ArduCAM Introduces A Third Party Raspberry Pi

There are hundreds of ARM-based Linux development boards out there, with new ones appearing every week. The bulk of these ARM boards are mostly unsupported, and in the worst case they don’t work at all. There’s a reason the Raspberry Pi is the best-selling tiny ARM computer, and it isn’t because it’s the fastest or most capable. The Raspberry Pi got to where it is today because of a huge amount of work from devs around the globe.

Try as they might, the newcomer fabricators of these other ARM boards can’t easily glom onto the popularity of the Pi. Doing so would require a Broadcom chipset. Now that the Broadcom BCM2835-based ODROID-W has gone out of production because Broadcom refused to sell the chips, the Raspberry Pi ecosystem has been completely closed.

Things may be changing. ArduCAM has introduced a tiny Raspberry Pi compatible module based on Broadcom’s BCM2835 chipset, the same chip found in the original Raspberry Pis A, B, B+ and Zero. This module is tiny – just under an inch square – and compatible with all of the supported software that makes the Raspberry Pi so irresistible.

nano-rpi-cmio-backAlthough this Raspberry Pi-compatible board is not finalized, the specs are what you would expect from what is essentially a Raspberry Pi Zero cut down to a square inch board. The CPU is listed as, “Broadcom BCM2835 ARM11 Processor @ 700 MHz (or 1GHz?)” – yes, even the spec sheet doesn’t know how fast the CPU is running – and RAM is either 256 or 512MB of LPDDR2.

There isn’t space on the board for a 2×20 pin header, but a sufficient number of GPIOs are broken out to make this board useful. You will fin a micro-SD card slot, twin micro-USB ports, connectors for power and composite video, as well as the Pi Camera connector. This board is basically the same size as the Pi Camera board, making the idea of a very tiny Linux-backed imaging systems tantalizingly close to being a reality.

It must be noted that this board is not for sale yet, and if Broadcom takes offense to the project, it may never be. That’s exactly what happened with the ODROID-W, and if ArduCAM can’t secure a supply of chips from Broadcom, this project will never see the light of day.

43 thoughts on “ArduCAM Introduces A Third Party Raspberry Pi

  1. About “@ 700 MHz (or 1GHz?)”. This was just my speculation, as ArduCAM did not mention the frequency of the processor in their blog post. The product has not been launched yet either, so maybe that’s why they don’t have a product spec sheet. I’m not sure where people found the $80 price.

          1. That’s the joy of covering Chinese vendors. :)

            I think very few people use “SoC”, as most go for “processor” in the specifications list, so that’s an easy test… and I often see vendors update their product page with a copy/paste of the specs I wrote, or sometimes they re-post complete articles without consent, nor attribution.

    1. True, you can get an entire Motorola Moto 360 for under USD $180. I like to use smart watches for comparison because it gives you an idea of what sort of power and functionality you can expect for your $. So what is a smart watch main PCB worth at the factory door? Probably under $50.

      1. The bizarrely named iMacwear M7 is under USD $100, and that runs Android 4.4 and has all the usual peripherals such as WiFi 3G and GPS Proximity, Magnetic Field, Accelerometer, Gravity, 5.0MP camera.

        It is faster too, CPU is a MTK6572 @ 1.0GHz /512MB RAM / 4GB ROM.

        So anyway you get the idea, if you have a device that is a bare PCB with a fraction of that functionality it had better cost $10 or less.

  2. I love the idea, but like the zero, this is pretty much a non-starter for most without a native network connection. Its just easier to pick up a Pi3 because by the time you faff around with a USB wifi dongle (ignoring the hacking, stripping and soldering direct) it ends up about the same price, and about the same size.

    1. Yet the Pi Zero sales proves you wrong.

      MOST embedded projects do not need a native network connection. in fact two of the Pi Zeros I have don’t have ANY wifi or ethernet connectivity. they use a Zigbee board to talk to a Home automation Mesh. Tons and tons of Pi Zero projects dont need networking.

    2. Eh the Pi Zero is about as good as any of the Pi family. Since they all use Ethernet slaved to the USB bus regardless. I guess it really all boils down to your the requirements of your form factor.

      Tho personally for any project that is network intensive I’d be looking at something with Gigabit Ethernet.

    3. Assuming the price is right, this one looks most interesting as an intermediate option between the normal rPi boards and the ‘compute module’ SODIMM things: If size isn’t critical, it’s hard to argue with the de-facto-standard rPi GPIO and onboard connectors; if it is critical/you don’t want the bulk and ugliness of an rPi embedded in the guts of your project, this is [i]considerably[/i] more user friendly to wire up than the SODIMM-ized embedded option.

      Unless space is super tight, though, the zero makes a pretty compelling counterargument.

  3. They could desolder the PIs and that’s where all the PI Zeros went ;)
    This thing competes with a couple of things:
    . Their current products
    . OpenMV with STM32F4 and QVGA video for 100USD
    . Any other STM32F4 board running micropython

    1. Dude, the Pi Zeros haven’t “gone” anywhere! I went into my local store yesterday (limited to one per customer per day and walk-in only) and got one out of a fish bowl with literally hundreds (they let me count them). I’ll be back over the next 16-64 days to get a useful number of them. And you should have easy access to my local store. Don’t look on ebay. Go to my local store.

  4. Broadcom really need to star selling their SoC’s to Hardkernel again. They’re is the most innovative company when it comes to single board computers. even without them, they are still killing it. But it’s needless to say the how they would benefit by having full compatibility with any raspberry pi accessory or library.

    1. +1 IMHO, their O-Droid W was really on to something. Why no one else understands a cheap, rPi compatable, small foot print SBC with a FUEL GAUGE is brilliant is beyond me. Oh, and an onboard RTC. If that puppy had radios and USB OTG – it would have been a 10/10.

  5. It’s slightly less impressive when you realise that the “coin-sized” module in the first picture does not include the uSD slot, USB connectors and power circuitry. These are on a larger breakout board, two-thirds the size of the Pi Zero.

    1. Totally missed that on first pass, but you’re spot on; you can clearly see they don’t have the same screw holes.
      And here I was excited about building a DIY GoPro cube-camera clone.

    2. from the site it say that is another “adapter” board with an Arm11

      I bought their Pi camera with the CS lens mount, really good!
      the lens it is shipped with isn’t great, but still a big improvement on the “official” Pi camera.

      At the local Jaycar I picked up a 4mm, 6mm and 8mm CS lens, they make a huge difference.

      It’ll be good to see if they can get this off the ground

  6. I guess considering Broadcom’s lack of goodwill, one could buy TI Sitara SoCs… or Freescale i.MX
    People should goddamn stop whining about “community” (“everything that is not Pi sucks because there’s no community”) and MAKE one. Actually there are for these SoCs, only not as big.

    1. Could you please pick one and shake out a community for it? Would take you at best 5 minutes I bet right?
      The community that is talked about is all kinds of people with all kinds of expertise, and unless you are kim in NK you can’t simply ‘wish’ a whole varied group of people to support a platform. Even if you are very enthusiastic about it yourself.

      1. Make one as in participate. BeagleBone is somehow popular. The point is, there ARE alternatives, which may lack some of the Pi’s features, but will be fine for most people who use RasPi to blink a LED and switch some relays using Python, or emulate some games. Hell, Sitara even has tricks up its sleeve with the PRU real-time I/O coprocessor.

        1. if you can take the microSD card from a “genuine” Raspberry Pi, put it in this and have it boot, that makes it “compatible”.

          Trying a Raspian image in a Bannana Pi or Orange Pi doesn’t work…

  7. the only application I could see this being useful for is embedded computer vision…but then why cripple us with composite video out?

    Maybe some sort of closed loop system for a drone or other robot? maybe mix the signals in with an FPV video transmission?

    maybe a smart watch…but with no fuele gauge or real display controller…nope

    Someone please explain to me what the point of this is. My head hurts.

    1. for the thing I’m building, I went with a composite 3″ monitor.
      with an SPI display I had to use fbcopy, which looked at tad “jerky”

      the 3″ monitor was AUS$50 from an auto shop, came with a reasonable CMOS camera.
      I’ve yet to find a small HDMI display at a reasonable price.

          1. Ive been looking for a What Im going to call a micro monitor for a bit now. and cant find one that is a good price.
            But god I wish some one could turn some of these Phone screens into monitors a lot of them are nice and cheep.

        1. not sure of the brand, the board has a few cryptic numbers and not much else.
          Also the cunning pricks have scrubbed all the chips, then gone over them with black marker!

          the image quality is ok, good enough so you don’t back over little Johnny on his tricycle in your SUV!

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