Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Mighty Raspberry Pi – According to Developer Solutions

According to Wikipedia, as of 8 June 2015, about five to six million Raspberry Pis have been sold. While already the fastest selling British personal computer, it has also shipped the second largest number of units behind the Amstrad PCW, the "Personal Computer Word-processor", which sold eight million.

Windows IoT running on The Raspberry Pi is different from Windows running on a PC or tablet.  When it is first plugged in and booted– it essentially runs an app and the only app that is going to run, what’s known as headed mode.  This startup app can be replaced with a Windows Universal App.

However, the Pi can run in headless mode with no UI and no interactive apps whatsoever which is great for freeing up system resources. Any apps installed now run like services, for example, you can use it as a web server (hosted on your network).  As you do not need a front end, just a black box, it is very quick as nothing else is running and competing for resources.  It only runs the bits it needs (ASP.NET Core 1 previously ASP.NET V5). 

At Developer Solutions, we can build an app on a PC using Visual Studio 2015 and publish it over to Raspberry Pi as if it was a Windows Server running IIS in the Server room. (OK, maybe a bit of configuration will be needed – but not a lot).

The only issue that we can think of is that it is fairly new (in fact it is still in development within the Open Source community).  It is so new and is evolving so quickly that every time you look at it a new feature is added. 

The other nice thing we like is that you are able to debug code line-by-line across the network from Visual Studio, which you certainly would not expect possible with such a small device.

With some testing and development we have been able to interface forty plus items with it.  It has sensors for everything, examples include temperature, weight, distance, humidity, RFID. 

From a commercial perspective, we are in the process of working with a large manufacturer using RFID sensors and bar code scanning and also possibly using an infrared sensor to manage their stock control to highlight to the team when a bin is getting empty.

The cost is great too!  In fact it costs under £50.  Also cost-wise, implementing Windows IOT is free (if you are prepared to accept updates as and when they are released – you cannot defer them).  Unless you pay for the commercial license which lets you control updates for live systems.  You can click here for more information. 

We are MS Visual Studio developers at Developer Solutions and are familiar with this environment to build a piece of software.  We are also working with a client at the moment and taking an old piece of hardware that uses radio and serial communications and are connecting it to the Pi which in turn is connecting to the Cloud.

Industry is looking at it as serious contender for putting Windows inside things, such as fridges, cars, etc.  And that is where we see the future.  And guess what?  We like it! 

Written by Jamie, Senior Developer, Developer Solutions

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