We thought Raspberry Pi was a fad. Then we thought it was just for tinkerers or hobbyists. But ever since the first of these microcomputers was shipped in 2012, it’s been making inroads in real companies making legitimate products. Even though the Raspberry Pi hardware is not open source, it is reasonably priced — a Raspberry Pi 3 costs $35, the Raspberry Pi ZeroW with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is $10 and the Raspberry Pi Zero is just $5. Here are five ways that these low-cost microcomputers are transforming traditional businesses.
Prototyping with Raspberry Pi
The old-school methodology for prototyping a new device involved an electrical engineer and building an ugly green PCB to test mechanical or software functionality. This process could take months and thousands of dollars. Today, production companies are streamlining their prototype development process with Raspberry Pi. The microcomputer offers a variety of features, including four USB ports, an Ethernet port, an HDMI port and a header for adding expansion cards. With $35 and a trip to the local makerspace, they have a simple, fast and low-cost option for proof-of-concept work.
Raspberry Pi is a great hardware option for low-volume (up to thousands), higher-priced products. With its $35 price tag, embedding Raspberry Pi in a relatively inexpensive product just doesn’t make good business sense. If you are going to retail your product for $100, you should assume a wholesaler will pay you approximately $50. If $35 of your costs is the Raspberry Pi board, there’s not a lot of room for profit. Using Raspberry Pi in a lower-cost device can blow out cost to the end user. But if you are building a higher-end product that costs thousands of dollars, the $35 investment is negligible. With a variety of controls and expansion capabilities, like GPIO, Raspberry Pi can save significant development time and cost.
Raspberry Pi test bench
Factories are also deploying Raspberry Pi to facilitate the production of a product. Many factories are using a computer to validate a device, stamp unique software identifiers or other production applications. Purchasing Raspberry Pi instead of a desktop computer could save thousands of dollars. With a Raspberry Pi, monitor and keyboard you can create a cheap, simple and reliable PC. Raspberry Pi also features an SD card which can be easily replicated and shared across your workstations.
Let’s say you have a device that features Bluetooth but no internet access. How do you update firmware or content from a server in the cloud? You need a way to connect. Raspberry Pi makes a great “middle” server, connecting the cloud and the device. Simply create some code to automatically download content or updates from a web server and push the updates to your Bluetooth device. You now have a cheap, hands-off way to transfer content.
With its affordable price, compact size and low power consumption, Raspberry Pi makes a great small server. Many companies are using it inside a lab to log data, debug devices and store testing results. Developers are also using it to emulate their live server so test information can be sent without corrupting real data. Raspberry Pi also makes a great web server, backup server or NAS server where speed is not a requirement.
With almost $18 million in sales, Raspberry Pi is an unexpected and remarkable success. Hobbyist makers and tinkerers drove early sales. Today, many businesses are using the boards in serious numbers for real-world applications. This will continue to drive the popularity of Raspberry Pi.
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