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Hobbyist Platforms for Powerful Edge Controllers - but what Control Language?

September 2016 - Our friends at AutomatedBuildings asked Contemporary Controls' President George Thomas to discuss his opinion about Hobbyist Platforms such as the Raspberry Pi as an edge controller. Here's an excerpt:

I have been asked to express my opinion on the above subject but having once said that you would never see an IBM PC on the plant floor I need to be careful as to what I say. I have also learned over the years never to discount the impact of a computer hobbyist movement such as we are experiencing with the Raspberry Pi. This $35 platform certainly has educational appeal and will gain acceptance in other industries including the HVAC industry - possibly as an edge controller. Its price is far lower than the cost of a single software license demanded by HVAC suppliers. As a device manufacturer, we are sometimes challenged as to why our products cost more than $35? So the Raspberry Pi has created a hardware-cost benchmark as well.

I feel platforms such as the Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone are best used as benchmarking platforms facilitating product design by allowing your software engineers the opportunity to begin development before hardware design is completed. You can also verify the intended performance of the proposed design on one of these platforms to ensure design goals will be met. I agree that if you want to use one of these platforms in your final design, it would be cheaper to purchase the assembly versus using their BOM and making it yourself. If your product is to be a head-end supervisor, gateway or router you could probably use one of these platforms. If it is to be a field controller I question the decision.

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