For almost twenty years, Sydney-based developers BitScope have been carving out a unique niche in the crowded test & measurement and data acquisition markets with their innovative, multi-platform products.
Their most recent release is the BitScope Blade series; a family of expandable industrial computing platforms designed to mount and power Raspberry Pi devices for the creation of robust, scalable and reliable platforms for the industrial employment of computing systems.
The BitScope Blade is exclusively available for global shipping through element14’s various distribution channels - including Farnell element14 in Europe and Newark element14 in North America. This is the latest step in a fruitful strategic partnership that stretches back to 2014, when element14 signed a deal for the supply and manufacture of the BitScope Micro; a mixed-signal USB oscilloscope that features a powerful logic protocol analyser, waveform & pattern generator, spectrum analyser and data recorder in a tiny, lightweight and water resistant package.
According to BitScope CEO Bruce Tulloch, working with element14 has helped to open numerous important doors for his company. “Access to and wide distribution in key markets that we operate in is a crucial benefit to our relationship with element14”, he explains. “For a long time, Premier Farnell has had ready access to the developer community, particularly since Raspberry Pi arrived on the scene. Through that access, we have the ability to develop our products based on actual demand and the intelligence that comes back to us through their sales channels. Thanks to our licence and manufacture agreement, we’re also able to distribute at high volume and make our products accessible all over the world.”
Inspired by the success of the BitScope Micro, discussions took place between the two companies around making further inroads into the industrial markets. Raspberry Pi offers many advantages as an industrial solution, but issues with power sensitivity and mounting presented serious difficulties. The BitScope Blade series was developed to answer these key problems on a low-cost, user-friendly deployment platform.
With element14 and Embest on board for licence and manufacture, BitScope developed the Blade series as a switch-mode power supply built to a regular, scaled form factor, capable of handling power supply voltages from 9v to 48v while offering a robust and consistent power supply to the Raspberry Pi even if the supply voltage were to vary.
The BitScope Blade family is currently available in three editions - Uno, Duo and Quattro, capable of supporting one, two or four Raspberry Pi devices respectively, in addition to a full range of compatible HATS, cameras, displays and other accessories. Wiring and cabling requirements are minimal for ease of deployment, and a dedicated hub card connector underneath each Raspberry Pi slot allows expanded functionality and access to the Raspberry Pi I/O.
“The challenge really was to keep it simple and flexible, while also ensuring that it’s useful to the widest possible audience” explains Tulloch. “We also wanted to design it in such a way that it would be scalable from small embedded systems right up to large clusters using the same basic building blocks. The applications for BitScope Blade are essentially anything a Raspberry Pi can be used for, with a particular focus on systems where reliability and deployment are key considerations.”
The Blade has already been applied to a number of projects in the education, industrial and innovation sectors. Notable examples include the deployment of a 24 hour weather station in Nepal using Raspberry Pi, Arduino, solar panels and a range of sensors to detect weather factors such as wind, pressure and humidity.
Closer to home, the MAAS Powerhouse Museum in Sydney is currently exhibiting an interactive Theremin that allows the user to not just hear the sound but see it too, using a BitScope Blade, Raspberry Pi and LCD monitor to effectively implement a standalone mixed-signal oscilloscope that displays waveforms and spectra as the Theremin is played.
The element14 community has also proven to be a valuable resource for BitScope; with members undertaking their own projects utilising the Blade. Detailed use and deployment guides will soon be made available in conjunction with the element14 web teams, in addition to new project showcases and an expanded Blade ecosystem including hub card expansion boards, cluster packs and power plates for easier construction and scalability.
“Our overarching goal is to really explore the market opportunities available to a platform as generic as BitScope Blade” explains Tulloch. “We’re providing the answer to a problem that’s existed for a long time. By employing the BitScope with the Raspberry Pi, it’s possible to develop solutions that are as robust as anything that might come from a full-scale industrial house. Together with element14’s Raspberry Pi customisation program, we’re offering a front-end platform for developing new businesses and technologies which can be scaled and customised for a wide variety of applications, particularly in the Industrial IoT market.”
“As far as we can tell, there’s nothing similar that we can see on the market that can match us for ease of use or robust deployment. So whether you want to effectively power and mount one Raspberry Pi device or one hundred, for practically any purpose you can think of, BitScope offers the best - and perhaps the only - choice on the market.”
The BitScope Blade family of products is available now from Farnell element14’s global distribution channels. Our full interview with BitScope CEO Bruce Tulloch will be published shortly.