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Using Raspberry Pi, IoT, and AWS

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

Since the advent of technology, consumer behavior has changed drastically over time. Modern innovations are always on the horizon – from cloud-based serverless platforms, automation of devices to cutting-edge hardware that puts the power of computing and digital advancements into the hands of individuals all over the globe.

In this article, we will be discussing one such groundbreaking hardware technology known as Raspberry Pi, its benefits, and interconnection with the AWS IoT platform.

What is Raspberry Pi, IoT, AWS, and AWS IoT?


Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi is one of the most eminent names commonly associated with connected technology in the world of hardware. It is a series of single-board mini computers built by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK based charity whose mission is to provide easier access to computing education for the masses. Raspberry Pi was launched in 2012. Originally, the Pi came in a single-core 700 MHz CPU with a mere 256 MB of RAM, however, the latest model boasts a quad-core 1.5 GHz CPU with over 4GB of RAM. The biggest selling factor of Raspberry Pi is the extremely cheap price ranging from $35 or less. This makes it feasible for anyone and everyone to polish their programming skills, build hardware projects, achieve home automation, and use these devices in industrial applications as well. Another great advantage is that it runs on an open-source platform, mainly on Linux and its variety of distributions. Raspberry Pi’s main OS is known as Raspbian, which is also open-source and runs on a suite of open-source software.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things refers to the billions of devices around the world that are all sharing and collecting data while being connected via the internet. With the advent of super cost-effective computer chips and the expansion of wireless networks, anything can be converted into a part of the IoT with endless possibilities. It is a multilingual space as components of different nature can connect and communicate with each other. To understand it clearly, imagine a physical object that can be transformed into an IoT device simply by connecting it to the internet so it can be controlled to communicate information. As an example, a lightbulb that can be switched on using your smartphone app is an IoT device. So is a motion sensor or a smart thermostat in your office. An IoT device can be as small as a child’s toy or as advanced as a driverless truck.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Cloud is a virtual space on the internet that companies rent to host their digital resources. Before the advent of cloud technology, most companies either used to rent or host their own data centers. Hosting your physical infrastructure comes with a lot of headaches such as long wait times to provision new hardware, extreme upfront costs, capacity planning issues, flexibility, and scalability factors. Amazon was the first to launch a cloud computing platform based on web services in 2006, known as AWS. Since its inception, AWS has come a long way and today it provides highly reliable, resilient, scalable, and cost-effective virtual infrastructures to over 190 countries across the world. Amazon was also the first company to offer a pay-as-you-go model for cloud computing.

AWS IoT

AWS IoT (Amazon Web Services Internet of Things) is the platform provided by Amazon that receives and analyzes various types of data from interconnected devices and sensors and bridges it with the AWS cloud. It provides the developers with the capability to use that data for their applications. AWS can also be used for Raspberry Pi and is beneficial in IoT because it can connect to the internet using several languages. It can also directly interface with various types of sensors, thus adding extra flexibility.

Let us now deep-dive into the benefits of using a Raspberry Pi with AWS IoT in the next section.



Benefits of Using Raspberry Pi with AWS IoT

The following are some key benefits of using Raspberry Pi with the AWS IoT:


Matching and Meeting Requirements: Raspberry Pi comes with extremely robust computing power, rich components, and great customization options which makes it a great match for an edge layer device like a gateway or a local server. The latest Pi 4 model enjoys a 1.5 GHz ARM Cortex-A72 processor and up to 4GB SDRAM, which is enough to handle highly intense data flows and perform cutting edge computing. On the other hand, the AWS IoT platform offers services that are designed to instantaneously deploy edge intelligence and enable varied functions like computing, data management, device communication, or running local machine learning models. As an example, the AWS IoT Greengrass service can run on computers that have at least 1 GHz of computing power and 128 MB of RAM. These requirements make the Raspberry Pi and AWS IoT a match made in heaven.

Cost-Effective: The biggest advantage of a Raspberry Pi is the cost-factor as the average online price runs under $35. Similarly, the Amazon IoT platform also provides cost-effective pricing models, as you only pay for what you use. If we look at the AWS IoT Greengrass service as an example, the first year is free if you sign up for the Free Tier account and connect up to three devices. This supports the creation of prototype devices to test an IoT business idea.

Tools and Support: A great benefit of implementing Raspberry Pi with AWS IoT is the fact that Amazon recognizes Pi as a popular IoT prototyping tool and even offers support for the Raspberry Pi and Raspbian OS. As an added benefit, one can find tons of developer tools, libraries, and AWS IoT SDKs and official tutorials on how to use them on Raspberry Pi.

Easy Setup: If you are just starting with an IoT project, then using Raspberry Pi with AWS IoT is a blessing in disguise. Not only can you connect Raspberry Pi and AWS IoT platform in several successive steps, but it is also a pretty straightforward process. Best of all, there is no shortage of guides and tutorials on how to achieve that, including the one provided by AWS itself.


Now that we are aware of the main benefits of using Raspberry Pi with AWS IoT, let us glance over how to connect a Raspberry Pi to AWS IoT.

How to connect Raspberry Pi to AWS IoT

As mentioned in the previous section, setting up the Raspberry Pi to work with AWS IoT is a simple process and does not require many tools or coding knowledge. You will need a keyboard, mouse, monitor, internet access, and an active AWS account, besides of course your Raspberry Pi 2 B or any later model.

Here is an outline of the steps you would take to set it up:

1. Set-Up: The first and foremost step is to connect your Raspberry Pi with the AWS IoT. For the board, you will need an SD card with Raspbian or any other general-purpose OS, a USB power supply, a monitor and keyboard, and an internet connection. Also, ensure that you already have an AWS account set up and ready to go. Once you have an AWS account, you can access your AWS IoT from the console.

2. Configure AWS IoT: Now you need to prepare your AWS account. By using your account’s dashboard, create anything that will represent your device, give it a name, create the policy which determines which AWS IoT sources the devices can access, and finally register it by assigning the required certificates.

3. Configure Raspberry Pi: To be able to authenticate with AWS IoT and send messages, your Raspberry Pi should have a certificate, private key, and root CA certificate installed. To configure your Pi to be able to do so, you can employ the AWS IoT device SDKs, for example, AWS IoT Python SDK or AWS IoT Device SDK for Embedded C depending on your situation.

4. Create Rules: Creating a rule is imperative if you want the make the AWS IoT act on the data received from the Raspberry Pi. This can be achieved by creating a rule that can specify what AWS IoT should do with the messages coming from the device.

Conclusion

Whether you are learning to code, trying to create your home automation projects, or coding electronics for physical projects, Raspberry Pi coupled with AWS IoT can do wonders for you. When developing an IoT project, many things are taken into consideration from choosing the right hardware and software to the infrastructure where you will host all the sensor data. This is where the AWS IoT comes into play as it permits bi-directional communication between things that are connected over the internet. These things can be any devices, appliances, or any other services in the AWS cloud such as cloud servers, analytics, or databases to name a few.

In a nutshell, Raspberry Pi used in conjunction with the AWS IoT is the best way of IoT processing and building and increasing your knowledge base for automation projects. While AWS IoT provides the best platform for the interconnection of devices, Raspberry Pi offers one of the smallest and most robust computers available in the world of technology.

References and Citations

https://www.digiteum.com/connect-raspberry-pi-aws-iot-platform

https://www.zdnet.com/article/what-is-the-internet-of-things-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-iot-right-now/

https://www.upswift.io/post/aws-iot-for-raspberry-pi

https://www.balena.io/blog/use-a-raspberry-pi-to-communicate-with-amazon-aws-iot/

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