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Raspberry Pi is at the heart of open, all-in-one controller

23 September, 2020

An Italian IIoT specialist, Sfera Labs, has developed an all-in-one industrial controller that is based on a Raspberry Pi single-board computer and combines the functions of a PLC, industrial server and power management system. Sfera describes the Iono Pi Max as being “disruptive and competitive – offering all of the features of a proprietary and more expensive industrial PLC, but at a much lower price point”.

The controller’s processor is a standard Raspberry Pi Compute Module. Any software that can run on a Raspberry Pi will run on the Iono Pi Max. An additional microcontroller allows further application code to run alongside the the main processor, offering real-time response and control. The controller includes analogue and digital interfaces and can connect to and control multiple external sensors and actuators, to create complex control systems.

Because the platform is open, users can implement any software needed for an application, and run it on any operating system supported by Raspberry Pi. The controller is field-programmable, via the Raspberry Pi, using custom firmware.

The controller comes in a DIN-rail-mountable enclosure, with the option of a UPS for applications that need to be protected against power outages. Adding a 12V/24V rechargeable battery allows the Iono Pi Max to continue to operating if power is lost.

Connected sensors, as well as external devices such as cellular routers, can also be powered by the Iono Pi Max. This, coupled with the ability to interface directly to solar panels, also makes the Iono Pi Max suitable for off-grid applications.

The hardware includes: relays; digital I/O (bidirectional TTL, digital inputs and open collector outputs); Wiegand, 1-Wire, Ethernet, CAN, RS-232 and RS-485 interfaces; high-resolution voltage and current inputs and outputs; dedicated temperature sensor inputs; a hardware watchdog; and a real-time clock. The controller supports dual SD cards for redundancy and in-field software updates, along with an I2C bus for further system expansion.

Sfera Labs’ Iono Pi Max combines an industrial server with a PLC in a DIN-rail-mounting enclosure

The Iono Pi Max complies with FCC and IC electromagnetic emissions limits, and with European electromagnetic emissions and immunity standards.

“We believe that open-source solutions are reshaping the IIoT marketplace,” says Ulderico Arcidiaco, Sfera Labs’ co-founder and CEO. “The Iono Pi Max is unique in its offering, as no other solution combines as much functionality with as many features in a single package.”

Sfera Labs, founded in 2016, is a private Italian company that designs, manufactures and sells servers, embedded systems, I/O modules and sensors for industrial automation, IoT and edge computing based on open-source, community-supported technologies such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino. It also offers OEM systems and custom product design and branding, and software development services.

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