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Sony Semiconductor sinks Simoleans into Raspberry Pi to advance edge AI

Raspboss Eben Upton teases products built on ML-enabled edge sensors

Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation has revealed it’s made a “strategic investment” in Raspberry Pi Ltd, the designer of popular single board computers.

The brief announcement from the Japanese giant’s semiconductor limb features president and CEO Terushi Shimizu stating “We are very pleased to be partnering with Raspberry Pi Ltd. to bring our AITRIOS platform -- which supports the development of unique and diverse solutions utilizing our edge AI devices -- to the Raspberry Pi user and developer community, and provide a unique development experience.”

Raspboss Eben Upton weighed in with “Sony Group is a longstanding and valued strategic partner. Our pre-existing relationship encompasses contract manufacturing, and the provision of image sensors and other semiconductor products.”

He’s right, of course: many Pis were baked at Sony’s plant in Pencoed, Wales, and the Japanese company provides image sensors to Raspberry Pi’s camera products.

“This transaction will allow us to expand our partnership, bringing Sony Semiconductor Solutions’ line of AI products to the Raspberry Pi ecosystem, and helping our users to build exciting new machine-learning applications at the edge,” Upton added. The CEO also told told Tom’s Hardware the deal means “we expect to build a variety of products around Sony Semiconductor devices, including their AI-enabled image sensors."

The extent of the investment has not been disclosed by either party, but Raspberry Pi Ltd.’s most recent regulatory filing, lodged on April 7th, details an allotment of shares valued at $4,997,847.41.

Sony Semiconductor Solutions (SSS) offers image sensors, micro displays, single board computers, and components such as cellular modems for internet of things applications, and GPS receivers.

But it’s the outfit’s AITRIOS offering that appears to be on the menu at Raspberry Pi Ltd. SSS describes AITRIOS as integrating “an AI model and application development environment, a marketplace, cloud-based services , and other items required for solution development into a powerful and flexible platform.”

The company also mentions providing “various devices compatible with AITRIOS services” and verified as ready to run AITRIOS.

The Register will be mighty surprised if Raspberry Pi devices don’t find a place on that verified kit list.

It’s unclear if this investment is related to Raspberry Pi Ltd.’s quest to secure new sources of funding to aid its expansion. That desire saw rumours of a public listing before the September 2021 announcement of partial sale of the Pi factory for $45 million (around £33m) in a deal that valued the org at over $500 million.

Whatever this deal’s contribution to the bottom line at Pi Manor, the prospect of Pi-powered edge AI devices smells great. But don’t except to tuck into such machines any time soon: the org is still beset by supply chain worries and bottlenecks, and has signalled it will proceed with caution so that when it does offer new devices they can be produced in volume so as not to disappoint customers. ®

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