The OpenPi on first look is a curious device – a nondescript black box with merely an HDMI and a microUSB slot. There’s no real indication of what it might be, however cracking it open reveals a custom board connected to a Raspberry Pi compute module. Inside as standard is a wireless dongle and a bluetooth receiver for a mini-wireless keyboard/mouse combo. It seems quite simple, and to be fair in this state it is – it’s basically just a (fully-functioning) Raspberry Pi.
That’s actually the point of it though. With the compute module and the OpenPi board, you have full access to the usual Raspberry Pi power and settings and such. The selling point of the OpenPi though is that you can then take this board – which is completely open hardware – and modify the plans yourself to make a custom board that fits your needs. Wireless Things thinks of it as an easier way to create an internet of things, and they’ve succeeded in creating the platform to do this really.
As we’ve hinted at, using it as a ‘normal’ Raspberry Pi works. It’s fully functional and you can easily access it SSH thanks to the included wifi adapter and pre-installed software. This makes it great off the bat as a wifi repeater or file server. It comes with standard Raspbian installed that can easily be updated and upgraded as you go to keep up with the latest and greatest software. While there’s limited ways to hack the board as it is, the open hardware aspect means the entire PCB specs are there for modification, and Wireless Things will even make you custom cases for it as well.
Is it for normal users though? Probably not – the basic kit is £99, making it more expensive than the Pi itself and aimed at a very different userbase. Is it for makers? To a degree, yes. The PCB plans being open can help make something very custom for your project, however the standard board doesn’t offer that much extra to begin with. At the very least, it’s excellent inspiration and a good start for makers. It really is aimed more towards the business and start-up market for creating systems in offices that can benefit from an internet of things.
A unique box with a huge amount of potential thanks to an open PCB design and a tiny Compute Module that allows you to perform any Raspberry Pi operation with no limits other than your imagination. It’s for a very specific market though, so normal folks need not apply