Hardware

Raspberry Pi ripe for business?

March 17th, 2016
Consumerised hardware that supports open architectures is a growing component of the new software-defined everything concept. An example of this type of hardware is the Raspberry Pi, writes RUAN VENTER, Principal Consultant at Ovations.
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The consumerisation of IT and more importantly IT infrastructure is a growing trend in an industry where the application is fast becoming king. In short CIOs need infrastructure that supports open standards, is flexible enough to slot into a growing digital and cloud based architecture, and that won’t break the bank while still delivering on his innovation mandate.

At Ovations we are constantly looking for new ways in which we can meet the needs of the customer, yet can still foster an environment for innovation and development. It is with this that we have started looking at the possible use of the Raspberry Pi computer as a device that answers the call for consumerised hardware that can provide a platform for the rapid deployment of new applications in an enterprise while ensuring it stays affordable and cheap to deploy in any environment.

What is Raspberry Pi?

In short the Raspberry Pi is, according to the manufacturer “a low cost, credit-card sized PC that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse”. Initially a device that was designed to encourage the use of technology amongst children, the Raspberry Pi has evolved significantly.

Even though the main supported operating system is Raspbian you can install other operating systems such as Ubuntu MATE, Ubuntu Core, OSMC, RIS OS, Windows 10 IoT and much more.

As the Pi is capable of performing all the tasks a normal desktop computer does, from browsing the Internet, to creating and disseminating business documents, its use can be far more pervasive than just an educational tool.

Think big

The device was designed to be low cost, and keeping costs low is a major driving point for the manufacturer. It’s the perfect entry level device for companies looking to leverage full computing power in a more streamlined and cost affordable way.

As an example, if you were to couple the device with beacon technology you could create an alerts driven environment – that through communicating to each other can set off a series of events. Think about this in a manufacturing or supply chain environment where beacons alert devices of tasks completed and through a daisy chain effect, the devices then start the next set of processes in logistics or production environment. It’s the true concept of automation.

Or let’s take a bank as an example. On arrival your device is picked up on entry into the environment and your query is solved by the time you reach the counter. Another example is home automation, linking your Pi to an intelligent home environment will allow you to define when geysers, heating, air-conditioning, and even lights are turned on or off – here the potential resource savings aspects are endless.

Not thinking big enough? What about snapping security pictures on entry into a building, hooking it into a PLC for the remote management of plants, making use of it as a card swiping or POS mechanism in a retail environment, or using it in mines to track and trace equipment and even people?

Open to the core

The Raspberry Pi presents a unique opportunity for businesses for a simple reason. It is open. And when they say it is open it really is. It’s a developer’s dream to work with and as a result a myriad applications can be built for the system using Python languages or a host of other freely available coding languages.

If we take into account that the next wave of computing – cloud computing – is upon us and this is opening the doors to technology concepts such as the Internet of Things (IoT) as well as fostering the growth of the digital business based on systems that are cloud native, the only limit when using the Raspberry Pi is your imagination – or the skills of your developers.

A business tool

Why should a business start looking at devices such as the Raspberry Pi? It is not just the Pi itself that we need to consider – it’s the entire opportunity it presents. Consumerised hardware that supports open architectures are most certainly a growing component of the new software-defined everything concept that is shaping IT today.

CIOs rely on their IT departments to not just keep the lights on, but also to innovate and position their businesses as competitive in this increasingly digital world. Think about the potential of hooking cost effective devices that you can write to, secure and communicate with, across multiple geographies at a lower cost than the current handhelds or tablets available today.

Suddenly the security risks of BYOD (Bring your own device) fly out the window as you remain in control, but the computing power needed by your users is still provided to them. Bear in mind that they recently sent a Raspberry Pi into space, even built an underwater Drone to take photos using one.

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