If one searches the web these days, one will find several posts from people asking which platform is the best one for inexpensive projects; Arduino or Raspberry Pi. This is probably a bad question to be asked, as each one of these platforms has a different niche, a different application.
Arduino is microcontroller based, and as such, it is best suited for applications that require some sort of interface with physical sensors, in real time. If one does a quick research on the surrounding hardware created for the Arduino platform by the community, called the Shields, one will quickly see what I mean by this. The vast majority of the Arduino Shields are sensor interface hardware to be connected to the Arduino board. Arduino is not a computer per say; but the Pi is. The Raspberry Pi can, potentially, replace the computer you are using to read this post. The Arduino can’t. They are not adversaries, but complementary; and can be best buddies.
Take for instance the multitude of data acquisition hardware that is made available off the shelf by many companies today. They are a great way of interfacing computers to physical sensors. They digitize the physical quantities these sensors deliver and translate them into a language computers can understand, much like Arduinos do, so the computer can take over from there and do all the extra processing, data logging and user interfacing a given application requires, like the Pi can potentially do. The data acquisition hardware/computer combo is, though on a different scale, equivalent to the Arduino/Raspberry Pi dynamic duo.
What this means is that, if the test and measurements community can get a LabVIEW Raspberry Pi and a LabVIEW for Arduinos, said community can have an inexpensive alternative to the off the shelf data acquisition hardware/regular computer running Windows Operating System pair. An alternative to be used on test and measurements applications that don’t require all the horse power the DAQ/PC power couple is equipped to deliver. Obviously, the Arduino/Pi double won’t replace their richer cousins DAQ/PC, as each pair has its own playground they can shine in. However, this would mean simpler/budget constrained applications can have an alternative that would raise the test and measurements bar to a totally different level.
LabVIEW Raspberry Pi
Based on this discussion, a better title for this Blog should have been; The LabVIEW Raspberry Pi and LabVIEW Arduino Marriage. What I am calling round one of this potentially great love story is the birth of the Arduino Compiler for LabVIEW. This LabVIEW for Arduino tool is much more than a simple interface between LabVIEW and Arduino sketches. It is a true compiler that allows LabVIEW code to be deployed to and to run headless on Arduino compatible targets. Also, this product doesn’t require any extra toolkits such as the C code generator for LabVIEW that costs a good bundle. It runs stand alone on the base, or even student version of LabVIEW, with no need for extra toolkits. Such product in fact now exists and it has been released to the community.
I am hopeful that sometime in the near future I can come back to this space and post Round 2, the sequel to this love story in the making. One related to the birth of a similar compiler, but for the Raspberry Pi. Based on the work that was done to create the Arduino Compiler for LabVIEW, such dream is actually possible. In fact, based on the level of enthusiasm shown by the community, I would say it is not only possible, but actually in the making. The LabVIEW Raspberry Pi is just a matter of time.
I can’t wait to see what the test and measurements community will come up with by using the Arduino Compiler for LabVIEW and with the LabVIEW Raspberry Pi. It is a great time to be an Engineer!