The Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Prize has gone to the team behind the Raspberry Pi, the little computer, that has become a big success story.
At a ceremony in London, the compact computer that was introduced to the world in 2012, beat competition from cyber-security company Darktrace and radiotherapy pioneers Vision RT, the two other finalists. The computer was originally designed to introduce children to coding and had relatively modest ambitions, however the unit became a hit after finding favour with DIY programmers and has also popped up in the pro install world too.
Previous winners of the innovation award, which has been run since 1969, include the creators of the CT (computerised tomography) scanner; the designers of the Severn Bridge and the team at Microsoft in Cambridge that developed the Kinect motion sensor.
The Raspberry Pi was the brain child of a small team of scientists and Cambridge University academics, who’s focus was not particularly on commercial success, however to date the product has sold over 14 million making it the most successful UK made computer ever, with the Pi being used in factories, classrooms and homes.
The BBC reports that one of the MacRobert award judges, Dr Frances Saunders, said: “The Raspberry Pi team has achieved something that mainstream multinational computer companies and leading processing chip designers not only failed to do, but failed even to spot a need for.”
As far as moving the automation industry forward goes, earlier this year Google announced it was planning on helping develop AI into the Pi and asked users to complete a survey based on what smart tools might be the most useful. Suggested abilities included aiding face and emotion recognition, speech-to-text translation, natural language processing and sentiment analysis.
The Pi also has its own home automation kit, the R PiHome+, a group of developed scripts for home automation running on Raspberry Pi and OS Raspbian (free operating system optimised for Raspberry Pi hardware) that provides communication with peripherals and sensors, processing variables and controlling relays. It also provides a communication interface with the users. A really refreshing story this as in the face of massive multi-nationals often developing products which try to tell people what they want, the Raspberry Pi’s open approach has allowed developers to take the device and do what they want with it.