Farnell element14

New research from element14 shows demand for low-cost SBCs in industrial and IoT applications


A global survey reveals low-cost SBCs are being used in all stages of product development and production, from proof of concept and prototyping through to production and test equipment

New research from element14, an Avnet Company and global distributor of electronic components, products and solutions, reveals that low-cost Single Board Computers (SBCs) are now a valuable building block in all stages of new product development and production. Some 50 per cent of professional engineers surveyed use SBCs for industrial and Internet of Things (IoT), the most popular SBC applications.

The Raspberry Pi is the most popular board with 44 per cent of professional users preferring it to other SBCs. Arduino was ranked second (28 per cent) with Beagleboard in third preference (6 per cent). These market-leading SBCs 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 per cent of respondents using SBCs for proof of concept and 35 per cent for prototyping. Twenty-two per cent use low-cost SBCs in production units, with around 20 per cent of these products produced in volumes of 5K or more per year, and 20 per cent use for developing test equipment and testing.

The global survey ran from March to May 2021 and received nearly 1,500 responses from professional engineers, designers and makers working on SBC solutions. Two thirds of the respondents (75 per cent) were professional users and only a quarter were hobbyists or makers (25 per cent). 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.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Use of Raspberry Pi and Arduino have a similar market share for makers, which suggests that engineers like to use a board they are familiar with from home projects at work.
  • About 24 per cent 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 per cent 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.
  • Touchscreens 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.

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

As a global distributor, element14 provides customers with fast access to easy-to-use products for professional use with a broad range of core SBC platforms and toolkits from leading brands including Raspberry Pi, Arduino (Portenta H7), Intel (NUC range), Industrial Shields and more. Customers can also benefit from 24/5 technical support alongside free access to valuable online resources on the element14 website, and engineering and maker community, element14.

element14 is the longest standing Raspberry Pi partner and has sold more than 15 million units to date. element14 stocks the complete range of Raspberry Pi single board computers including the recently launched Raspberry Pi Pico, enabling customers to build a wide range of devices for professional, commercial, education or home use. A diverse ecosystem of accessories is available including cases, power supplies, micro-HDMI cables and the Raspberry Pi High Resolution Camera.

Customers can access the full range of SBCs by visiting Farnell in EMEA, element14 in APAC and Newark in North America.

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