Lately, as part of my research in indirect health inference through infrastructure-mediated sensing techniques, I’ve been investigating options for remote data acquisition. It would be wonderful if I could find a platform that let me take an analog signal as input, send it through a pipeline of signal processing and machine learning algorithms, and submit results to a remote server.
At the high-end, there are netbooks. Any BestBuy can sell you a complete netbook system for less than $300. For certain applications in data sensing, processing and communication, $300 is good enough. Unfortunately, a netbook is a bit too big and power hungry. Not to mention that its screen, graphics card and other features might go unused, inflating the cost of the device unnecessarily considering the job it’s been designated to do.
At the other end of the spectrum are platforms like the Arduino, which is small, inexpensive, but might not provide the processing power one might need. Are there any other alternatives? There are plenty of single-board computers out there, one of which is the Chumby Hacker Board, or CHB for short.
Recently, I’ve been following the development of an ARM-based platform called Raspberry Pi. The goal is to develop the cheapest possible computer with a basic level of functionality, for around $25. The team is already showing a prototype board, the size of a credit card, running Ubuntu:
Lots of details can be found here and they are expected to be shipping in December. I am really looking forward to experimenting with them.