SAO PAULO — Brazil's policies on imported goods are hurting the country's economy. But engineers can do something about it.
That was the message delivered by Jon "Maddog" Hall, president of Linux International, in his keynote at the opening day of the Embedded Systems Conference in Sao Paulo.
At ESC Brazil, keynoter John Hall, president of the Linux Foundation, lays out a scenario for how a clone of the Raspberry Pi, only better and much cheaper, could be made in Brazil. Call it the Plum Pi.
"There are many reasons that more companies don't design and manufacture products here in Brazil," Hall said. "They don't trust the market size, and they are concerned about the cost of a manufacturing startup." It comes down to "cost, time, and uncertainty."
Instead, companies have their designs manufactured in places like Taiwan, and that strategy has a major drawback: When the product comes to Brazil, it's hit with a 100% import tax, which is passed on to the consumer. "This is a big mistake and a bad thing for the Brazilian economy."
Hall cited the Raspberry Pi, which has sold more than 3 million units, as a case in point. "The Raspberry Pi has a $35 retail value in the US. Add on $10 for shipping and 100% import taxes, and that same board costs around $90 in Brazil. Given the lower GDP here in Brazil, that means that most consumers are paying about 4X more for the Pi, which is a crime against God and Al Gore."
He then laid out a scenario for how a clone of the Raspberry Pi, only better, could be made in Brazil. Call it the Plum Pi.
"A company could start by taking an already proven design and using open components from a popular architecture like ARM," he said. "Add on an FPGA, WiFi, USB 3.4, and you have a robust platform for students to learn to program something other than a single-core processor."
To overcome skepticism about the market opportunity in Brazil, Hall suggested incorporating new components for developers to use and test and generating 10,000 boards to sell to a test market. The kicker would be to license the board and components freely to companies that wish to manufacture it in Brazil. The Raspberry Pi Foundation does not do that currently.
Under this scenario, Hall said, if the BOM for the new board less than $28 and were sourced from the developer, the cost would be $28 + $5 shipping (amortized over 10K boads) + 6% duty for a total cost of approximately $40 for each board produced in Brazil. That's less than half the current cost of a Raspberry Pi there.
Building this kind of hardware manufacturing capability in Brazil would address the chicken-and-egg challenge that countries often face, he said. By generating more challenging jobs, young people will stay, and then industry will come, because they feel like there is a trained, knowledgeable pool of talent to help make them successful. Industry will not come if they don't see a trained, knowledgeable pool of talent to make their industry successful.
— Karen Field is the editor in chief of EE Times and content director for EE Live and the Embedded Systems Conference.