Let's make IoT great, for the first time, with Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3

The new compute module comes with a 64-bit processor and 1GB of RAM, with the flexibility of on-board storage

IoT device vendors now have a very powerful and flexible board at their disposal. The Raspberry Pi foundation has launched the much-awaited Compute Module 3.

There are clear advantages of using the Compute Module instead of non-standard custom boards that are expensive to design and manufacture.  In addition to lowering hardware cost, it also reduced the load of software development.

The software is the core component of any smart device, and writing custom software for their own SoC poses many challenges for companies. They have to not only write but also maintain the software, and bugs remain undetected and exploited. As these companies move to newer versions of hardware, they have to write new custom software for those new versions of hardware, which leaves older devices unmaintained and unpatched. There is way too much custom software to be maintained.

In a nutshell: it's a nightmare.

Compute Module offers relief to such IoT and embedded device vendors. Being a standard board, it has great support for Linux and Windows IoT Core. This means companies don't have to worry about the security, compatibility, and maintenance of the base operating systems. They can focus on delivering their applications.

Big companies have already started using the compute module in their products. Last year, NEC announced that they will be using the Compute Module in their large displays for corporate customers.

"Integrating the Raspberry Pis with our displays will provide businesses with advanced technology suitable for digital signage, streaming and presenting to enhance the overall visual experience at an affordable price point," said Stefanie Corinth, Senior Vice President Marketing, and Business Development at NEC Display Solutions Europe GmbH.

What's new in the board?

There are actually 2 Compute Module 3 boards: one standard version and one Lite version. Both versions are powered by the BCM2837 processor, the same chip that's used in Raspberry Pi 3. Both boards come with 1GB of RAM. 

The only difference between the two modules is on-board memory. The standard board comes with 4GB of onboard storage for operating system and applications. Compute Module 3 Lite doesn't come with any onboard storage and instead offers the flexibility of installing an SD card socket or eMMC Flash, which means customers are not limited to 4GB of space.

Both boards are compatible with DDR2 SODIMM connector, which is used in laptops for installing RAM. While the storage interface is connected directly to the processor on the board, the rest of the processor interfaces, including display, audio, networking, and camera are available via the connector pins. As a result, users actually get more GPIOs and interfaces as compared to Raspberry Pi 3 board, which also means better control over the device.

But how do you develop for the board, or deploy an application when no interface is available? The Pi Foundation has it covered for you. The foundation has launched the version 3 of Compute Module Development board that comes with a DDR2 SODIMM connector to plug in the Compute Module. The board comes with 120 GPIO pins, an HDMI port, a USB port, two camera ports, and two display ports. In a nutshell, once you insert the CM3 into the board, you pretty much have the ‘Raspberry Pi 3' at your disposal.

Element 14 is selling the Compute Module for $30, Compute Module 3 Lite for $25 and a Compute Module Development Kit for $200.

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