Pi Lite: Bright White LED Display with the Raspberry Pi

If you did not know, you can run many LEDs with the tiny, credit card sized single board computer popular as the RBPi or Raspberry Pi. Among the many accessories made for the RBPi using LEDs, Ciseco makes one that is very interesting and useful. This is a display panel using bright white LEDs and aptly named the Pi Lite. You can use the series of white LEDs on the Pi Lite as a scrolling marquee for a Twitter feed, for displaying real-time weather information or stock quotes. You can use it to display static information such as time or functional information such as bar graphs, or other dashboard type applications such as VU meters. On the other hand, you could even play such games as Pong. Pi Lite is strong enough to view in direct sunlight.

Pi Lite is completely self-contained and does not require any soldering. You can get Pi Lite in two colors – white and red. For operation, simply connect Pi Lite to the GPIO pins of the RBPi, and you are set. GitHub has several open-source projects that you can download or you could do your own programming using Python code.

If you are just starting out with the RBPi, Pi Lite is an exciting way to let RBPi do some physical work and generate some fun. The large LED matrix display is easy to plug in and add-on. Since no soldering or any other special skills are needed, anyone can simply start using the Pi Lite for their project.

All the 126 LEDs on the Pi Lite are in the form of a 14×9 matrix, with an ATMega328p processor controlling them. This mixes the highly popular LOL or Lots of LEDs shield of Arduino with the world of RBPi. The Pi Lite communicates with the RBPi via the standard serial communication protocol at 9600bps. That makes it a simple affair to send graphics and text to the LED matrix. With the ATMega processor driving the 126 LEDs, the RBPi processor and its GPIOs remain free for other functions.

The Pi Lite offers several advantages. You can read your emails or tweets from a distance in real time. The firmware being open-source, you can add extra functions as you like. You can achieve multiple functions by sending simple text strings – scroll the text, VU meter, bar graph and or graphics. You can use the well tried, tested and supported LOL shield by Jimmy Rogers. The serial interface makes Pi Lite useful for connecting to any TTL micro radio or PC interface – you can use the popular FTDI cable.

The Pi Lite uses a high quality gold plated PCB. No extra power supply is required, as Pi Lite draws only 49mA maximum at 5VDC, so the RBPi supply can power it. With preloaded software, you can use it out of the box and display variable speed scrolling text, 14 vertical bars as a bar graph, two horizontal bars as VU meter, frame buffer for animation and graphics, or turn on or off individual pixels.

To make a bigger display, you can link up additional Pi Lites with the I2C bus. Each Pi Lite measures 85x55x13.7mm.