Hint: if you don't know what Raspberry Pi is (for real? o_O), check this video: http://www.raspberrypi.org/help/what-is-a-raspberry-pi/
Now, when we've covered the basics, let's summarize ...
... the recent announcements
Few days ago Eben Upton has announced that a new version (2 Model B) of Raspberry Pi is happening & ... it's on sale already: http://www.raspberrypi.org/raspberry-pi-2-on-sale/. Pricetag doesn't change (35 bucks), "horsepower" goes up (6x computing, 2x memory). It is backwards compatible.
On the very same day, Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will run on Raspberry Pi 2 Model B: http://dev.windows.com/en-us/featured/raspberrypi2support as a result of on-going long term cooperation between Raspberry Pi Foundation & Microsoft. What is more, it's going to be free ("for Maker community" - rules for selling commercial solutions based on Pi + W10 are not known yet).
Why does it matter?
Should we care?
Quite likely. Actual hardware spec boost doesn't really much matter by itself, but what we've just got is:
- a very cheap (35 USD) ...
- and small machine ...
- with a limited apetite for energy (ARM) ...
- and very open, extensible architecture
- that's capable of running forthcoming Universal Apps -> yes, the very same that will be running on phones, tablets & PCs
Of course most likely there will be some limitations, but just imagine that:
- you can in a very simple way plug in any input / output device you want -> detectors / sensors / cameras / displays / switches / network adapters
- you can use Microsoft Stack (& tools) for the development (sounds better than Scratch, isn't it?)
- you don't need a lot of space / heavy power supply for that
I'm not saying every Kowalski or Smith will now reforge his most secret desires into mixed hardware+software "do-it-yourself" gadgets, but people who actually have some ideas that may sell & what they need is a cheap & extensible model / platform to hit the market ... now they won't have any excuses ... It will be almost as easy as creating an app for mobile platform.
Does it make IoT any closer?
Yes, but not as much as we'd wish for. But it may be a huge step in developing what we call "intelligent houses". Did you dream about:
- "digital" fridge with a touch panel in the front & virtual notes instead of magnet ones? Or maybe even barcode scanner to track expiry dates?
- "digital" washing machine that sends notification to your wearables ("excess foam, estimated laundry finish time extended by 20 minutes")
- "digital" house that tracks which rooms are people in, to adjust the temperatures / light level to present inhabitants or even switch music to speakers in different room when individuals move, not mentioning muting music when there's a phone call ;P
To make it all work (while remaining affordable) you need to consider few key enablers (they may seem quite specific, due to the need of taking both physical & digital dimensions into consideration):
- price - mass-market / world-scale solutions have to be cheap to scale well
- power consumption - obvious stuff, has to stay low
- durability - most critical for standalone items like beacons
- common, uniform software distribution method - for the sake of updates
- standardized security (auth) model* - kinda self-explaining
- open API-based - thousand of separate IoTs don't make much sense ...
Raspberry Pi 2 is a big step in a right direction when you consider all the aspects above. It may actually be a small, but a very vital step in Microsoft's crusade to put Windows literally everywhere - and it makes more sense than ever.
Pi + Windows 10 + 3D printing + beacons - I have an impression that some kind of viable picture seems to emerge from these pieces of puzzle. Maybe unit prices / limitations are still an obstacle (beacon durability, 3D printing cost, W10 availability), but the time works in our favor.