The Top 10 Raspberry Pi products for 2012

Introduction:
I’ve been looking around online and I think these are the big things we can expect to see hit the market within the next 6 months. I’ve also added a little section at the end which covers my take on the potential impact of the arising Raspberry Pi ecosystem.

 

Let’s start with the hardware-ish products:

1. Enclosures, Enclosures, Enclosures…
I could probably have written a post on it’s own about the ten best enclosure drafts I’ve seen, there will be MANY. The only thing currently available are the acrylic sandwich type things without side walls. The obvious reason for not having side walls is that they were produced in a rush without exact RasPi measurements to get to market as quickly as possible. My favourites so far are:
Adafruit Pi Box – Enclosure for Raspberry Pi Computers

Adafruit Pi Box - Enclosure for Raspberry Pi Computers

ModMyPi Raspberry Pi Case

ModMyPi Raspberry Pi Case

SK Pang Electronics Raspberry Pi Cover with Breadboard Area – Clear

SK Pang Electronics Raspberry Pi Cover with Breadboard Area - Clear

 

2. basic proto board

It’s not too hard to make a basic proto board yourself with headers and perf-board but there are at least two very nice ones I’ve seen that seem worth the investment. The one from Adafruit obviously because it’s very well done and it has everything I could wish for including screw terminals. The Slice of Pi one simply because it’s already got an XBee socket which tends to be harder to fit due to it’s unusual pitch.
Adafruit Prototyping Pi Plate Kit for Raspberry Pi

Adafruit Prototyping Pi Plate Kit for Raspberry Pi

Slice of pi – add on for Raspberry PI

Slice of pi - add on for Raspberry PI

 

3. Buffered and isolated 3.3V-5V I2C expander shield

I stumbled across this post about adding a MCP23017 I2C expander to a RasPi and SK Pang now sell their starter pack with one of these I2C expanders. Main problem being that all the RasPi GPIO pins are 3.3V and feeding them with 5V will potentially kill the SOC. There are 5V I2C chips out there so anyone who deals a lot with I2C is probably going to look into buffering and converting 3.3V <-> 5V.

 

4. Buffered and isolated GPIO shield

Same problem with all the other GPIO pins, they connect directly to the SOC and don’t allow to connect a lot of load.
The topping for your Pi

The topping for your Pi

Raspberry Pi I/O Expander Board

Raspberry Pi I/O Expander Board

 

 

5. Arduino shield adapter

A lot of potential Pi owners will already be in possession of an Arduino and matching Arduino shields. Even if they don’t have them yet it’s going to take quite a while until RasPi shields get built to provide the same functionality currently available in form of Arduino shields and then the Arduino shields are also already in their XYZ revision with tested code available and bugs ironed out.
Introducing Ponte: Arduino – Raspberry Pi Bridge

Introducing Ponte: Arduino – Raspberry Pi Bridge

 

6. A high resolution camera

That one was easy to predict, there’s a connector for it on the RasPi :) This will obviously be very popular for all sorts of robotics, automation and surveillance projects.
Camera module – first pictures!

Camera module – first pictures!

 

7. A touch screen and tested monochrome/colour LCDs

I don’t have any links for this yet but there is a second so far unused connector on the RasPi in form of a DSI connector which allows to talk to RAW LCD panels. Examples of commonly available screens for this will be from Nokia phones or the iPhone with the touchscreen being fed via I2C.
I haven’t seen any RasPi->LCD pictures yet but LCDs should be relatively simple to interface with via UART or posher colour ones via I2C.

 

I would also expect a ever growing variety of modified “ready-to-go” pre-built images:

8. Highly specialised images
LAMPi – A production ready RasPi based LAMP server

9. Images which conveniently come with software installed for newbies and matching Raspberry Pi user manuals
The Unofficial Raspberry Pi Manual

10. Images which fix bugs and shortcomings of the original debian squeeze image
soft float -> hard float, Raspbian

 

Evaluation of the potential impact of the arising Raspberry Pi ecosystem:

Let’s do a little mental exercise and have a quick think about an example which combines some of the above with potentially very interesting results:
1. Raspberry Pi Thin Client project
2. A cheap VESA mountable enclosure and later a screen manufacturer who is brave enough to pack the RasPi into the screens case where it can run off the internal psu.

The result would in the best case bee a screen with a SD-card slot and NIC which could only cost £25-30 more than the pure screen but provides a HD capable Linux client or thin client/RDP extender to stream virtual desktops off an internal centralised virtual infrastructure. All students would need to use the machines would be a cheap SD-card and access to an image which works at the specific institution.
And if they change the format of the RasPi to something like a PCMCIA card the screen could have an eject button to swap/upgrade the board :)
Even without being integrated into the screen the above scenario should prove very popular with educational places. They are usually short on cash but the RasPi should be within their financial reach, require little to non maintenance and the main UK RasPi distributors (RS and Farnell) will be on their approved supplier list.
Arduino or Raspberry? Or both?
Personally the biggest difference I see for going from Arduino to Raspberry Pi is the fact that it’s got the processing power the Arduino’s have been lacking so far but still doesn’t suck up crazy amounts of power to still make it a viable solution for physical and pervasive computing projects. Add the fact that it comes with the whole Linux ecosystem including the fact that it allowes all common high level languages access to the GPIO pins and you’ve captured all those who are not familiar with pure C embedded programming. Then add the fact that it can talk to pretty much any screen you might have kicking about and you’ve just drawn in the web designers, creative heads/artists and all those who want to have an impact on crowds.
Hence I expect tons of highly stimulating and exciting projects within the next months once the factories get round to ramping up production numbers and then towards the end of the year finally the first mulit-RasPi projects. I don’t think I’m the only one who could envisage the impact of a Raspberry Pi based parallel computing cluster (Bramble discussion thread) and there’s already a project for a Raspberry Pi based MySQL Cluster which sounds like a great idea for scenarios with lots of little MySQL databases.

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Add a comment »5 comments to this article

  1. Thanks for the mention!

    Ben
    r314.co.uk

    Reply

    • Thanks for all the time you are putting into the manual!
      It’ll save everyone the hassle of having to explain things over and over again and get people up to speed quickly :)
      I think it’s simply amazing how many great people there are involved in the RasPi ecosystem.

      Reply

      • Well, it’s something I need, so I thought I’d release it for other people to find useful too.

        Reply

  2. Thanks for the link, I just wanted to clarify something about the MCP23017 expander. While what you say about connecting 5V to the GPIO pins killing the Pi is true it is perfectly safe to use I2C devices running at 5V as the Pi is never exposed to the 5V, I explained more in a follow up post here as a few people queried it: http://nathan.chantrell.net/20120610/raspberry-pi-and-i2c-devices-of-different-voltage/ That also explains why & how you might still want to do some level shifting in some cases though.

    Also worth noting that Ciseco are now doing a MCP23017 specific version of the Slice of Pi called the Slice of PI/O which makes things easier.

    Cheers,
    Nathan

    Reply

  3. It worth mentioned the Proto-Plate Raspberry Pi prototyping board with LM1117 , LEDs, SOT23, SOIC14 and plenty of through hole prototyping area. web link,
    http://www.bitbang.co.uk/rpi.html

    Reply


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