By Ravish Patel
There’s been a lot of talk about the Arduino (https://www.arduino.cc/) and Raspberry Pi (https://www.raspberrypi.org/), what they are, and what their differences are. Both devices help with implementing simple electronic components into your project. We’ll try to break it down here simply so that you can know which one might be the right choice for your idea.
The Raspberry Pi is essentially a credit-card sized computer. There are multiple models with different capabilities, but they generally aren’t that powerful. It won’t run the latest video games, but it can be connected to things like sensors to gather real time data (eg, temperature sensor or humidity sensor or a camera), and with some basic programming, you can process and display the information found by these sensors. The Raspberry Pi is also capable of performing more complex tasks, such as performing multiple tasks, driving complicated robots, playing videos, connecting to the Internet, etc.
There are multiple applications for such a device in Biodesign. The Raspberry Pi has been used to act as a portable surgical microwave generator for ablations, monitor for swelling or abnormal cardiovascular activity in patients, and even power things like DNA imaging machines and electronic medical record information nodes.
The Arduino is technically a microcontroller. The original purpose of Arduino is to help students learn about electronics projects (so was the Raspberry Pi’s), and it is much simpler than the Raspberry Pi. It’s very easy to build something that’s a simple circuit. Ideally, the Arduino is good for performing repetitive tasks, such as switching something on and off or simply reading from sensors.
People have used arduinos in the past to create projects such as heart rate and SpO2 monitors, They have also been used for CPR feedback on training manikins, including depth, rate, time, and chest recoil monitoring. The extent of these projects is generally smaller and simpler than what may be accomplished with a Raspberry Pi, but the electronic profile of an Arduino is simpler, which makes it easier to get started with. Additionally, the function of an Arduino can be extended using “shields” that add functionality.
It is important to note that while Arduinos and Raspberry Pis are great tools for learning as well as prototyping and hobbying, some say they may not be the best options for production designs of medical devices for a few reasons. The consistency and quality of these devices may not be sufficient for the medical device in mind. They may pose regulatory issues or increase regulatory burden in terms of risk management and source control. Additionally, they may incorporate a lot of functionality that the device does not need and may later need to be disabled for safety and efficiency purposes. Standard available microprocessors are recommended to control most medical devices, but Arduino and Raspberry Pi definitely can be an initial means to learn and prototype your idea.
Since Raspberry Pi and Arduinos were built as teaching tools, there are plenty of tutorials and documents online to learn from and get started. As such, we haven’t listed any in particular in this article. We hope this article was helpful in getting started with the differences between the Arduino and Raspberry Pi.