Since March 2020, Raspberry Pi monthly sales have consistently surpassed 600,000 units, marking the biggest sales bump yet for the Raspberry Pi Foundation since launching in 2012. It is no coincidence that the current upsurge in demand is happening during the coronavirus lockdown. The upsurge is caused by the fact that the Raspberry Pi 4 has become an important part of the fight against the rampaging COVID-19 and its effects.
Basically, a Raspberry Pi is a low-cost computer board that enables people with no prior computer coding knowhow to undertake a wide range of electronics projects. During the lockdown, people at home are using their Raspberry devices to learn and experiment on basic IT skills and kill boredom. In fact, due to its relative affordability, remote workers who cannot afford computers have been using the Pi to make simple computers that can browse the web, check mail, and edit documents.
But there are more benefits to this general-purpose computer during these coronavirus times. They include:
Marco Mascorro, a robotics engineer from Bogota, Colombia, used a Raspberry Pi computer and parts recycled from plumbing supplies to make a ventilator. The main role of a Raspberry Pi in a ventilator is to control air pressure, basically by opening or closing a ventilator’s valves, depending on a patient’s needs. Most COVID-19 patients need partial breathing assistance. Without a doubt, ventilators are the single most important medical equipment specifically in this pandemic.
Marco’s prototype will go a long way in helping COVID-19 patients in the 3rd and developing worlds; countries that have very few actual ventilators. The prototype is currently being tested by experts at the University Hospital of the Pontifical Xavierian University (Bogota), in conjunction with the Los Andes University, also in Bogota. How long it will take for the prototype to get the needed regulatory permission for mainstream use remains to be seen, but depending on the urgency at which such equipment is needed all over the world, we can only hope that authorities will expedite the testing and approval periods.
There is an acute shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) across the world. To help essential services providers in their efforts to defeat the virus, 3D-printing manufacturers are now creating face shields using plastic acetate and delivering them to frontline health workers for free. Most 3D printers are currently running on Raspberry Pi.
Used in remote monitoring of COVID-19 patients’ blood oxygen
Tech experts affiliated with the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering used Raspberry Pi to develop a device that can be used to remotely monitor the progress of COVID-19 patients. The device can be attached to a fingertip probe to monitor signs such as respiratory responses and blood oxygen saturation, compute the necessary data, and then relay that data to bedside monitors that medical staff check once every few minutes.
Monitoring patients is nothing new- it is pretty much the job nursing staff do all the time, but COVID-19 has put undue pressure on them because of the huge number of patients seeking medical attention. They need technology to step in and assist. Desktops and laptops can do the job too, but then it would be chaotic to have a laptop next to each patient, with wires running all over. Raspberry Pi is ideal for a hospital setting because it is too tiny (the size of a credit card) .
Keeping people busy when home isolated
There are tons of Raspberry Pi 4 projects that people are undertaking as a way of passing time and learning new skills while quarantined at home. You can, for example:
- Use Raspberry Pi Sonic to make and play music.
- Create a portable arcade gaming console using Pi.
- Use Raspberry Pi as a music streaming device. You can use it to stream music on Google Music, Spotify, among others.
Although it is still early to tell how many possibilities there are with Raspberry Pi computers, it is true to say that this little computer has played the single biggest role in making COVID-19 treatment affordable. More people are acquiring Raspberry units by the day, and because its coding is open source, there aren’t limits as to how far people will go with their Raspberry inventions.