Update: due to popular demand I will be making an open source 3d enclosure for the PIC-Pi that can be printed using a 3d printer I will put this on the web site by the end of sometime early 2014
Update: For the beta board we are trying to give the raspberry pi the functionality to program the PIC Chip, but it is proving to be a hard task I will set up a #picpi on freenode so you can follow our progress
The PICPi is an affordable Raspberry Pi expansion development board that will provide hours of fun for electronics enthusiasts and beginners interested in electronics a like. The Raspberry Pi in combination with the PICPI is a powerful piece of electronics hardware. The Pic chip will come pre-programmed and the PIC PI will be fully programmable though Raspberry pi using python libraries. Controlling the PIC PI peripherals though programming your Raspberry Pi will make completing your next home automation project "as easy as pie". The PICPI is suited to but not limited to home automation projects that you may or may not want to connect to the web and with so many peripherals there are not many projects that cannot be achieved by using the PICPI in combination with the Raspberry Pi.
Why add a pic?
The python RPi.GPIO module used to control the Raspberry Pi's GPIO's is unsuitable for real-time or timing critical applications. This is because you can not predict when Python will be busy garbage collecting. It also runs under the Linux kernel which is not suitable for real time applications - it is multitasking O/S and another process may be given priority over the CPU, causing jitter in your program. The pic doesn't run a Linux kernal and uses a RISC architecture which mean it doesn't have any of the above problems and only has to run the code running in the main while loop making it perfect for real time applications. So any of your projects that require hard real time can now be achieved by doing the processing in the pic and then communicating the information to and from the Raspberry Pi. Pic can be programmed in assembly or C which are both fast low level languages.
We wanted to make it easy for people to write web apps to control the PIC PI hardware peripherals. Python is a good web application high level language also the go to language for the Raspberry Pi so there are lots of tutorials and open source projects for the Raspberry Pi. For our web apps we have been using web2py which is an open source full-stack framework for development of web apps and used to glue all the web languages together. So we wrote python libraries for easy control of the PIC PI hardware and easy connectability to the web.
When will it be available and how much will it cost ?
Everything you see on the website is a production ready alpha board. The alpha board will not be released because we are developing a beta board where we are adding the final touches to the hardware + software. We are aiming to have the beta board production ready by June/July 2013. I don't have the funds to afford the start up costs for mass production of the beta board( ie. parts, board, stencil, surface mount programming and assembly) so I am running funding campaign on the crowd funding website Indiegogo with the perk being the beta board. The campaign will start once the beta board is production ready and will run for a month. If we sell enough boards to reach our funding target of $2000 ( ie the start up costs ) the beta boards the beta boards will be manufactured but if we don't reach our funding target unfortunately the boards will not be able to be released. The boards will be manufactured by ACD Digital Systems and the manufacturing, testing, and programming should take about three weeks (I'm giving myself a bit of time here to make sure everything is right). The boards will be shipped from Australia in August 2013. The board will cost (US) $30 + $10 shipping to Australia and +$15 shipping world wide and I will make a link available to the campaign on the website. If your a wholesaler and willing to by bulk I can do better pricing. Thank you for your patience.
Who are we ?
Our skills sets lie in developing electronic solutions for automating refrigeration systems for the HVAC&R industry. Due to the propriety nature of the business our projects are unfortunately always closed source not to mention expensive. But we were so inspired by the open source nature and price point of the Raspberry Pi project that we wanted to give back something to the community. After a bit of research we found that there while there where a lot of add-ons they were fairly limited in peripherals and lacked the peripherals needed for home automation projects so we developed the PIC PI. We are hoping this opens a new and exciting retail market for us.
You can find the python libraries, pic software and schematic in the documents page everything is open source. If you are interested in how the board was designed check out the Schematic explained document where i go into detail about how everything works. If you have any questions please feel free to email me and if you wish to stay informed about PIC PI developments please join the emailing list
Expansion Board Specifications
1 x RS232
1 x RS485
1 x Real Time Clock
2 x Analog Outputs 0-10V
2 x Relay 240VAC rated to 10A
22 x GPIO individually settable as either analog input 0-5V or digital output 0-5V