Let’s take a look at the opinions from different engineers on what they consider while selecting a developer board.


TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS

If one has to implement simple logic based algorithms using simple control loop structures of programming, a micro controller based developer kit would be apt. “Arduino and its variants would be easy to learn and quickly prototype. Most MCUs have Embedded C based programming interfaces, although in recent times we have seen Java / .net cross compilers for MCUs. However, C based interface are stable and remains the most widely used,” explains Darshan Virupaksha, systems engineer,Altiux Innovations and co-organiser of IoTBLR.

He adds that if one has more computational requirements like image processing and intends to have faster communications interfaces, Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone or UDOO boards are useful. High-level languages are very well supported on any of these Linux platforms. Since these platforms run some flavour of Linux prototyping becomes simpler. Hence for use cases involving all media processing, machine leaning algorithms and faster connectivity one could use the above-mentioned Linux platforms.

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All MCU based boards can easily run on battery power. All though a Raspberry Pi can be technically supported with just a battery, it is not a viable option at all. While an MCU-based board would support low power requirements (0.3 W), the latter would need around 10W of continuous power. Hence it makes more sense to have an MCU-based board like the Arduino in these cases.

Arduino boards have huge collection of shields for all applications, where as Raspberry Pi has a limited set of shields because of its limited I/O interfaces. Raspberry Pi provides on board interfaces like Ethernet and allows quick use of any USB device, hence opening up a range of options for the developers.

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COST
Boards like the Raspberry Pi are cheaper since the production numbers are quite high. This allows the company to minimise manufacturing costs due to economies of scale, and pass on the savings to the end-customer. “It is also much easier to integrate an open source board rather then developing your own PCB from scratch,” adds Upton.

“I started my son off with Snap Circuits, and he’s moved on to Lego Mindstorms in his local Robotics club at school. I would like to see accessibility improve with lower prices, and many boards from the major semiconductor companies are already subsidized. But for the best marriage of accessible (i.e., low cost) hardware and information, I think Arduino has that nailed,” explains Lynnette Reese, technical team lead, Mouser Electronics.

 

WHAT BOARDS DO OUR CONTRIBUTORS RECOMMEND?

1. Raspberry Pi 2 was launched with a quad-core 900 MHz ARM CPU, 2 GB SDRAM and complete compatibility with the Raspberry Pi 1. Best of all, it comes at the same price! It runs on the BCM2836 chip from Broadcom, and as an additional surprise, it is now supported by Microsoft’s Windows 10 for free to makers.

2. Arduino Zero is a 32-bit development board powered by Atmel’s ARM-based SAMD21 microcontroller. Additional key hardware specs include 256kb of flash, 32kb SRAM in a TQFP package and compatibility with 3.3V shields that conform to the Arduino R3 layout. The Arduino Zero board also boasts flexible peripherals along with Atmel’s Embedded Debugger (EDBG) – facilitating a full debug interface on the SAMD21 without the need for supplemental hardware.

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3. CES Innovation Awards 2015 winner WaRPboard is a wearables reference platform (WaRP) based on open sourced hardware and software tools. Driven by the WaRPboard.org community, it is supported by Freescale’s chips, hardware designed by Revolution Robotics and software designed by Kynetics. The main board comes with an i.MX 6SoloLite running at 1GHz, while the daughter board comes with Kinetis KL16 MCU.

4. LittleBits is a development kit that snaps together with its magnetic little pieces. It quickly helps you get started in developing your own module for the bitLab. It allows you to connect to PCBs and breadboards, while also allowing you to build a small circuit right on the module. When you’re ready to design your own PCB, the included grey bitSnap connectors come in handy.

5. UDOO is a quad core CPU powered development platform for Android, Linux, Arduino and Google ADK 2012. It comes with a full GB of RAM as well as 3 separate accelerators for 2D, OpenGL ES2.0 3D and OpenVG. One big benefit that the UDOO offers is its compatibility with all sketches, tutorials and resources available for the Arduino community. This includes all those shields, sensors and actuators that you’ve collected over the years.

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“Open source boards have been a great tool for prototyping and R&D, because the boards were well documented and as a result offered much better support compared to proprietary boards,” says Eben.

He adds that engineers would also always want to figure out a way to get things done as quickly as possible. Additionally, even with the help of a board, there is still plenty of hard work left in the form of integration.

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If you look at the market, there are very few products that come out in the form of just a Raspberry Pi and a box – they are always integrated to something else like FPGAs or other systems. “Even for me, it is kind of difficult to put down an Atmel chip on to a new board while designing a new project,” he adds.

“Using such platforms is advantageous for product developers as the complete hardware design, firmware, open source OS and reference projects are already available and give them a head start in their product development. The developer will have to only focus on developing the application and ID design (look and feel) to take the product to market,” suggests Selvaraj Kaliyappan , vice president – PES Engineering, Mistral Solutions.

 

SURVEY: HOW DO OTHER ENGINEERS DECIDE WHICH DEVELOPMENT PLATFORM TO CHOSE?

An online survey that we had conducted at EFY’s Electronics Design Community (faceboook.com/designelectronics) showed that most of the respondents select a developer platform based on how easy it is to use.

This is followed by how much the board costs, and whether it is available locally. More than 40 per cent of the respondents also feel that availability of support for the platform is very important

ZCB_techfocus23feb

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