The Raspberry Pi Foundation is celebrating the fourth anniversary of the tiny computer's launch with a new model that adds more performance and wireless connectivity for the first time, making the device even better suited for applications involving the Internet of Things (IoT).
The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is available immediately from Raspberry Pi partners such as Element 14 and RS Components. It is 10 times faster than the original Raspberry Pi, and about twice as fast as last year's Raspberry Pi 2, but still keeps to the original price of about £25.
It also has the same form factor, the same 1GB memory, and the same general purpose I/O specifications as its predecessor.
The new Raspberry Pi has been upgraded with a Broadcom BCM2837 SoC that bumps the clock speed up to 1.2GHz. It is based on four 64-bit ARM Cortex-A53 cores for the first time, although the Raspbian Linux that forms the default operating system is still available only in a 32-bit build at present.
However, the major new feature is the inclusion of wireless support. A built-in antenna plus 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4 interfaces are expected to make the device even better suited for IoT applications, which Raspberry Pi Trading and Element 14 see as a key area for the device.
"We think this is very exciting now that we have Bluetooth 4 and Bluetooth Low Energy support, which will position the Raspberry Pi well as an IoT hub in future," said Eben Upton, Raspberry Pi Foundation founder and chief executive of Raspberry Pi Trading.
Bluetooth Low Energy is a second low-power wireless interface added to the Bluetooth 4.0 specifications that is used to connect to small battery-powered devices such as sensors.
"I think that many will want to get their hands on the Raspberry Pi 3 to try out the extra speed and onboard wireless functionality," said Richard Curtin, director for strategic alliances at Element 14.
Element 14 launched a custom manufacturing service for hardware based on the Raspberry Pi in October last year. Curtin said that this is going well and that many designs are already in progress targeting IoT applications.
"Many have related to the IoT, whether as a gateway device or an industrial controller, so we see massive potential for this in the future with the new Raspberry Pi 3," he added.
One firm on hand to support the Raspberry Pi 3 launch was Microsoft. Dan Rosenstein, the firm's principal technical programme manager, demonstrated a Raspberry Pi running Windows 10 IoT Core controlling a spinning wheel and keeping it at a constant speed through feedback from a sensor.
The launch of the Raspberry Pi 3 comes just a year after the Raspberry Pi 2, but Upton explained that the new model is likely to be around for longer, and that he does not want to get into a situation where people expect an upgraded model every year, as in the smartphone market.
However, he said that there will be a new version of the Raspberry Pi Compute Module based on the Raspberry Pi 3 hardware in the near future, and a Raspberry Pi 3 Model A to complement the Model B launched today.
"When the Raspberry Pi 2 launched, all the available chips got pulled into Model B production, and we didn't get around to a Compute Module or a Model A based on that," Upton explained.
He also said that, while it is pleasing to see the device getting a lot of attention in the hobbyist and industrial markets, the educational side of Raspberry Pi is still at the Foundation's heart.
"It could be easy to get carried away selling to adult hobbyists and the industrial market, but we are seeing children find the Raspberry Pi exciting and a useful path into computing," he said.
"The whole reason we got into this is that people weren't applying for computer science courses anymore. We're starting to see that reverse now, and we believe the Raspberry Pi is partly responsible," he said.
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