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1000 Raspberry Pi (and why the 7" display was sold out)

At Digitec Galaxus we like making things ourselves. This occasionally requires quite a bit of perseverance, as our showroom screens nicely demonstrate. This is a story about engineering at Digitec Galaxus and about hundreds of Raspberry Pi.

We’ve got 8 stores with a showroom. These are all equipped with 105 screens, each of which are neatly sunk into the display tables on which the products are presented. The screens provide customers with additional product information. Now, all 840 (you’re welcome) of them have been upgraded.

So what’s changed? Not much, really. Sorry to disappoint you but this is a field report that's about how drive and perseverance can lead to great solutions.

If you’d like a sneak peek behind the scenes at Digitec Galaxus and want to find out what all of this has to do with Raspberry Pi, Cornelia Hauri is the person you’re looking for. Cornelia is project leader at Digitec Galaxus. She smiles when I ask her about the project. After more than two years it has been successfully completed. But first things first.

First attempt: Tablets

It all started with a new showroom concept. The vision behind it: to create custom-made tables that display products and allow customers not just to look but also to feel the product. Each table should present a display model and be equipped with a screen that provides up-to-date product information, the price and product ratings from the community.

So each table was fitted with a tablet. These first-generation devices worked astonishingly well. But after one year, it was over. The tables simply weren’t made for non-stop use. The batteries swelled up one by one and all devices gave up the ghost.

Meanwhile, the number of stores with a showroom had grown to eight. And with more showrooms came more display tables. But the acquisition of thousands of tablets just wasn’t feasible. An alternative solution was needed.

Second attempt: ePaper

It was decided to switch to ePaper displays. David Creel and Tudor Zaharia (engineering) specifically created an interface board for the Raspberry Pi. Using two boards, a single Raspberry could drive a cluster of sixteen screens.

The original UI concept envisaged a swiping motion – like you do on your smartphone – to scroll through texts. Unfortunately, ePaper screens (or rather the flash chips used to drive them) are not designed for frequent image changes. A rough calculation showed that after four months max, all screens would break. This called for the development of a new, static design: If the displayed images only changed every few minutes, the displays would last a lot longer.

So the software was modified and a prototype was developed. Everyone was hopeful when the first pilot test was launched at one of the stores soon after. The joy did not last long. Within one week, five screens had been destroyed by customers – by accident, of course. All it had taken to break the screen was placing an SLR camera on it. As it later turned out, the custom-made Plexiglas bezels were simply not strong enough. They had given in under pressure and made the screens burst.

A dry spell ensued and we went from ePaper back to paper. That sounds funnier than it actually was. Every day, the store employees had to print out current information and prices for each product on display. The pressure was on for the project team. They needed to act fast if they ever wanted to show their faces in the store again.

Third attempt: Raspberry Pi

Firstly, a new, more stable bezel had to be developed. This time, David left nothing to chance: Metal was used and the design was tested in the simulator. At the same time, in September 2015, Raspberry launched a matching screen for the Pi. At 7" it was not only the perfect size but also featured a very good resolution and a touch interface – perfect! Together with the new bezel, this was bound to work.

Well not everything went as smooth as planned. The mount – the plastic cover between the table and the screen – had to be made of scratch-proof, resistant plastic. It took 5 attempts in total to find the right material. The low point for Cornelia was opening the parcel containing 1000 pieces – they had all been scratched in transport. Finally, a Swiss company delivered the mounts in the desired quality.

In the pilot test, the new solution stood the test both visually and technically. Each table now features a Raspberry Pi model 2, a 7" display and a 5V power supply. Over the course of six months, only one defect was recorded in the test shop. In addition, the Raspberries automatically switch off in the evening and wake up when the store opens in the morning. They’re sturdy, low-maintenance and cost-effective – that’s how we like it! The solution was rolled out in all stores.

Raspberry Pi 2, Model B (Onboard, ARM Cortex-A7, Special)
Raspberry Pi Raspberry Pi 2, Model B (Onboard, ARM Cortex-A7, Special)
The all-new, more powerful version of the mini computer is now available!

Overall rating

53

4.8 out of 5 stars

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Availability

  • Currently unavailable. Delivery date unknown.

Information subject to change.

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Raspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen Display
CHF 85.–
Raspberry Pi 7" Touch Screen Display

Overall rating

7

4.0 out of 5 stars

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Availability

Mail delivery

  • more than 10 piece(s)
    in our warehouse

PickMup

Collection

  • Basel: tomorrow at 13:10
  • Bern: tomorrow at 12:45
  • Dietikon: tomorrow at 14:30
  • Kriens: tomorrow at 11:20
  • Lausanne: tomorrow at 15:40
  • St Gallen: tomorrow at 15:30
  • Winterthur: tomorrow at 13:30
  • Wohlen: more than 10 piece(s)
  • Zurich: tomorrow at 12:30

If ordered immediately.
Information subject to change.

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EVO microSDHC mit Adapter (32GB, Class 10)
CHF 18.70MSRP 29.911
Samsung EVO microSDHC mit Adapter (32GB, Class 10)

Overall rating

28

4.7 out of 5 stars

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Availability

Mail delivery

  • approx. 4-6 days

Collection

  • Basel: only 2 piece(s)
  • Bern: only 4 piece(s)
  • Dietikon: only 4 piece(s)
  • Kriens: only 2 piece(s)
  • Lausanne: only 3 piece(s)
  • St Gallen: only 2 piece(s)
  • Winterthur: only 3 piece(s)
  • Wohlen: approx. 0-2 days
  • Zurich: only 1 piece(s)

If ordered immediately.
Information subject to change.

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Strongtronics T6090DV Netzteil zu Raspberry Pi 3
CHF 20.20MSRP 25.901
Strongtronics T6090DV Netzteil zu Raspberry Pi 3
Offizielles Netzteil zum Raspberry Pi 3

Overall rating

12

4.7 out of 5 stars

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Availability

Mail delivery

  • approx. 4-6 days

Collection

  • Basel: only 2 piece(s)
  • Bern: only 4 piece(s)
  • Dietikon: only 2 piece(s)
  • Kriens: only 4 piece(s)
  • Lausanne: more than 10 piece(s)
  • St Gallen: approx. 4-6 days
  • Winterthur: only 2 piece(s)
  • Wohlen: approx. 3-5 days
  • Zurich: more than 10 piece(s)

If ordered immediately.
Information subject to change.

View details

By the way, all devices were installed and assembled by our very own shop employees. On top of their daily business, they spent every spare minute equipping the tables. A big thanks to the team!

PS: Now all your Raspberry Pi fans out there know why the 7" display was sold out for months at digitec.ch: We needed them all for our stores. So sorry! ;)

More about engineering at Digitec

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How we develop our software

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Aurel Stevens

I’m a full-time writer, a part-time dad and interested in technology, computers and hi-fi. I’m also a rain-or-shine cyclist and generally in a good mood.

22 Comments

User Oxidan83

Ich vermute; vierter Anlauf: 1000 HTC Vives. Würde erklären weshalb diese noch immer nicht lieferbar sind. ;-)

26.07.2016
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User RealMajor

witzige these =) doch so wie mir gestern mitgeteilt wurde sind die vives nicht lieferbar da HTC die schweiz noch nicht offiziell damit beliefert =/ warum auch immer das so sein mag... ist die geschäftspolitik von HTC ^ ^ ist mir ehrlich gesagt schleierhaft, die nachfrage wäre defintiv da.

27.07.2016
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User Anonymous

Anders als bei Oculus kann man problemlos von HTC in die Schweiz bestellen. Ich wurde z.B. schon in der ersten Welle beliefert.

28.07.2016
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User engels141

Eher ein paar tausend Google Cardboards.

28.07.2016
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User Anonymous

Ich finde eure "Do it yourself" Einstellung genial!
Die Displays sind sauber eingebettet, das sieht schön und sehr professionell aus.
Ich finde eure Artikel immer wieder interessant und angenehm geschrieben, kein Fach-gelaber aus dem eh keiner rauskommt.

28.07.2016
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User Anonymous

Ausserdem kennen wir bald alle eure Mitarbeiter, das gibt Digitec/Galaxus ein Gesicht, bzw. mehrere :)

28.07.2016
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User flightcontrol

werdet Ihr die verwendete HS & SW (inkl. Halterung, etc, ...) als Bundle anbieten?
Denke es gibt eine Vielzahl an kleineren Geschäften, Firmen mit kleinen Präsentations- Bereichen wo diese Lösung zum Einsatz kommen kann.

ps: danke für den interessanten Artikel!

31.07.2016
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User paulick.m

s.bartolic.. Dafür, dass es dich nicht interessiert, biat du aber fleissig am kommentieren.

27.07.2016
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User scanix85

Habe diese Kombination schon länger im Einsatz im Geschäft und im Privaten. Ohne Evaluation griff ich zu diesen Elementen. Mit vollem Erfolg. Nach dem das Linux angepasst war standen mir alle Türen offen ob Automation oder Info Screen... ^^^^

31.07.2016
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User jeevanandk

Ich fand die allerersten einfach genial. Riesiger Bildschirm (fast die Grösse des Tisches!) und der Drehknubbel zur Navigation. Das war richtig futuristisch und man fühlte sich wie in einem hochmodernen Computergeschäft. Leider war das nur kurz und nur in Zürich. Die waren wohl zu teuer...

02.08.2016
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User hheggliag

Interessanter Artikel. Ich glaub ich muss mir auch noch so ein Display bestellen :-) Bin allerdings gespannt wie lange die SD-Karten mitmachen... Ich hab nach einiger Zeit immer Lese/Schreibfehler und muss die Karten komplett neu formatieren und neu flashen :-(

17.08.2016
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User Aurel Stevens

Hoi hheggliag,

Merci! Tipp: Schalte die Logs so weit wie möglich aus oder nutze ein (kleines) Ramdrive. Oder du steckst einen USB-Stick ein und lagerst die Logs dorthin aus. Hier gibts einige Tipps dazu: makeuseof.com/tag/extend-li...

Die letzten Tage wurde über einen experimentellen Treiber berichtet; mit dem kann man bald direkt vom USB-Stick booten und benötigt überhaupt keine SD-Karte mehr :)

17.08.2016
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User HexPay

Die alten interfaces für die epaper displays, liegen die noch rum? Daran hätte ich Interesse.

01.09.2016
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User s.bartolic

Sorry, aber wenn Ihr das nicht innert nützlicher Frist hinbekommen habt, solltet Ihr: A) Fähige Leute machen lassen und/oder B) Eure Leidensgeschichte einem Psychiater erzählen. (Der Drang darüber zu reden scheint ja vorhanden) Aber mich als Kunde interessiert dies leider nicht.

27.07.2016
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User Aurel Stevens

Hoi s.bartolic,

Das kam vielleicht im Bericht missverständlich rüber, aber Cornelia und David haben sich in den letzten zwei Jahren nicht ausschliesslich mit den Showroom-Displays beschäftigt.

Scheitern ist erlaubt, nur lernen muss man daraus. Das ist der Punkt. Sagt sogar mein Psychiater.

27.07.2016
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User chrugail

Hallo s.bartolic,
mag sein, dass es dich nicht interessiert, aber deswegen heisst das noch lange nicht, dass es keinen Kunden interessiert.
Mich interessiert der Artikel - wenn es dich nicht interessiert, musst du den Artikel nicht lesen.. ;)

27.07.2016
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User RealMajor

ich finds auch interessant etwas über die background story zu erfahren, etwas kritik mag evtl ja noch berechtigt sein aber der kommentar von bartolic geht ja schon eher richtung flaming... ich habe gerade zT recht grosse probleme mit dem Kundenservice, würde mich dennoch nie so herablassend äussern.

27.07.2016
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User RealMajor

BTW "der weg ist das ziel" ist sogar wissenschaftlich belegt, das wahre erfolge und fortschritte aus dem scheitern resultieren, nur dadurch lernt man. Wenn immer alles auf anhieb klappt wird man sehr schnell bei der kleinsten schwierigkeit umknicken und aufgeben, die die scheitern und es immer wieder versuchen werden langfristig erfolg haben sofern sie gewillt sind aus ihren fehlern zu lernen.

27.07.2016
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User farcillio

@ s.bartolic: Nichts kapiert hmm? Wenn Digitec natürlich Uriella oder Mike Shiva angestellt hätten dann hätten sie genau prophezeien können wo und wann die Screen und Tablets kaputt gehen. Haben wir uns im Geschäft auch öfters überlegt.. aber wie so oft im leben lernt man etwas NACHDEM man einen Fehler gemacht hat. Falls Du einen Psychiater hast, dann raten wir die alle hier den zu wechseln ^^ den uns interessiert das ganze :)

15.08.2016
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