This past March 21, 2018, a significant announcement was made by The Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK based charity. They publicized their newest product to join the Raspberry Pi family, the single board computer named, Raspberry Pi 3, Model B+. The name is complex to say, but so are the abilities of this innovative microcomputer. It is a ground-breaking step forward in affordable microcomputer competences necessary to advance Fog Computing for the Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
What makes this microcomputer so appealing? Well, it is small, tiny even, by typical computing standards, about the size of a deck of playing cards. It measures in at 85.60 mm × 56.5 mm × 17 mm (3.370 in × 2.224 in × 0.669 in).
This latest Pi microcomputer boosts a powerful 64-bit processor, clocking in at 1.4 GHz, so this is a capable CPU able to crunch numbers from sensors and actuators extremely quickly. With an input voltage of 5v and an operating voltage of 3.3v, it takes little power to run and remains cool when operating. To enhance performance, it makes use of 1 GB of LPDD2 SDRAM. Powered by Linux, it can be simply programmed to perform most tasks easily with lots of extra capacity awaiting more complicated tasks to execute.
Having a proficient computer is useful, but you also need the ability to communicate to the microcomputer and in this regard, the Raspberry Pi 3, Model B+ shines. It has the latest Wi-Fi adhering to the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz IEEE 802.11.b/g/n/ac wireless LAN specifications. It has Bluetooth 4.2 as well and is compliant to the Bluetooth LE standards too. With a Gigabit Ethernet port, you can hard-wire in powerful speeds. The four USB-A connectors allow a vast assortment of devices to be connected via cables. To augment the USB connectors, it also has a 3.5mm analogue audio-video jack, 4Camera Serial Interface (CSI), and Display Serial Interface (DSI) for inputs. For outputs, it offers HDMI (rev 1.3), composite video (3.5 mm TRRS jack), MIPI display interface (DSI) for raw LCD panels. For low-level peripherals, you can add a 17x GPIO HAT (Hardware Attached on Top) expansion boards to mate to the main CPU board. Astonishingly, this is all within this tiny footprint.
Many hundreds of accessories can be added to the Pi to add function and features. Some of the more popular accessories are: keyboards, cameras, infrared cameras, optical displays, and the popular Gertboard that expands the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins to allow interface with and control of LEDs, switches, analogue signals, sensors and other devices. It also includes an optional Arduino compatible controller to interface with the Pi.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation recommends the use of Raspbian, a Debian-based Linux operating system. Other third-party operating systems available via the official website include Ubuntu MATE, Windows 10 IoT Core, RISC OS, and specialized distributions for the Kodi media centre and classroom management.
Many other operating systems can also run on the Raspberry Pi.
For API drivers, the Raspberry Pi can use a VideoCore IV GPU via a binary blob, which is loaded into the GPU at boot time from the SD-card, and additional software, that initially was closed source. This part of the driver code was later released. However, much of the actual driver work is done using the closed source GPU code. Application software use calls to closed source run-time libraries (OpenMax, OpenGL ES or OpenVG) which in turn calls an open source driver inside the Linux kernel, which then calls the closed source VideoCore IV GPU driver code. The API of the kernel driver is specific for these closed libraries. Video applications use OpenMAX, 3D applications use OpenGL ES and 2D applications use OpenVG which both in turn use EGL. OpenMAX and EGL use the open source kernel driver in turn.
As Fog Computing evolves, the core concept is all about ‘pushing intelligence out to the edge of the network fabric’. So, we must have the ability to provide compute, storage, and analytics out on the network is some small, unfriendly physical locations. For applications like smart metering, smart grids, pipelines, oil & gas, underground mining, transportation and dozens of other uses, we need a trusted and hardened solution to perform without fail every day. This new Raspberry Pi 3 model B+ promises to deliver this sort of performance.
According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, over 5 million Raspberry Pis were sold by February 2015, making it the best-selling British computer. By November 2016 they had sold 11 million units, and 12.5m by March 2017, making it the third best-selling “general purpose computer”. In July 2017, sales reached nearly 15 million. In March 2018, sales reached 19 million. So, it is no wonder that the Pi family of microcomputers are successful when they offer so much for such a low cost. Prices range from US$5 to $35 depending upon the model.
They are made in a Sony factory in Pencoed, Wales.
As it happens, March 21, 2018 is called, Pi Day. The date is represented as 3.21 numerically and these are the first three digits to resolve Pi.
The Foundation works to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world, so they are capable of understanding and shaping our increasingly digital world, able to solve the problems that matter to them, and equipped for the jobs of the future. Clearly, this are admirable goals.
The Foundation provides low-cost, high-performance computers that people use to learn, solve problems, and have fun. They provide outreach and education to help more people access computing and digital making. They develop free resources to help people learn about computing and how to make things with computers, and train educators who can guide other people to learn.
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies.
He is a Senior Executive with IBM Canada’s GTS Network Services Group. Over the past 13 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN:TSX).
Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO:TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX:TSX.V).
He serves as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.
He holds three Masters degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.