Sony investment will put AI chips inside Raspberry Pi boards

Sony will provide its Aitrios on-chip AI image sensing platform.

Raspberry Pi

Sony's semiconductor division has announced that it's making a "strategic investment" in Raspberry Pi as a way to bring its AI tech to a wider market. The idea is to give Raspberry Pi users around the world a development platform for its Aitrios edge computing (on-chip) AI platform used for image sensing functions like facial recognition.

"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," said Sony Semiconductor Solutions president and CEO Terushi Shimizu.

The Raspberry Pi 4 and other devices from the company give users PC-like power in a small form factor. Originally designed as an educational platform to teach robotics, coding and more, it has become popular as a way for coders to prototype IoT (Internet of Things) and other devices.

The addition of Sony's Aitrios could make it even more useful. Unlike cloud AI, it runs directly on chips (edge computing) to reduce latency, and Sony has pitched the system for uses like surveillance, security and more. Examples cited on a dedicated website include inventory monitoring and retention, customer counting, license plate recognition and "detailed employee analysis." Sony says it preserves privacy by analyzing data strictly on-chip and only sending metadata to the cloud.

Sony is already involved with Raspberry Pi as a "longstanding and valued strategic partner," the company said. It recently provided imaging chips with autofocus capability and helped Raspberry Pi get its UK manufacturing plant up to speed in the early days of the company.