Extending IoT with the Raspberry Pi

Recently, the Raspberry Foundation has updated its embedded Compute Module with a faster ARM processor. This will help developers and businesses build new IoT devices. The new Compute Module 3 (CM3) comes with a powerful new option and embedded compute capabilities for device makers interested in the Internet of Things (IoT).

Although not to be confused with the Single Board Computer, the Raspberry Pi (RBPi), with which the CM3 also shared the latest update, is a tiny form-factor ARM-powered SBC originally developed to help both kids and adults learn computer programming.

Launched with the same form factor as that of the RBPi, the CM3 was specifically targeted at business and industrial users. While the RBPi is a completely standalone device, the CM3, on the other hand, is a module intended for plugging into a separate Printed Circuit Board. The primary aim of the Compute Module is to let vendors and developers develop customized products quickly.

The new CM3, like the RBPi3, also uses the same Broadcom system-on-chip (SoC), the ARM BCM2837. The ARM Cortex A53 design forms the base for the SoC BCM2837, which is a 1.2 GHz, quad-core chip running on 64 bits. As a bonus, the standard CM3 has an on-module eMMC flash memory of 4 GB.

Other than the standard CM3, the Raspberry Pi Foundation also has a CM3L or Compute Module 3 Lite version. With the CM3L, users can wire up their choice of an SD card interface or eMMC memory. While the CM3L also comes with the same BCM2837 SoC, the on-board RAM is still restricted to 1 GB only.

Along with the CM3 and the CM3L, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is also releasing the new Compute Module IO Board V3 (CMIO3). This will provide developers with a starter breakout board to which they can connect their Compute Module.

The CMIO3 offers designers a starting template for designing with the Compute Module, providing them with a quick method to experiment with the hardware and to build and test a system. Once the experiment succeeds, they can proceed with the expense of fabricating a custom board. The CMIO3 also provides the necessary USB and HDMI connectors to make up the entire system that boots up and runs the Raspbian OS, or any other OS you select.

Although the Raspberry Pi Foundation has only recently released new Command Modules, next generation large-format displays based on the modules are already available from the consumer electronics vendor NEC, as they had early access to them.

The idea behind the Compute Modules is to provide a cost-effective and easy route to making customized products using the hardware and software platforms of the RBPi. The modules provided the team in the garage the same technology that the big guys already had. The Module takes care of the complexity of routing the core power supply, the high-speed RAM interface, and the processor pins, while allowing a simple carrier board provide the basics in terms of form factor and external interfaces. The form factor of the module follows that of the inexpensive, easily available, standard DDR2 SODIMM.