Forbes Says The Raspberry Pi Is Big Business

Not that it’s something the average Hackaday reader is unaware of, but the Raspberry Pi is a rather popular device. While we don’t have hard numbers to back it up (extra credit for anyone who wishes to crunch the numbers), it certainly seems a day doesn’t go by that there isn’t a Raspberry Pi story on the front page. But given that a small, cheap, relatively powerful, Linux computer was something the hacking community had dreamed of for years, it’s hardly surprising.

But how popular is the Raspberry Pi among people who don’t necessarily spend their free time reading weird black-background websites? Well, according to a recent article in Forbes, the Pi has been spotted putting in an honest days work all over the world. From factories to garbage trucks, everyone’s favorite Linux computer has come a long a way from its humble beginnings. How does it feel knowing a $35 computer has a longer resume than you do?

Unfortunately, the Forbes article doesn’t have the sort of deep technical details we’re used to around these parts. The fact that the article opens by describing the Raspberry Pi as a “stripped-down circuit board covered with metal pins and squares” should tell you all you need to know about the overlap between Forbes and Hackaday readers, but we think author [Parmy Olson] still tells an story interesting regardless.

So where has the Pi been seen punching a clock? At Sony, for a start. The consumer electronics giant has been installing Pis in several of their factories to monitor various pieces of equipment. They record everything from temperature to vibration and send that to a centralized server using an in-house developed protocol. Some of the Pis are even equipped with cameras which feed into computer vision systems to keep an eye out for anything unusual.

[Parmy] also describes how the Raspberry Pi is being used in Africa to monitor the level of trash inside of garbage bins and automatically dispatch a truck to come pick it up for collection. In Europe, they’re being used to monitor the health of fueling stations for hydrogen powered vehicles. All over the world, businesses are realizing they can build their own monitoring systems for as little as 1/10th the cost of turn-key systems; with managers occasionally paying for the diminutive Linux computers out of their own pocket.

The impact the Pi has had on the hardware world is difficult to overstate. It’s redefined the status quo for single board computers, and with the platform continuing to evolve, there’s no sign its incredible journey is slowing down anytime soon.

[Thanks to Itay for the tip.]

45 thoughts on “Forbes Says The Raspberry Pi Is Big Business

    1. I believe it’s always been around in the shape of Broadcom.
      After all, plenty of people on the Pi team are either ex-broadcom employees or work both places.
      I’ll only believe that Broadcom doesn’t essentially own it, if the SoC of the next board isn’t a Broadcom affair.

      1. Seems more British invasion to me. Take a higher quality device… make it in plastic and manufacture in China while profiteering off derivatives and other financial instruments related to as well as work their way into whatever they can. Neat device still… just doesn’t seem to create more jobs in the U.S. so much to me. Let’s see the data for business lifecycle metrics… including market impact.

  1. strange. he looks exactly like my image of “the boss” from bofh…

    Hmm. using a raspberry pi for mission critical stuff in a multimillion dollar factory? were IS the bofh when you need him?

  2. Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, that’s not forbes. That’s forbes’ blogging host. Any URL starting in Forbes.com/sites/ should be viewed as having the same authority as a site from blogger.com.

  3. Without a mass memory connector, prober bus or ways to connect but one ‘hat’ per moment, it has become rather popular even though the physical format is a nightmare for cabinet builder. Having connectors on every edge and in the middle of the board it is an example from a book “Do not build it like this, for dummies”. ( I have built some 12 customer projects with it and some for my own)

    1. I’d say that probably you should consider the raspberry pi zero. Still has connectors on almost every side. But fewer, and all the ports that might have to be accessible to users are on one side.

  4. Not that it’s bad or good, but these are the perfect examples of modern electronics. Super high-level programming and high-end hardware to solve fairly simple problems with clock cycles and shared code… just because it got cheap enough to do so.

    1. Our professional products use them to capture medical device data and they do it extremely well might I add. I’ve seen many uses that aren’t educational and are perfect use cases for the little board whereas the beaglebone just causes more issues than it’s worth. NOT garbage me ol chum!

    2. For low level in-house testing they are perfectly fine. They are cheap, available, and provide a good level of I/O. They also have a good level of peripheral support. Would I use them for anything mission critical? No. But there are loads of things which are not mission critical, and these are a far cheaper option than customized hardware.

      They are also a very good prototyping board to create a proof of concept before committing to real hardware

    1. Look in the direction of LiFePO4wered.
      I own two of those modules, and (at least one) works flawlessly. The other was DOA, seems the firmware was not flashed on it. Hopefully they will react and send me a working one,

  5. Perhaps am too ensconced in the limitations found in my particular neck of the unwooded desert. RPi is fun and useful for some domains, but cannot be considered industrial grade stuff. A simple ARM cortex solution would seem more direct and easier to implement and more reliable.

    1. But it /is/ a simple ARM Cortex solution. I haven’t come across many SBCs that are simpler. And certainly none that have better software support.

      We used to do a lot with industrial single board PCs and modbus. In terms of field reliability, Pis knock the socks off anything resembling x86. Pretty much anything we do now aside from full on multi-monitor workstations is ARM based nowadays and much better for it.

    2. PI real easy and easily as ‘industrial’ as many other SBC. Linux- No special IDE. No ridiculous licensing for 30$ worth of hardware being sold at 400$+ with extra$. Lower power requirements and not x86 near or at EOL tech. There are clones of PI with a little more processing power. PI is lacking large assortment of on-board ADC/DAC and peripherals commonly found on industrial boards. Reliability changes from manufacturer and board but so far PI has been exceptional comparatively for a non military spec device. Generic widely available Hats are getting better. I’ve used in-house only Hats that are far better than my own junk. Some of which 26 to 40 pin IO caused a little trouble solved by replacing older PI. Oh nooo 35$ or 20$ PIw available NOW. Point being that same PI is upgraded/modified by switching out Hats all of which keeps cost over runs down making bean counters happy(ier) . Not that all industry boards aren’t pluggable upgrade/mod path but cost tends to grow and specifically licensed IO port sticks developer into bad place. Yay i get to develop a device one time for a port and board that wont be available in near future with stupid level licensing agreement that cant be reasonably re-sold. My favorite being the licensing that runs till 2032 battery dies. Charming that.
      Lack of CF vs . SD still an issue with some requirements and lack of parallel bus with sufficient speed more still. So agree that it will not be replacing more powerful industry boards. Then again overpowered applications not new. Maybe an ESP32/8266 could replace the whole lot. Dont know. Hat in use not mentioned though appears to be fairly complex. 8*8 LED matrix withstanding.
      Raspberry PI has made its’ own niche thanks to a large community of support. The article mentioned is a bit dated in relevance and not timely for Tech community. Someone should notice that the PI is mentioned but no mention of the hat and its capabilities which would be of more interest to me.

  6. The real turning point was last year when they upgrade the Pi 3 with a FCC pre-approved WiFi and Bluetooth module which mean businesses like mine that want to leverage this device and the vast knowledge base behind it don’t have to run our products through the FCC for compliance testing which is very expensive for small businesses who want to break into the consumer markets with IoT devices

  7. Reliable? Around here they just keep running and working. I just got another RPI3 B+ for another project because they seem to work so well. Yes, the first ones seemed to have problems when you inserted a USB devices, but haven’t seen this problem in the latest hardware.

  8. I just got another RPI3 B+ for another project. These boards just seem to run. Not sure what the kick is with reliability as I’ve not run into anything that says they are ‘unreliable’. They just seem to sit there an run. I setup a pi-hole for fun a few weeks ago and it just cooks right along. A couple of other projects have been running for months at a time on my bench. Most all my PIs are running the ‘lite’ version of Raspbian as I don’t need the GUI for what I do.

    1. I have a pihole running here, as well as a webcam “server”, as well as a docker “server” running node red, plus a few more running OctoPrint for the 3D printers and they all seem reliable to me. I also have 4 zeros in ethernet gadget mode hooked up to a B+ as a docker swarm plaything. Having a MicroCenter nearby can get pricey:)

  9. Am I the only one who’s seeing this guy’s hair blink as I read the text? It’s like those calculators where your peripheral vision sees black dots in the corners between the keys.

    I know it’s Monday morning…but it’s really wigging me out (pun intended).

  10. Not only the rpi I think. I have seen many SOMs like it in industry and why not, it is a good deal and easy to use. Just check that if your product needs a non-typical certification it is actually possible with whatever SOM you use. Sadly, startup recently failed over this…

    1. I’ve had units dropped and kicked around and the only thing that happened was a USB drive dislodged. I now use the plastic sandisk ones and it’s never happened since. No uSD cards have ever fallen out and not one RPi has failed which is why our next product will be produced in aound 750+ units to replace old video capture USB dongles and PCs. Awesomeness is the RPi IMO.

  11. Industrial grade uSD cards make a big difference to reliability. You can grab 8GB cards from mouser etc for not much moolah. We have a bunch of pis running everything from lighting to printers to music and beer tracking at work. All steaming along with 400+ days of up time on them.

  12. “businesses are realizing they can build their own monitoring systems for as little as 1/10th the cost of turn-key systems; with managers occasionally paying for the diminutive Linux computers out of their own pocket.”

    I wonder if this is what happened with the Boeing 737 MAX 8.

  13. A Raspberry PI’s got a hardware watchdog timer and brownout detector on-board. That alone makes it already suitable for embedded/headless applications.

    Only issue is that the software stack is huge, compared to that running on a PIC or Atmel device. But that does mean that software development will be faster, as all software can be developed on a higher level. So it’s a con, but also a po. I think it evens out.

    I think the biggest issue with a Raspberry PI is the actual bootup time. If the hardware watchdog triggers, and the system has to reboot, then it takes a few seconds to boot, instead of milliseconds. If you don’t need fast reboot time, then the PI is perfect. But if you need something to run an assembly line, then every second counts, and a fast reboot and recovery is paramount.

    All in all, I don’t see why the PI should be avoided, other than on automatic assembly lines.

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