Published on January 22nd, 2021 📆 | 2706 Views ⚑0
Raspberry Pi Pico: The four dollar microcontroller
Raspberry Pi Pico is a tiny microcontroller released by the Raspberry Pi foundation and is the company’s first self-built microcontroller. The microcontroller is incredibly cheap like all the Raspberry Pi devices, but being a microcontroller it costs only four USD. It may sound uninteresting to everyday computer users but for programmers, it is a very handy innovation.
IoT solutions do not come cheap. Even implementing a simple device equipped with a microcontroller can cost 100 dollars. Making the microcontroller so cheap ensures that even new programmers are able to try out the possibilities of the Pi Pico. It is inexpensive to start with and lacks all the hardware to run and practice your codes on it. It is also the first chip by the company do expectations are super high about its viability and support.
What’s new in the Raspberry Pi Pico?
The most attractive feature is the flexibility it offers for building intelligent self-operating modules. Any developer privy to the raspberry Pi ecosystem knows that the design possibilities are endless with the Raspberry Pi. And now making a tiny microcontroller creating tiny yet programmable nodes is very easy. Embedding the pi Pico to your dream project that could include the remote operation of the system, home automation, etc is possible now.
Moving on to the tiny and inexpensive Raspberry Pi Pico configuration.
- Dual-core m0+ processor with flexible clock up to 133 MHz
- 264 KB of SRAM with a 2MB onboard flash memory
- USB 1.1 port with device and host support
- Power conserving sleep mode and dormant mode
- Drag and drop programming support
- 26 GPIO pins
- Temperature sensor
The main highlight if of the RP2040 chip is the Dual-core Arm Cortex M0+ processor. The dual-core architecture allows you to more efficiently run the programs and poses minor hiccups in result processing. Other Raspberry Pi Pico competitors come with a single-core processor that slows down the compute power. Leave aside the other competitors it even beats the Raspberry Pi Zero in power consumption. The Raspberry Pi Pico comes with a castellated module that allows the users to solder them easily on the board of their choice.
The power consumption with such a tiny board is exceptional with the pi Pico consuming minuscule watts of power. Its advantage will be observed when you deployed it as a remote node to collect data for a long time. The minimal power consumption and the dormant mode means that it can be powered with a small battery and still run for months before requiring a battery replacement.
The temperature sensor on the pi Pico is not precise but returns okay results for a tiny sensor. Using a dedicated temperature sensor is advised if you plan to accurately raise triggers based on the temperature. One major downside that we noticed is the poor labeling of the GPIO pins on the board. The bottom side is labeled but the top side isn’t. We don’t know what was the rush but it causes major inconveniences forcing you to compare with a diagram or turn the board flipside.
We are curiously waiting for the company to introduce a complete kit rather than just the pi Pico because like all Raspberry products, it incomplete without the case, cables, power supply, and a breadboard. The kits will take time but it is better to wait for them instead of dangling and haggling on eBay for every part. The Raspberry Pi Pico comes with extensive documentation that can be purchased on the manufacturer’s website. It comes with a detailed guide on how to be up and running with a Raspberry Pi Pico.
The book is a boon for beginners, looking to build their first IoT project and guides you to program the board using Micro Python and C. With such extensive documentation and a helpful user guide, the transition to the Raspian becomes pretty easy.