When you’re automating your home and finding the best way to run things, you’ll naturally run across a dilemma: Raspberry Pi or Arduino? They’re kind of similar but different enough that it warrants taking a closer look. Is Raspberry Pi or Arduino better for home automation?
Neither Raspberry Pi nor Arduino is better; they’re both great at different things. Arduino is better at handling raw sensory inputs from analog sensors, while Raspberry Pi is more useful for software-heavy tasks like programming and everyday web tasks that need processing power.
In this article, I’ll be covering what Raspberry Pi and Arduino can do, how they compare, and which is better for home automation projects.
Arduino is a type of open-source electronics platform that most commonly includes a microcontroller board with an IDE or Integrated Development Environment. It comes with multiple I/O input pins that can be configured to work with expansion ‘shields,’ along with breadboards for prototyping.
It was created in Italy as a way for students and amateurs to create simple electronic devices that interact with the environment according to various sensors and actuators. Examples of devices that use Arduino tech include motion sensors, door locks, remote controls, and much more.
While Arduino doesn’t run on an operating system, it can be controlled via the C++ programming language and its included IDE command line. It runs bare code, which means it doesn’t necessarily need an OS.
Raspberry Pi is a full-fledged microprocessor-based mini computer system that runs on a credit-card-sized board. You can plug into a monitor/screen and interact with it via a mouse and keyboard, similar to most PCs and Mac computers.
It is a relatively low-cost computer system often used by people to learn how to program in basic programming languages such as Python or Scratch. It can also be used to browse the internet, watch videos, and do most other things Windows or Mac computers can do. Raspberry Pi runs on a modified Linux operating system.
Raspberry Pi is notably used in many maker projects as a ‘brain,’ or central control unit. Projects that utilize Raspberry Pi include digital weather systems, music systems, infrared sensor systems, robots, specialized camera systems, and more.
While it’s easy to look at an Arduino board and a Raspberry Pi side-by-side and think they’re the same, they’re not. It’s also unfair to try to pick out which is best: each device is good at different things, and they can even be used together.
Raspberry Pi has a lot of computing power and RAM, which make it great for software and programming applications. It can even substitute for a primary computer, though it won’t function at the same level as a PC or Mac.
For example, Raspberry Pi is the perfect choice if you’re doing programming. It supports various coding languages, as well as the programming power to back it up. Unlike Arduino, though, you have to write the code and run it after turning the system on. Arduino lets you execute as you code, though it’s limited in programming scope.
Where Pi particularly lacks, though, is in its analog input capabilities. Let me explain.
Raspberry Pi has a GPIO connector that supports I2C and SPI inputs. At a glance, this seems fine, but then you realize those are digital! What if you want to run analog inputs on a Raspberry Pi? Well, you’d need additional hardware. Pi isn’t very plug-and-play friendly when it comes to analog sensors.
On the other hand, Arduino has the same digital inputs as well as analog inputs and even SWM output. This makes Arduino perfect in a system that needs to read a lot of analog input signals like sensor input and manual control. Even with the right hardware, Raspberry Pi needs software to interpret and work with analog sensors. It’s just not that intuitive when you’re working with simple sensors.
Essentially, Arduino is extremely versatile for read-and-respond systems.
Ardunio also excels in ease of programming. Making the most out of Raspberry Pi requires some familiarity with Linux systems, as well as Python. To perform a custom job on Pi, you’d need to install code libraries and so on before you can even get it to make an LED blink. By contrast, you can make an Arduino blink an LED with eight lines of code.
One other way they differ is that while an Arduino can be shut off at any time without consequences, Raspberry Pi needs to be shut down before being unplugged. If you simply unplug a Raspberry Pi system without shutting it down, you can cause irreversible damage to the hardware components.
If you’re doing tasks that most benefit a PC, Raspberry Pi has an Arduino beat. It’s great at networking, running VPNs, and communicating with web servers. Generally, too, you can attach a Raspberry Pi to a system that also utilizes Arduino, then use it for everyday computer tasks like checking email and watching videos: the Pi will still run the Arduino and additional hardware.
Neither is better but rather built for different jobs. Both can be used within the same system to great effect, you can use an Arduino to control various analog sensors and feed the data to a Raspberry Pi, recording and controlling all incoming and outgoing processes.
For software-heavy tasks, Raspberry Pi has the Arduino beat. It has way more processing power and RAM, not to mention the Linux-based OS makes performing PC-like tasks possible. For programming, especially, Pi is very versatile and flexible with adding code libraries.
For simple read-and-respond electronic systems, Arduino is more useful. It can read and process analog inputs without additional software or hardware, and it’s very easy to code: There are thousands of coding tutorials for Arduino for just about any task you could set for the little board.
Raspberry Pi and Arduino are both very useful systems for home automation, though neither is necessarily better than the other. Rather, they’re both good at different things, and even great working together in setups.