Sunday, April 13, 2014

RaspberryPi for professional use

Raspberry foundation will release a new CPU-module with form-factor of SODIMM-memory.

Raspberry Pi has become extremely popular among hobbyists. The win of the concept is not because of it's technological marvel, but essentially because of the great ecosystem and support.

Raspberry Pi is known to be used as a basis of some commercial embedded solutions as well, even if RPi as such is not very suitable for the purpose: connectors are inconveniently located at all edges of the board, limited extension header, and lack of mechanical support. Compare for example to BeagleBone Black, which is much better suitable to be used as a part of other products.

A week ago, Raspberry foundation published their plans to release a new CPU-module within the summer. The module has form-factor of SODIMM memory module, perhaps the most popular format of CPU-modules at the day. The module has Flash-memory on board, thus separate SD-memory card is not necessary.
Picture of the RPi CPU-module from RaspberryPi web site.
For sure, this new product is intended for professional use. Very few hobbyist has capability to design and manufacture motherboards of their own. Perhaps the community will help here and some application specific motherboards will be available in the future.

For professional purposes this module is good, as now it does make sense to have RPi in your design. Why RPi module instead of some other CPU module? First of all, RPi has the winning ecosystem, having software support that exceeds any commercial vendor. Secondly, RPi modules are expected to be rather inexpensive. Retail price is not published yet, but for sure it will be lower than the Raspberry SBC models available at the day.

For what RPi is then good for? The Broadcom BCM2835 SoC is actually a GPU with added general purpose CPU core (ARM9), thus it can do graphics decoding and 3D rendering efficiently by hardware. Broadcom recently released more specifications of the GPU side, thus more open drivers are expected soon. So as an answer,  RPi module is suitable for any embedded products having local 2D/3D graphical display for HMI in use.

According to unverified sources, Broadcom is also planning to start selling the module, as in it's ripped-down format it only contains silicon IP of Broadcom's own. According to the same source, the current RaspberryPi does not use the SoC in most energy efficient way, and perhaps in this new product the power consumption will be lowered down to mobile phone level.

Availability via Broadcom is essential to have creditability of availability good enough for any commercial products with long life-cycles like in case of industrial and medical applications.  

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