Raspberry Pi 3 adds integrated connectivity and more processing power in bid to become an ‘IoT hub’
The Raspberry Pi Foundation hopes that the inclusion of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in the third generation of its eponymous single board computer will allow it to become a “hub” for the Internet of Things (IoT).
Speaking at an event in London on the fourth anniversary of the launch of the original Raspberry Pi, Foundation CEO Eben Upton said the increased power and connectivity would improve the appeal of the device for industrial and smart home applications.
“We’ve been able to increase the amount of processing power and integrate connectivity,” he said, noting that the Raspberry Pi 3 had a 1.2GHz 64-bit quad core ARM Corex-A53 CPU manufactured by Broadcom – an increase from the 900GHz chip included in the Raspberry Pi 2.
“That’s roughly a tenfold increase from Raspberry Pi 1,” Upton noted.
Raspberry Pi 3
The computer features integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi for the first time as well as support for Bluetooth 4.1 – meaning it can support the low power functions of the short range standard. In addition, the Raspberry Pi 3 will work with the Windows 10 IoT core.
The Raspberry Pi 3 has the same form factor as its precicessors, with which it is fully compatible, and costs the same price – $35 (£25).
When asked by TechWeekEurope why integrated connectivity had not been included in previous models, Upton said it was a “cost and capability issue” as including radio functionality is more complicated.
“There wasn’t room in the Pi 2 model, there is now,” he replied, explaining that only in the past 12 months have engineers been able to implement it. “We think there is a real future for the Raspberry Pi 3 as an IoT hub.”
Despite being initially envisioned as an educational tool when launched in 2012, the Raspberry Pi has found fans in the business world. Upton reiterated that the primary function of the computer was to encourage children to take up computer science but added he also expected integrated connectivity to increase the device’s popularity in industry.
“The education side for the Raspberry Pi Foundation is still at the heart of what we do,” he said. “We’re an education charity – not a for profit organisation. The most gratifying thing for me is seeing these get into the hands of children.”
It is thought that half of the eight million Raspberry Pi units sold to date have been bought by hobbyists, with the remainder split between industry and education.
Manufacturing partner Element14, which has made five million of the eight million Raspberry Pi units sold to date, says it expects the industrial share to accelerate with the release of the third generation and will support the launch with its customisation programme and new accessories.
Many of the consultations it undertakes with prospective customers relate to the Internet of Things (IoT), and combined with its IBM IoT starter kit and PiFace – which physically connects to things like fans and lights and can monitor sensors – mean it senses a huge opportunity.
“We expect many customers who [already] have a Raspberry Pi will want to get their hands on Raspberry Pi 3,” said Richard Curtin, head of strategic alliances at Element14. “We see massive potential for Pi in this market.”
The Raspberry Pi 3 is technically a ‘Model B’ version of the computer, but the Foundation will release a new entry level ‘Model A’ at some point during 2016.
The Raspberry Pi Model A+ will continue to be the cheapest available device at $20 (£14) until that point, but the Foundation says it will continue to sell all generations of the computer while there is still demand as many industrial customers have adopted earlier versions.