Premier Farnell, has worked closely with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to bring 100 percent of Raspberry Pi’s manufacturing back to the UK, where it originated.
There are now two different versions of Raspberry Pi: the Model A at $25 (256MB RAM, one USB port and no Ethernet) and the Model B at $35 (512MB RAM, 2 USB port and an Ethernet port). Most importantly, Pi enthusiasts now have a wide range of accessories to choose from to expand its functionality. Accessories range from the popular Adafruit line to devices such as Wi-Pi (a Wi-Fi adapter) and PiView (an HDMI to VGA adapter), with more being added each week.
Recent Raspberry Pi-related accessories include several families of products that allow the Pi to sense the real world around it. This new found “awareness” has been made possible by inventors and developers, including Dr. Andrew Robinson and Gert Van Loo. Dr. Robinson’s PiFace accessories and Gert’s Gertboard accessories use the general purpose input/output (GPIO) features of the Raspberry Pi board to enable users to connect sensors, motors and many other types of real-world control devices.
As a result, we’ve already seen an impressive array of projects using Raspberry Pi and its accessories, including ones that control things like garage doors and home-made robots, and those that receive and process data on the temperature of a room, on the amount of light in a greenhouse, or on the acidity of backyard soil. One recent prize-winning project we learned of uses the Raspberry Pi and PiFace to help elderly and disabled people answer their door safely through a wireless keypad. The fact that the Raspberry Pi is so easy to use and to control via the web ensures that many more new projects and applications will emerge during 2013.
This year we will also see several interface boards that combine the ecosystems of Raspberry Pi, Arduino and other embedded MCU architectures. It is through the overlap of these accessory products that we will see the co-mingling of the hobbyist and the professional product designer because of the universal software design and development processes with the Raspberry Pi and its family of accessories. Web-based engineering communities like element14 will continue to play major roles in bringing all types of electronic and computer designers together to share their results and learn from one another.
There is a strong possibility that we will soon see commercial and industrial products with internal Raspberry Pi boards. The professional designer continues to explore the possibilities of leveraging the Raspberry Pi Linux software environment for use in products. From point-of-sale displays to process control, the opportunities for using a low-cost Linux computer are great. In fact, using the Broadcom BCM2835 to drive small displays and run basic GUIs has already caught the imagination of many industrial designers (just look at the number of Raspberry Pi arcades already out there), so it appears it won’t be long before we see an off-the-shelf product which has used the Raspberry Pi in the development process. At such a low price point, moderate-value commercial applications are truly viable.
The other promising area in 2013 is the education market, which was the original purpose for the Raspberry Pi. The lowest cost Model A board is finding a home in many UK computer science curriculums. In addition, Google donated 15,000 Raspberry Pi Model B’s in January for use in UK schools. With this support, many IT and science departments are looking at how the Raspberry Pi can help in their classrooms, and we anticipate other high-tech companies to follow Google’s generous lead in North America.
There’s no doubt that the Raspberry Pi has made its mark and showcased its initial potential. It has transitioned from the early coding projects such as installing the archaic Quake 3 video game, to novel ideas like brewing beer.
Raspberry Pi’s potential, however, is even greater and we’re optimistic about the future focus on real-world applications with the new accessory families, the convergence of maker and professional designer environments, and the inclusion of Raspberry Pi hardware and software in commercial and industrial products. And with so many grade school students having fun using a Raspberry Pi to learn about electronics, computers and the power of engineering, the future looks bright for this innovative architecture.
To learn about all things Pi, visit Newark element14 (www.newark.com/pi
) and the element14 community (www.element14.com/raspberrypi
).About the author
Dave Adams is Director of Technology Development at Newark element14. Dave can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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