The Top 10 Raspberry Pi products for 2012
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
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
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
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
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!
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.