I typically play around with Raspberry Pi's. That's the little budget SBC that got me into this line of SoC tinkering. Mind you before that I had my fair share in education with PIC & ARM-Cortex MCUs, and playtime with Arduino AVRs,. I even toyed around with TI's MSP430 launchpad series for a while. When I jumped into the robotic controls gig a little more than a year ago, it was interesting to see several of my colleagues toting Beaglebones. I asked them "Why not a Pi?" They just kinda seemed to shrug it off. One guy mentioned that he thought that Pi was relatively under powered. I was thinking solely cores and memory at the time. "What about the RPi 3, then?" I egged on. "Oh, that's kinda cool." They responded. Apparently there was something I had not quite discovered yet about the Bone. Having played around with cross compiling the RTI implementation of DDS middlware libraries for the Pi in the past, I though it would be cool to see how the also ARM equipped Beaglebone would hold up as a bus node. I borrowed one from a coworker and got a simple sample publishing to a Pi subscriber. Establishing this line of communication between two such influential boards was something rather amusing to me at the time; but this was before I realized just what kind of magic this little doggie really had to offer...
Little Pup running with a Big Pack.
I've worked in the controls industry for about 4 years now. From what I've gathered, the industrial automation industry has a set of cornerstones that make it's core: Fieldbus Protocols. These communications are usually "free", but proprietary in the sense that the hardware and associated drivers that utilize them are licensed by the large vendors that maintain those devices. These licenses are typically way beyond the pay-grade of the average engineer, let alone a typical maker or hobbyist. Enter Siemens *TODO: more about siemens* . Now take for instance the Beckhoff CX-series SIPC. I actually kind of like this particular piece of hardware because, to me, it seems like step in the right direction. A dedicated main processor that can tote Windows embedded (or a linux kernel for the adventurous types) along with an emulated PLC to communication with the Fieldbus ilk. But what's the catch here? Well, Beckhoff packages a suite with their hardware called TwinCAT, where about the voodoo one really desires for industrial automation systems is almost entirely encapsulated. That's really what you're paying for. A TwinCAT license and support services. And again we see not that much is really different from the usual vendor after all.