Another day, another low cost development platform

1 min read

Another day, another low cost development platform - or so it seems. Although this trend appears to have started with the Raspberry Pi, it was the Beagle Board that set the pace back in 2008.

Focused around an OMAP3530 SoC from Texas Instruments, Beagle Board boasted an ARM Cortex-A8 processor, a capable 2D/3D graphics processor and a multimedia accelerator. It represented a significant break with the past. Previously, engineers had a choice of developing their projects on PCs, almost always limiting them to an x86 processor and the Windows operating system, or using what were quite expensive development boards from microcontroller suppliers. Suddenly, engineers could get their hands on a relatively cheap, but very capable, development board that ran Linux and introduced them to open source software. More importantly, perhaps, the advent of such boards opened the world of embedded system development to hobbyists, who had effectively been disenfranchised by the relatively 'closed shop' approach of technology suppliers. The rest, as they say, is history as the Beagle Board was followed by Arduino boards, the Raspberry Pi and similar devices. Last week saw two more such devices launched - Imagination unveiled the CI20, while Broadcom added an IoT prototyping kit to its WICED development platform. While industry watchers are asking how many more of these devices might be needed, customers are, apparently, saying 'keep them coming'. Imagination's website crashed under the heavy demand, even though its boards will only be available to selected projects for the moment. Is this heavy demand coming from industry, however? When Raspberry Pi was launched, it was intended to be an educational device, rather than a 'plaything' for engineers. But it turned out that the reverse was the case. Even so, should that be regarded as a bad thing?