Low-cost SBCs used across all stages of product development


Tuesday, 05 October, 2021

Low-cost SBCs used across all stages of product development

Survey results from element14, a global distributor of electronic components, reveal that low-cost single-board computers (SBCs) are now a valuable building block in all stages of new product development and production. Some 50% of professional engineers surveyed use SBCs for industrial and Internet of Things (IoT), the most popular SBC applications.

The global survey ran from March to May 2021 and received nearly 1500 responses from professional engineers, designers and makers working on SBC solutions. Three-quarters of the respondents (75%) were professional users and only a quarter were hobbyists or makers (25%). The questions were designed to understand how popular SBCs from some of the world’s leading manufacturers are being used within professional products and projects.

The Raspberry Pi was deemed the most popular board, with 44% of professional users preferring it to other SBCs. Arduino was ranked second (28%) with Beagleboard in third place (6%). These market-leading SBCs are designed to simplify new product development and reduce time to market, allowing original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to respond to market trends much faster. The survey also indicates that users of Raspberry Pi are most loyal and less likely to use another SBC than engineers who preferred a different product.

SBCs are being used in all stages of product development and production, with 23% of respondents using SBCs for proof of concept and 35% for prototyping. 22% use low-cost SBCs in production units, with around 20% of these products produced in volumes of 5K or more per year, and 20% use for developing test equipment and testing.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Use of Raspberry Pi and Arduino have a similar market share for makers, which suggests that at work, engineers like to use a board they are familiar with from home projects.
  • About 24% of professionals build their own boards for use with the SBC, demonstrating the benefits of a standard compute platform with custom IO/interface electronics in many applications.
  • Reducing time to market is a key objective for professionals, with ease of use and familiarity top priorities.
  • Only 20% of engineers are using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in their SBC applications.
  • High-performance AI and more memory were the most common requests for improvements to SBCs.
  • Touch screens are by far the most popular accessory; however, cameras and kits for enhancing power supply via battery or solar panels are also in demand.
  • Professional users are much more likely to have customised boards than makers.

“This new research clearly illustrates the widespread adoption of SBCs among engineers working in commercial, IoT and industrial environments,” said Romain Soreau, Head of Single Board Computing at element14.

“The success of the Raspberry Pi and Arduino is driven by a powerful combination of high performance, versatility, features and accessories, low cost and a large active user community, making these platforms very attractive to engineers looking to develop and deploy a broad range of applications quickly.

“The use of SBCs in prototyping provides opportunities for engineers to significantly reduce computing costs and get new products to market much faster.”

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