Edge sensor uses Raspberry Pi Compute module

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By Nick Flaherty

The Exo Sense Pi from Sfera Labs combines a passive infrared and air quality and temperature sensors with a microphone and adds security, real time clock and internal temperature sensor for system monitoring and to calibrate the other sensors.

The module is a cost reduced version of the Raspberry Pi 4 board with Broadcom’s BCM2711 quad core A72 1.5GHz process that runs full Linux as a server for the sensors alongside embedded WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy wireless connections.

“There are thousands of environmental sensors in the market. We didn’t want to invent the same sensor, just cheaper and fighting on price,” said Ulderico Arcidiaco, CEO of Sfera Labs. “The main difference is the computing platform. All the sensors we know are based on microcontrollers with computing that is very limited. Here we are changing things with the compute module with a server and this opens up a compete rethinking of where you run the applications.”

“Open platforms are a good idea for Industrial Automation because it lowers the entry barrier and its easier to find developers and designers who are familiar with the technology and improved security,” said Maria Chizzali, COO of Sfera Labs. “With proprietary technology you have to wait for the next release while with an open platform there is a wider community that can help solve issues with a faster response, There is also cost reduction as the platforms are engineered for much larger volumes and its easier to incorporate new features and technologies and there is an increase in the reusability,” she said.

“The platforms are already used in the protype phase and companies like us who design production ready devices based on the same platform makes the transition easier, just taking the software and running on the products as we are fully compatible with the base platform,” she added.

“The other factor is many sensors are proprietary or have an API – this is different as the application is developed inside the sensor, at the edge,” said Arcidiaco. “You don’t need another server or an appliance and this is enhanced with the additional sensors and other features such as Modbus.”,

“If you have a cellular basestation sensor or a water pumping you need access control, people monitoring, environment monitoring this would be way cheaper than anything else,” he said.

Other sensors can be added on a separate board such as a carbon dioxide sensor or time of flight sensor without having to redesign the whole system.

“We ship to 62 countries and the applications are quite different – home and building automatic, security and safety, people counting, asset tracing, energy management, IA control,” said Chizzali. “It’s a big step for customers to adopt a third party technology for their products so we are thankful to a number of OEM customers that have decided to use our products for their own applications and we provide branding and hardware customisation options.”

There are 32 possible combinations of the Raspberry Pi Compute 4 module, and Sfera is has secured supply of two versions, the 2GB version with 16GB eMMC and the 2GB lite version with an external SD card interface.

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