Is Raspberry Pi the future for low-cost embedded display technology?

Author : Richard Murton, Managing Director at Display Technology

04 August 2017

Raspberry Pi

Finding a controller isn’t the problem, but for small to medium businesses with low volume requirements, it can be difficult to access the support and custom solution that is often required. This piece discusses an alternative approach.

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For modern displays, it’s vital to be able to intelligently network them. Smart devices need a ‘brain’; usually, this will be a microcontroller. Many Asian manufacturers produce these on a large scale, with new models being released all the time.

Traditionally, embedded systems utilise industrial single board computers. Although many options are available, there is little scope to customise in low to medium volumes. And as processor technology continues to become more powerful, it introduces complexity when often the industrial application simply does not require this level of performance. With increased complexity, other negative factors come into play, including heat generation (demanding greater cooling) and reliability concerns.

A potential solution is Raspberry Pi, originallly conceived as an experimental and educational board. The CM3 (Compute Module 3) is the latest version of this popular platform, integrating Pi technology into an embedded DDR2 SODIMM module. With enough power to run even demanding applications, the CM3 also has guaranteed availability of six years, backwards-compatibility with its predecessors, plus support for Windows 10 IoT and Android Things. A key advantage of Raspberry Pi applications is exceptional community support: with its OpenSource software, resolutions are available for almost every problem.

The CM3 can also be plugged into a BaseBoard, similar to a RAM memory module. Eliminating cable mess, this makes it easier to develop your own platform. Smart solutions are available off the shelf, including a DICOM preset for medical applications, colour calibrations, gamma corrections and more.

The LCD backlight can either be controlled directly using an on-screen display or automatically via an ambient light sensor. Since its creation, Raspberry Pi has continued to improve and provides small to medium businesses with easier opportunities to take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Based around the new CM3, Display Technology have designed the Artista IoT BaseBoard, offering unique control solutions for many applications. Designed for industrial applications, Artista IoT connects nearly all common TFT displays without the need for additional hardware, supporting modern PCAP multi-touch. The TFT controller is not only reliable, but offers long-term availability.

The powerful processor and fully-fledged scaler chip make it a good choice for solutions in the industrial, medical and digital signage sectors. Its ability to work without an expensive PC – and therefore license costs – make it an extremely cost-effective option.

The board offers maximum flexibility with IO, including Ethernet, I2C, GPIOs, UART and USB, and can be integrated into your own display (using an aluminium box on the rear) or combined with an open-frame chassis to meet exact mounting requirements. The Artista IoT Starter Kit includes a BaseBoard, CM3, a bright 10.1” IPS display with multi-touch PCAP, and all required cables. Also included is a programming adaptor and configuration software. Pre-installed Raspbian enables easy set-up, with the support of a large community.

The possibilities offered by the Raspberry Pi platform have far exceeded the originally conceived product. It provides small and medium businesses with powerful capabilities to enhance their projects, whilst also remaining affordable. The question that now remains is: how much further can this technology be developed in the future?

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