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What Exactly is a PicoCluster?


To answer this question, let’s start at the beginning.  What does the pico in PicoCluster mean?  Pico is actually a scientific measurement based on the metric system.  It means 1 trillionth.  To put it in perspective, micro means one millionth and nano means one billionth.  So pico is smaller than micro or nano – the equivalent of 10 to the -12th power for you math geniuses out there.  Is a PicoCluster really 1 trillionth the size of a regular computer?  Well, no, but it is smaller than the micro and nano machines already on the market.

Raspberry Pi?

A cluster is a group of similar things.  The things we cluster in a PicoCluster are tiny, credit-card sized computers.  We are currently working with the Raspberry Pi 3B. Here are the technical stats:

  • A 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU
  • 802.11n Wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
  • 1GB RAM
  • 4 USB ports
  • 40 GPIO pins
  • Full HDMI port
  • Ethernet port
  • Combined 3.5mm audio jack and composite video
  • Camera interface (CSI)
  • Display interface (DSI)
  • Micro SD card slot (now push-pull rather than push-push)
  • VideoCore IV 3D graphics core
It operates on Linux, an operating system similar to Windows. A Raspberry Pi can access the internet, download and run software, run word processing programs, even play videos and games like MineCraft. A PicoCluster puts 3 or more of these Raspberry Pi’s together in a cluster.  Now the magic can begin!

Why Clusters?

If the Raspberry Pi  is so awesome, why can’t we just use it as-is?  The simple answer is – you can.  However, clustering opens up opportunities that a single Raspberry Pi (and even other computing options like tablets, laptops, and desktops) can’t offer.  Let’s explore some of the opportunities.  I’ll break them up into Home Use, Educational Use, and Business Use.  Realize that there are far more ways to use a PicoCluster than I can cover in one article.

Home Use

A PicoCluster can be used for many things at home.  Instead of buying separate tablets/laptops for each child, just purchase one PicoCluster and a monitor/keyboard for each child.  Parents choose what is available on each node: internet access, programs and software, games, etc.  This set-up is similar to separate log-ins on a family computer, without the fighting over whose turn it is especially when multiple children need the computer for school assignments at the same time.  My husband has plans for a 5-node PicoCluster: one node will be for his music and the complete house speaker system, one node will be for movies and will also control our tv, dvd, surround sound, etc., node 3 will control the camera’s we have outside for our home security system, node 4 will control the Christmas lights and outdoor decorations.  The PicoCluster will sit on a shelf in our coat closet.


Educational Use

PicoClusters are unique among most computers.  Not only can you watch what they do on a computer monitor, but you can also watch the computer itself as it works. PicoClusters can be used in all kinds of schools – public, private, or homeschool; college, high school, middle school, and even elementary.  A PicoCluster isn’t limited in size, so imagine a teacher with a class of 19 students.  The teacher could set up a 20-node PicoCluster in her classroom for less than the cost of 6 or 7 I-Pads (this price includes the monitors/keyboards).  This would allow a teacher to have all of his/her students on a computer inside the classroom at the same time, with one node left over for the teacher to use for teaching concepts or monitoring students work.  PicoClusters can also be used to teach computer programming or Big Data in a true multi-computer environment.  PicoCluster has a great training platform with access to quality content to help students learn Docker, Kubernetes, HaDoop, SQL, NoSQL, and other Big Data programs as well as JAVA, HTML, and other traditional programming languages.  As an added plus, the cost to run a 5-node PicoCluster is around $20 a year if it is run continuously, saving schools money in energy costs.

Business Use

Data is a necessity for modern businesses.  Companies make decisions based upon the information they have.  The more data they have access to, the better their decision-making will be.  Businesses with access to data will have an advantage over businesses without data.  Until recently, only big businesses and corporations could afford to have their own data center or to hire a data analytics company.  PicoCluster can help small and medium businesses level the playing field.  Even a 3-node PicoCluster can run any of the Big Data software, so a business doesn’t need to pay for more computing power than it actually needs.  Thanks to our training platform, businesses don’t have to hire a big data specialist, either.  PicoClusters can also be used for quality assurance, product development, prototyping, operations, training, and software optimization.  The PicoCluster LLC team can help customize a solution just for your business.

So What Are You Waiting For?

Now that you know what a PicoCluster is and some of the things it can do, what are you waiting for?  Visit our website at http://www.picocluster.com to read more about what a PicoCluster can do or to order one today.  Join our Facebook community at https://www.facebook.com/PicoCluster, tweet us @picocluster, or join us on Google+ – PicoCluster LLC.

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