The Raspberry Pi 3 Is Built for the Internet of Things

Founder Eben Upton explains that including Bluetooth and wireless LAN for the first time "changes what you can do" with the Pi.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation announced the latest in its range of credit card-sized computers, the Raspberry Pi 3, on Monday.

Thanks to new additions such as built-in wireless LAN and Bluetooth, founder Eben Upton says the new model will enable people to use the Pi more easily as a PC in itself, or to make Internet of Things devices.

"It's really a qualitative change; it changes what you can do with the Pi," said Upton in a phone call.

For those using the Pi as a low-cost PC (the Raspberry Pi 3 will cost the same as the Raspberry Pi 2 at $35), the wireless LAN adds connectivity while Bluetooth allows connection with peripherals like a wireless mouse, keyboard, or speakers. For hobbyists basing their own smart home-style gadgets on the Pi, the increased connectivity will help with linking up sensors and actuators—Upton gave the idea of a Bluetooth switch to turn a heater on, for instance.

As well as the added connectivity features, the Raspberry Pi 3 will have a 64-bit processor, and overall the Foundation claims it will offer a 50 percent increase in performance over the Raspberry Pi 2. It'll still be the same size as the Raspberry Pi 2, but the LEDs have been moved from around the edge of the Pi to make way for the new antenna.

"We kicked ourselves when we saw we'd have to do that," said Upton, noting that space around the edge of the board is limited and the LEDs never really had to be there.

"I'm most excited about Raspberry Pi as a PC"

Upton said the main challenges in creating the higher-powered device included shuffling things around to find space on the already-crowded board for new additions such as the wireless chip, and then making sure that the new Pi met radio regulations in different countries. "This'll be the first time we've done a product with a radio on it, and we spent about £100,000 ($140,000) on radio conformance testing over the last three or four months," he said. "Ouch."

He explained that the price of the Pi 3 nevertheless remains low owing to a decrease in the cost of some of the components and continual improvements to the production process.

The announcement of the Pi 3 follows the launch of the Raspberry Pi Zero last November—a cheaper, smaller, and much more limited computer that costs just $5. Upton said the two cater to different needs, with many people using the stripped-down Zero as a controller and the bigger Pis as computers.

Following the launch, Upton said the team will enjoy a "collective sigh of relief and exhaustion" before continuing to work on improvements.

"I'm most excited about Raspberry Pi as a PC," he said. "There's an awful amount of people in the world, even in the developed world, who don't have a general purpose computer. They have a games console or a mobile phone; those are enormously powerful computers, but they're not open and they're not yours, really."