News comes from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, of something of a coup for their Compute Module product. Support for it is to be integrated into NEC’s line of commercial displays, and the electronics giant has lined up a list of software partners to provide integrated signage solutions for the platform.
It is interesting to note how NEC have done this, while it’s being spun by the Foundation as a coup for them the compute module sits on a daughter board in a slot on the back of the display rather than on the display PCB itself. They are likely hedging their bets with this move, future daughter boards could be created to provide support for other platforms should the Compute Module board fail to gain traction.
Given that this relates to a high-end commercial product from just one manufacturer, what’s in it for us in the hardware community? After all, it’s not as if you’ll be seeing Compute Module slots in the back of domestic TVs or monitors from NEC or any other manufacturer in the near future. The answer is that such a high-profile customer lends the module platform a commercial credibility that it may not yet have achieved. Until now, it has found a home mainly in more niche or boutique products, this appearance in something from a global manufacturer takes it to a new level. And as the module finds its way into more devices the chances of them coming within the reach of our community and providing us with opportunities for adapting them for our purposes through the Pi platform become ever greater.
The use of the Compute Module in displays made for public signage is oddly a continuation of an unseen tradition for ARM-based machines from Cambridge. Aside from British schools a significant market for the Acorn Archimedes platform that spawned ARM was the embedded signage market, and even today there are still plenty of signs concealing RiscOS machines out there in the wild.
We covered the launch of the Compute Module in 2014, but it’s fair to say it’s not appeared much since in the world of Raspberry Pi projects from hardware hackers. This is not because it’s not a good platform; more likely that the Raspberry Pi models A, B, and particularly the Zero are so much cheaper when you consider the significant cost of the Compute Module development board. At the Raspberry Pi 4th birthday party earlier this year, while covering the event as your Hackaday scribe but also wearing my metaphorical Pi kit supplier and Pi Jam organizer hats I stood up in the Q&A session and asked the Foundation CEO Phil Colligan to consider a hardware developer program for the platform. Perhaps a cut-down Compute Module developer board would be an asset to such a program, as well as driving more adoption of that particular board.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation founder Eben Upton has revealed in an interview with PCWorld that there will be a new version of the organisation’s Compute Module featuring the faster processor from the latest Raspberry Pi 3 boards, and it will be available “In a few months”.
The Compute Module was always something of an odd one out among the Raspberry Pi range, being a stripped-out Raspberry Pi chipset on a SODIMM form factor card without peripherals for use as an embedded computer rather than the standalone card with all the interfaces we are used to in the other Pi boards. It has found a home as the unseen brains behind a selection of commercial products, and though there are a few interface boards for developers and experimenters available for it we haven’t seen a lot of it in the world of hackers and makers. Some have questioned its relevance when the outwardly similar Pi Zero can be had for a lower price, but this misses the point that the two boards have been created for completely different markets.
The Pi 3’s 1.2 GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 BCM2837 SoC will certainly up the ante in the Compute module’s market, but it will be interesting to see what changes if any they make to its form factor. The Foundation’s close ties with Broadcom mean that they have done an impressive job in maintaining backward compatibility at a hardware level between the different generations of their product, but it is unclear whether this extends to the possibility of the new module maintaining a pin-for-pin compatibility with the old. We’d expect this to be an unlikely prospect.
It is certain that we will see a new generation of exciting commercial products emerging based around the new module, but will we see it making waves within our domain? This will depend on its marketing, and in particular the price point and quantity purchase they set for it. The previous board when added to a Compute Module Development board was an expensive prospect compared to a Raspberry Pi Model B that became more unattractive still as newer Pi boards gained more capabilities. If they price this one competitively and perhaps if any cheaper open hardware breakout boards emerge for it, we could have a valuable new platform on our hands.
Here’s our coverage of the original Compute Module launch, back in 2014.
[via Liliputing and reddit].
BCM2837 image: By Jose.gil (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
Think the original Pong is cool? How about point to point Pong? [v8ltd] did it in three months, soldering all the leads directly to the chip pins. No sockets required. It’s insane, awesome, a masterpiece of craftsmanship, and surprising it works.
[Jeremy Cook] is building a servo-powered light graffiti thing and needed a laser diode. How do you control a laser pointer with a microcontroller? Here’s how. They’re finicky little buggers, but if you get the three-pack from Amazon like [Jeremy] did, you get three chances to get it right.
NFC tags in everything! [Becky] at Adafruit is putting them in everything. Inside 3D printed rings, glued onto rings, and something really clever: glued to your thumbnail with nail polish. Now you can unlock your phone with your thumb instead of your index finger.
Photographs capture still frames, but wouldn’t it be great if a camera could capture moving images? No, we’re not talking about video because this is the Internet where every possible emotion, reaction, and situation can be expressed with an animated GIF. Meet OTTO, the camera that captures animated GIFs! It’s powered by the Raspberry Pi compute module, so that’s interesting.
[Nate] was getting tired of end mills rolling around his bench. That’s a bad thing. He came up with a solution, though: Mill a piece of plywood into a tray to hold end mills.
The Da Vinci printer, a printer that only costs $500 because they’re banking on the Gillette model, has been cracked wide open by resetting the DRM, getting rid of the proprietary host software, and unbricking the device. Now there’s a concerted effort to develop custom firmware for the Da Vinci printer. It’s extraordinarily bare bones right now, but the pins on the microcontroller are mapped, and RepRap firmwares are extremely modular.
Raspberry Pi cluster computers are old hat by now, and much to our dismay, we’ve even seen Raspberry Pis crop up as the brains of a few ill-conceived Kickstarter projects. The Pi was never meant for these applications, with the very strange port layout and a bunch of headers most people don’t need. The Raspberry Pi foundation has a solution for the odd layout of the normal, consumer Pi: The Raspberry Pi compute module, a Raspi and 4GB flash drive, sans connectors, on an industry standard DDR2 SODIMM module.
This isn’t something you can plug into your laptop (yet; that’s just a BIOS hack away, right?), but the new format does allow for some very interesting projects. All the normal Raspi I/O – CSI and DSI ports, USB, HDMI, JTAG – and a whole bunch more GPIO ports – are broken out onto an I/O board for development. The idea is that anyone can develop a product for the Raspberry Pi, create a custom board with a SODIMM connector, and use the compute module as the brains of their project.
The compute module should cost about $30/piece in quantity 100, available in June. No word yet on how much the I/O board will cost, but we expect a few open source expansion boards to crop up shortly so anyone can create a very cool cluster computer based on the compute module.