Sony Announces Deal That Puts AI Chip On Raspberry Pis

April 18, 2023 by Dave Haynes

It is reasonable to suggest that when the first iterations of Raspberry Pi single board computers came on the market, the main interests among the digital signage community was as a micro PC that – at $35 for a barebones device – could take some of the hardware cost out of digital signage.

This was 2012-2013, when media play-out devices still cost $400 or more, and smart displays were not yet a thing. Vendors were also attracted by the teeny size – tuck-able behind a display.

A decade on, Raspberry Pis are much more than interesting little gizmos for the maker crowd and computing classes in public schools. They have much more power and speed, and are used as media players by several digital signage software and solutions companies. Raspberry Pi-based deployments are probably just a fraction of the overall installed base of digital signage, they’re more than a novelty.

And now they just got more interesting, because of an investment and technology partnership involving Sony.

Sony’s semiconductor division sees small, low cost Raspberry Pis as a way to expand use of its AI tech. The idea, suggests the tech blog Engadget, is to give Raspberry Pi users around the world a development platform for its Aitrios edge computing (on-chip) AI platform used for image sensing functions like facial recognition.  

“Our goal is to provide new value to a variety of industries and support them in solving issues using our innovative edge AI sensing technology built around image sensors,” says Terushi Shimizu, President and CEO of Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation. “We are very pleased to be partnering with Raspberry Pi Ltd. to bring our AITRIOS platform — which supports the development of unique and diverse solutions utilizing our edge AI devices — to the Raspberry Pi user and developer community, and provide a unique development experience.”

“Sony Group is a longstanding and valued strategic partner. Our pre-existing relationship encompasses contract manufacturing, and the provision of image sensors and other semiconductor products,” adds Eben Upton, CEO of Raspberry Pi Ltd. “This transaction will allow us to expand our partnership, bringing Sony Semiconductor Solutions’ line of AI products to the Raspberry Pi ecosystem, and helping our users to build exciting new machine-learning applications at the edge.”

The developer page for Aitrios provides some clues as to why software and solutions companies might be interested.

A lot of processing for AI applications like computer vision is done in the cloud, but Aitrios does edge computing, doing the heavy AI lifting on the chips. The sample use-cases will be familiar to anyone working with retail – presence detection, dwell time, and audience counting and characterization. It also gets into inventory monitoring and retention, and “detailed employee analysis.”

I was saying to a couple of market analysts earlier today that data integration and AI are two big keys to digital signage going forward. Having an AI chip right on the small, low-cost device driving screens seems pretty interesting and applicable.

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