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Smaller, $30 Raspberry Pi targets industrial users

14 April, 2014

The organisation that developed the tiny, low-cost Raspberry Pi computer has announced the development of an even smaller version aimed at industrial and commercial applications. The Rasbperry Pi Compute module, which is expected to cost around $30 in batches of 100, is essentially a Raspberry Pi shrunk down to fit onto a SODIMM board, along with onboard memory.

The new version is integrated onto a 67.6 x 30mm board which contains the guts of the original device (a BCM2835 processor and 512Mbyte of RAM) as well as a 4Gbyte of Flash memory (which is equivalent to the SD card in the original Pi). The photo below shows how the Compute board (left) compares in size with the original Raspberry Pi.

The board plugs into a standard DDR2 SODIMM connector, similar to those used to expand laptop memory. The Flash memory is connected directly to the processor on the board, but the remaining processor interfaces are available to the user via the connector pins, allow them to customise connections for their own applications.

Users will have access to many more GPIOs (general-purpose inputs/outputs) and interfaces than on the original Raspberry Pi. In a blog post on the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Web site, the organisation’s director of hardware, James Adams, says that designing the module into a custom system should be relatively straightforward “as we’ve put all the tricky bits onto the module itself”.

The new module is aimed mainly at users who are going to create their own host PCBs. But the organisation is also launching a product called the Compute Module IO Board ­– a simple, open-source breakout board into which developers can plug a Compute Module. The IO Board powers the module, and allows users to program the module’s Flash memory and to access its processor interfaces. It also provides HDMI and USB connectors to form a complete system that can boot the Raspbian operating system (or another OS).

The new Raspberry Pi Compute board (centre) plugged into an IO Board

The IO Board provides a starting point for those who want to design with the Compute Module, as well as a quick way to start experimenting with the hardware and building and testing a system, before going to the expense of fabricating a custom board.

Starting in June, the Compute Module and IO Board will be available together as a development kit. Shortly after that, the Compute Module will be made available separately, at a unit cost of around $30 in batches of 100. The boards will also be available individually, at a slightly higher price. The Raspberry Pi Foundation is releasing schematics for both the Compute Module and IO Board, and will be adding other documentation over the coming weeks.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation operates as a charity which ploughs back the profits from its products into educating children in computing. More than 2.5 million of the original Raspberry Pi have already been sold worldwide.

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