Does An Even Smaller Raspberry Pi Offer New Digital Signage Uses?
April 9, 2014 by Dave Haynes
The teeny $45 Raspberry Pi micro-computers just got smaller, with a new mini module that shrinks down the size of the device and opens up some new possibilities for digital signage applications.
The Pi devices were already quite small, but the new module is small enough to fit inside a small display enclosure, opening up possibilities for things like merchandising displays and meeting room message signs. Both of those use-cases are now served by tablets, but that tends to mean using Android, iOS or Windows 8. Pi means your chosen flavor of Linux.
It also means a little computing device can be snapped into other, larger computing devices in the field, serving as monitors to feed back data and triggers that could be visualized or used for digital signage content and scheduling.
The new devices are also interesting because they consume only 1 watt of energy, and as hydro costs keep rising, every little bit of energy savings matters.
Here’s the explainer from the Raspberry Pi people:
From humble beginnings, the Raspberry Pi platform has grown and matured: the software is now full-featured and stable, and is still constantly improving thanks to the continuing hard work of our heroic community of volunteers; as well as targeted injections of funding to solve some specific issues. The Pi, and the Broadcom BCM2835 SoC at its heart, are also steadily becoming more open.
We love hearing about what users are doing with their Raspberry Pis, and are constantly amazed at the range of projects, as well as the inventiveness and creativeness of the community. We are also aware that there are a very significant number of users out there who are embedding the Raspberry Pi into systems and even commercial products. We think there needs to be a better way to allow people to get their hands on this great technology in a more flexible form factor, but still keep things at a sensible price.
Like proud parents, we want to free the core technology of the Raspberry Pi to go forth and become an integral part of new and exciting products and devices, and so today we are announcing the forthcoming Raspberry Pi Compute Module.
The compute module contains the guts of a Raspberry Pi (the BCM2835 processor and 512Mbyte of RAM) as well as a 4Gbyte eMMC Flash device (which is the equivalent of the SD card in the Pi). This is all integrated on to a small 67.6x30mm board which fits into a standard DDR2 SODIMM connector (the same type of connector as used for 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. You get the full flexibility of the BCM2835 SoC (which means that many more GPIOs and interfaces are available as compared to the Raspberry Pi), and designing the module into a custom system should be relatively straightforward as we’ve put all the tricky bits onto the module itself.
So what you are seeing here is a Raspberry Pi shrunk down to fit on a SODIMM with onboard memory, whose connectors you can customize for your own needs.
The Compute Module is primarily designed for those who are going to create their own PCB. However, we are also launching something called the Compute Module IO Board to help designers get started.
There are at least 13 companies and organizations of varying sizes and degrees of seriousness – from tinkerers and open source efforts to full-throated businesses – with Raspberry Pi-driven digital signage solutions. Expect more to come, driven by low cost, open source and surprisingly good video performance when properly tweaked.