5 Things You Didn't Know About the Raspberry Pi 3 B+

The Raspberry Pi 3 B+ is a great hobbyist board, but it also has features that allow for developers to build sophisticated automation and IoT devices.

Since its 2011 inception, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has sold 19 million Raspberry Pis. The first Raspberry Pi was sold on February 29, 2012. With the Raspberry Pi, a variety of projects ranging from internet radios to mobile robots have been built with the $35 credit card size Linux computer. The latest of the Raspberry Pi family of single board computers (SBCs) is the Pi 3 B+. The form factor hasn’t changed, but the Pi 3 B+ system on a chip (SoC) has more computing capabilities than the previous single board computers (SBCs).

Here are five facts about the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ SBC that you may not have known. These five facts are the gateway to developing sophisticated automation and IoT devices. Additional information on physical computing and other interesting facts about the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ can be found at the Raspberry Pi foundation website.

1.) The CPU Is High Power.

The Raspberry Pi 3 B+ SBC uses a Broadcom BCM2837 SoC. The BCM2837 is like the BCM2836 SoC used in the Pi 2 unit with the exception of the processor. A quad core Cortex A53 (ARMv8) processor is used with the Pi 3 B+ instead of the Pi 2 900 MHz, quad-core ARM Cortex A7 (ARMv7). The four independent units or cores allow the Cortex A53 processor to perform computational, data management, and input/output (I/O) processing activities quickly and efficiently. The ARMv8 processor operates at 1.2 GHz.The Cortex A53 processor runs on low voltage (3.3VDC), therefore having low power consumption.

The Raspberry Pi 3 B+ uses the BCM2837 SoC with an embedded Cortex A53 processor. (Image source: Raspberry Pi)

2.) It's Low Power.

The traditional method of powering a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ is to use a 5.1V micro USB (type B) connector supply. The current requirement to power the SBC is 2.5A. Most cellphone chargers can provide both the voltage and current to operate the Pi 3 B+. It’s been known to operate the SBC at a minimum of 700mA of current with a 5.1VDC power supply. Although a 5.1V, 2.5A linear DC supply can be used to power the Pi 3 B+, a switching mode unit is more efficient in operating the SBC.

3.) GPIO Makes It Ideal for IoT Applications.

Aside from being a small, powerful computer, the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ can connect and control physical devices—making it an ideal option for DIY Internet of Things (IoT) projects and applications. The general-purpose input output (GPIO) pins allow the SBC to be used in a variety of control applications ranging from home automation to mobile robotics. There is a dual 40 pin male header connector soldered to the Pi 3 B+ printed circuit board (PCB). The GPIO pins can be configured as input or output or as a combination of the two connecting methods. Many of the pins are 3.3VDC compliant apart from the +5VDC power supply that’s provided on the Pi 3 B+ PCB.

The 40 pin dual male header connector allows the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ SBC to connect with the physical world. (Image source: Raspberry Pi)

4. It Gives You More USB Options than Ever Before.

The Raspberry Pi 3 B+ provides four USB 2.0 ports. Those four ports are supported by a LAN9514 combination hub and Ethernet controller integrated circuit (IC). The USB IC is manufactured by Microchip. The USB supports On-The-Go (OTG) host, allowing the SBC to power other Universal Serial Bus devices and applications. The output sourcing requirements for each USB port is +5V at 500mA.

5. It Can Be Used in Physical Computing Applications.

An approach to designing human-computer interface applications consists of understanding human physical characteristics or environmental conditions. Examples of human physical characteristics are hand gestures, breathing, and eye motion. Temperature, pressure, motion, and vibration represent environmental conditions. Physical computing deals with building devices that can sense and respond to human physical characteristics or surrounding environments. Software and hardware circuits allow the sensing and response to human physical characteristics or environmental conditions.

Don Wilcher is a passionate teacher of electronics technology and an electrical engineer with 26 years of industrial experience. He’s worked on industrial robotics systems, automotive electronic modules/systems, and embedded wireless controls for small consumer appliances. He’s also an author, writing DIY project books on electronics and robotics technologies.

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