Raspberry Pi Overview

Raspberry Pi (referred as RPi or RPI) and its clones, i.e. Orange Pi, Banana Pi, Ordroid, Cubie, Olimex, are the class of devices located somewhere between low constraint IoT boards and regular PC/Mac machines.

While authors create this text, Raspberry Pi is a standard and reference solution for other manufacturers. However 3rd party manufacturers indeed offer more powerful solutions (regarding processor power, RAM size, connectivity capabilities, and integrated flash) usually by the cost of no support and not so well tailored operating system that lacks many features and present serious bugs.

Those devices technically are very close to smartphones and are far away from energy-efficient IoT solutions powered by a single battery that lasts for weeks or even years. They need DC, usually 5 or 12V and about 2-3W total, with external power adapter. It is still far less than even most efficient ultrabooks or PCs, requiring some 50-90W PSUs. They also use an operating system booted from storage like regular PCs - usually from flashed MicroSD card or embedded eMMC flash. The OS is mostly Linux based, but there do exist Microsoft Windows for certified Raspberry Pi devices. It is how this class of devices differ from, i.e. Arduino, where software is in the SoC model. The RPi and clones are holding a one-board solution that includes a processor, memory, storage slot, USB and networking. Many devices also offer hardware-based graphics acceleration, usually integrated with the processor core. Some devices like Orange Pi frequently provide an integrated flash for OS storage, so you do not necessarily need to boot and use an external flash like a USB dongle or TransFlash card. The most common processor in this class of the devices is an ARM architecture family, in case of the RPI it is Broadcom (i.e. BCM2936), other manufacturers use, i.e. Exynos, All-Winner and Samsung manufactured processors. What is pretty similar to the low-power, constrained IoT boards, RPi and clones offer GPIO, and you can connect various sensors and expansion boards (called here “hats”), and you have a wide choice of operating systems and modules. You can also extend the hardware by connecting hats that offer to sense and to actuate but sometimes advanced computing like dedicated coprocessors or FPGA-based AI. Interestingly, their GPIOs usually provide (among others) popular protocols like I2C, SPI, One-Wire, so you can directly connect with many sensors known as designed for Arduino-compatible development boards. This way, you can use those boards like conventional IoT devices with integrated networking capabilities, similar to, i.e. ESP chips.

What is much different from low constrained IoT devices is that they offer at least a command terminal you can connect to, and also most boards offer a capability to connect it to the external display via HDMI, analogue output or dedicated connector for LCD. They also provide the ability to interact with HID devices like regular keyboards, mouses, via USB but also wireless, i.e. using a Bluetooth connection. Of course, those features are dependent on operating systems. Manufacturers usually are trying to keep those development boards as small as possible, and it is a case that among high-end devices they also offer some constrained solution yet usually 50 % smaller in size and power consumption (i.e. RPi zero). Many boards also offer dedicated camera connector.

Being so far from the low-power, constrained IoT devices does not exclude them from IoT devices, however. They find their application everywhere, when there is a need for higher processing resources (i.e. voice recognition), high capacity and complex networking operations, i.e. gatewaying other devices to the Internet, convert networking protocols, implement software-based or hardware-assisted Artificial Intelligence, implementing rich user interface (GUI) where constrained devices are not powerful enough to fulfil the requirements yet there is still a limited power source, or there is not a need to set up a regular, PC-based solution, because of its cost. Most of the devices belonging to this class still can be switched to low power consumption modes, where low power means a dozen mA here.

On the other hand, most modern representatives of those devices are powered with multicore processors and large RAM and are powerful enough to replace the desktop computer in daily operations like web browsing, multimedia playback, software development and so on.

en/iot-open/getting_familiar_with_your_hardware_rtu_itmo_sut/raspberrypi_rpi.txt · Last modified: 2020/07/20 09:00 by
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