About this project
Update : We are adding to the design support for Bluetooth Low Energy
Update : We are adding an IR receiver to OpenPi
Update : Check out OEM and EmonCMS running on OpenPi read more
Update : Microsoft are using OpenPi on Tech Days read more
Update: IoT hub running NodeRed, Resin.IO, Dashing and Allseen read more
Wouldn’t it be great to build hardware at the speed or cost of software?
OpenPi is an open source project, and a neat alternative to the Rasberry Pi Compute development kit. The holistic approach for non-embedded engineers, guides people who love to write software, through the problematic stages of getting small scale products to market. On offer are reference PCB’s, a customisable ABS case, open-source design files and collaborative design support. When it’s as easy to get up and running as a games console, and affordable enough for cottage industry inventors to profit from, OpenPi is forging a new way of bringing cool ideas to the masses.
Starting with the 32 bit ARM based Raspberry Pi Compute Module (and soon the Quad core v2), and combining it with a custom-designed motherboard with a pre-loaded Linux operating system, you can be up and running in seconds – giving you a games console type of experience. The Wireless Things and Bluetooth LE modules communicate with ultra-low power remote sensors, while Wi-Fi networking gives the OpenPi a connection to the Internet. Internal USB ports are provided for additional devices, all housed in an attractive and robust injection-moulded ABS casing that can be mass-produced at very low cost, even with your own customised logo.
We believe OpenPi represents a big step towards enabling people to create cool stuff like smartphone-controlled appliances, an Internet of Things hub, perhaps even heating controls similar to Google’s Nest. Our commitment to share the OpenPi design files, means more people can build cool stuff out of cool ideas, without enormous expense and whilst avoiding a 'homebrew feel'
The free design files are here wirelessthings.net/openpi
The datasheet is here wirelessthings.net/datasheets/openpi
“OpenPi is a really affordable and flexible way of making just about anything with the Raspberry Pi."
Russell Barnes, Raspberry Pi Today
“The OpenPi is excellent as an HTPC or Internet of Things server for consumers, or a powerful multi-role networked device for businesses”
Rob Zwetsloot (Senior Staff Writer) Linux User
"The OpenPi provides an excellent solution to the IoT maker or professional requiring a powerful and flexible gateway device. Simply integrated with Azure Event Hub, it connects local sensor webs to the cloud with ease."
Paul Foster – Principle Technical Evangelist – Microsoft UK
Sounds good, so what's inside?
Inside the injection moulded enclosure a is tiny 32 bit ARM based computer running Linux, 512Mb Ram, 4Gb eMMCstorage and lots of wireless connectivity. The design has 2 internal USB sockets, one spare, one used for WiFi and integrated: Infra RED receiver, Bluetooth LE module and an SRF sub Ghz transceiver for communicating with long range low power nodes, such as the XRF or Arduino compatible RFu.
Will you be supporting the Pi2 version with OpenPi? YES
The launch day of OpenPi also marks the launch of the Pi2, this new version will support Windows 10 and have almost 6 x the processing power of the original Pi - it will be a mighty little powerhouse. You can pledge for an OpenPi with a v2 compute today and be the first ever in the world to get your hands on the combo. The delivery date is our best estimate at present based on what we have heard from the Foundation.
What could you use it for?
• Internet of Things hub - ThingBox - Alljoyn
• Mini web server - LAMP stack
• HD Media player - RasBMC - XBMC
• Playing games - PiPlay
• Bluetooth ibeacon - The Register
• Central heating controller - link
• Security systems - PrivateEyePi
Need a helping hand getting started?
For some, the design files will be enough to get started, however for everyone else, we are the making the hardware you see pictured to buy, and in line with our whole reason for being – at an affordable price. We have done this because Capital equipment like pick & place machines, reflow ovens or solder robots are not things that many of us have.
An alternative to putting £26,000 on the line
After months of effort in design, prototyping and testing we had burnt through almost £12,000 (hardware is hard whoever you are!) Our journey you would hope ends there, however the next stage stretched us even further.
Another breakthrough in helping people make saleable products, is a production ready injection moulded case. The unique tooling we designed, can have a separate hardened metal insert. This means you can skip another £14,000 expense and have your logo embossed into the case for just £335 pounds.
Quick FAQ and what isn't the OpenPi?
You would not be the first to ask, but OpenPi is NOT a replacement for the Pi, that is already well covered and millions have been sold :) This is a computer to help those wanting to build products, with a combined need of Looks, ease of use, reliability, low power consumption and completely open designs. Enabling people to do this faster, cheaper and easier than ever before makes us really proud of what some of our customers have achieved over the last few years.
It's not got Ethernet because we are all about building low power wireless things, having Ethernet on board can more than double power consumption. At power consumption of 1.3W it costs you… £1.30 or ~$2 to power your OpenPi – for a year!
Are you supporting the Quad core Pi2 version of the Compute?
Yes we will be!
Can I go to any PCB house or manufacturer I wish? Absolutely, we’re also happy to introduce you to our friends at Ragworm
Are the injection moulded case design files also Open Source? The customisable logo pad will be, the rest of the box will not. Our embossed cases are available for £5 each, please contact us for custom logos or case colours. A case design service is planned for Autumn 2015, however to send your logo design off to the tool makers costs just £335 + VAT to machine. Again, we can introduce you to our reliable suppliers for this.
Wireless keyboard/trackpad/joystick in upper rewards
If the joys of SSH'ing into a Pi are new to you, then you might lean towards the higher reward levels because these include a combined wireless keyboard, mouse and game pad. Simply plug the OpenPi into an HDMI TV or monitor and give it power! Switch on the keyboard, type the user name and password then STARTX to launch a windows like environment, you can then setup WiFi etc.
It's a journey others have faced
How many of us have seen fantastic ideas brought to life in this way? You'll perhaps have even trodden a similar path?
Taking the above, and making it look like something you would buy becomes the next challenge, we found what was really needed is everything on a single tidy PCB (picture below courtesy of http://rpc.gehennom.org/2013/08/the-rpc-hardware/)
If like us you love the Pi, and see that it has by far the most vibrant community of makers, coders and inventors, and thought the Raspberry Pi Compute Module was your savior. However could not quite justify the £152, didn't feel entirely confident at the prospect of loading on an OS to the eMMC memory and only had access to free CAD software like EagleCAD, you were out of luck.
Making an attractive enclosure is easy, right?
We started out with what was readily available to us.
Our first 3D printed box (on the left below in red) was far from pretty, the easy to remove 3D supporting raft, remained stuck to the box face as you can see! Was it worth the week and a half we waited? I'll let you be the judge of that! We started to get to know the official Pi Compute dev board in earnest.
On the right of the picture you see our next effort, although a lot better looking, it still has an obvious home-brew feel. The PCB was our first attempt after working out all the Foundations schematics and drawing appropriate footprints in Eagle CAD. Most of the PCB didn't work as we hoped, the USB side, not at all.
In the centre we were getting close to a final version, the case this time was printed by Nottingham Trent University's Future Factory. The PCB now fits the case and maximises every last square millimetre. Having followed the guidelines on designing your own Compute baseboard, to the letter - you can imagine our relief when this time the USB worked properly......
........and it will look at home on your desk or by your TV.
How BIG is small?
Whoever you are, Hardware is hard work!
The OpenPi Kickstarter was initially planned for December, however as is often the case with hardware design it was (insert swear word of choice) two steps forward and one step back.
When the big order of WiFi dongles arrived with different chip-sets we could have cried.
Although we had copied (part for part) the referenced power supply, it proved fickle in 20% of the boards, leading us to our fifth revision of the board.
To get this far has taken us 94 man days and Columbia’s monthly export of coffee!
Why we are so excited for people who write software?
Having recently stumbled across a Farnell survey that claims 76% of software developers, (quick Google search suggests there's around 18 million in the world), say hardware development is a key element in turning software, into products fit for sale.
Anyone who knows our company, will know we are IT geeks who have chosen to build the kind of wireless products we would love to buy, that no one made.
While software can be written in days or weeks, a physical Apple device can take over 2 years. This highlights a real issue for product innovators. Growth of new markets like the Internet of Things demand practical tools to shortcut physical design. You could do like us and brew hardware "out of necessity", however (trust me) it's frustrating and expensive, which is why we think clubbing together is the fastest way to change things.
Visual studio apps on the Pi, really?
Recently we have been trying out Mono, it enables you to run dotnet apps under Linux. Because so many software people are familiar with C# and VB we thought it useful to install the runtime on the OS for you, we began our learning on how to use dotnet under Mono here
Makers, coders and inventors, having backed our previous Kickstarter campaigns, highlight there’s no better way to reach creative communities than crowdfunding.
Feedback from early adopters allows us to refine the end product and de-risk a commercial launch. Longer term, OpenPi will be available to buy through our distributors in 18 countries.
Risks and challenges
Having successfully completed a number of earlier Kickstarters, we are really familiar with how much time and effort is involved and can see how easily other people have become unstuck.
Fulfilling on time takes organisation, planning and making everyone you can aware in your supply chain what's about to happen. We are doing everything we can before hand. We have scheduled with Farnell the supply of the first 1000 compute modules. We have in our production schedule allocated enough time to build them. Everything is built and shipped here in Nottingham UK.
We are building in much more time for shipping because you would be surprised how long this takes, our previous SRF shield Kickstarter taught us this.
The other lesson is letting people know in real time how things are progressing.
That the Compute 2 doesn’t arrive in time, we’ll do our level best to get timely information from the foundation and if it looks like things will slip we will let you know.
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