The Compute Module – now in an NEC display near you

Back in April 2014, we launched the Compute Module to provide hardware developers with a way to incorporate Raspberry Pi technology into their own products. Since then, we’ve seen it used to build home media players, industrial control systems, and everything in between.

Earlier this week, NEC announced that they would be adding Compute Module support to their next-generation large-format displays, starting with 40″, 48″, and 55″ models in January 2017, and eventually scaling all the way up to a monstrous 98″ (!!) by the end of the year. These are commercial-grade displays designed for use in brightly lit public spaces such as schools, offices, shops, and railway stations.

Believe it or not these are the small ones

Believe it or not, these are the small ones.

NEC have already lined up a range of software partners in retail, airport information systems, education, and corporate to provide presentation and signage software which runs on the Compute Module platform. You’ll be seeing these roll out in a lot of locations that you visit frequently.

Each display has an internal bay which accepts an adapter board loaded with either the existing Compute Module or the upcoming Compute Module 3, which incorporates the BCM2837 application processor and 1GB of LPDDR2 memory found on the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. We’re expecting to do a wider release of Compute Module 3 to everybody around the end of the year.

The Compute Module in situ

The Compute Module in situ

We’ve been working on this project with NEC for over a year now, and are very excited that it’s finally seeing the light of day. It’s an incredible vote of confidence in the Raspberry Pi Compute Module platform from a blue-chip hardware vendor, and will hopefully be the first of many.

Now, here’s some guy to tell you more about what’s going on behind the screens you walk past every day on your commute.


redsPL avatar

Wow! A cool use of compute module! I was really thinking “will anyone use that, we have pi zero!?”, but as I see now, compute module also have some fans ;P

Mark Daniels avatar

This is fantastic. Does it have Ethernet connectivity built in? It could be perfect for my application.

W. H. Heydt avatar

Somebody spotted what they think is a LAN 9514 chip on the carrier board. So, assuming the display brings out the 9514 connections, it would have an Ethernet jack. If it just has some USB ports, a USB to Ethernet adapter would work.

On the whole, though, given the uses for which these displays are intended, I would think that an Ethernet interface is almost a given. Think remotely changing what is to be displayed.

Mark Daniels avatar

W H Heydt said:

“Somebody spotted what they think is a LAN 9514 chip on the carrier board. So, assuming the display brings out the 9514 connections, it would have an Ethernet jack. If it just has some USB ports, a USB to Ethernet adapter would work.”

USB to Ethernet just adds cost and unnecessary complexity. Not really the way I would like to go, nor what I would expect from NEC, so I hope the 9514 is real and connected to an RJ45 socket.

“On the whole, though, given the uses for which these displays are intended, I would think that an Ethernet interface is almost a given. Think remotely changing what is to be displayed.”

This is what I would expect and hope is the case. What I would like is a statement from the Pi Foundation or NEC confirming once and for all that this is (or is not) the case. I have read the article on NEC’s website, but that makes it no clearer. Can Liz, Eben or NEC clarify the situation for me as this product provides an ideal platform for my corporate product in development.

Thank you.

W. H. Heydt avatar

Any clarification would have to come from NEC. Indeed, it is moderately likely that those from RPT and/or RPF that worked on these with NEC are under an NDA for anything beyond what has already been published.

The most likely way to find out for sure (because, at this point, NEC probably won’t tell you either) is to wait for the first model to hit the market in January and then look for a spec sheet on it.

NEC_Displays avatar

“Does it have Ethernet connectivity built in?”

Hi Mark,
Ethernet is provided via the RJ45 connection of the display. The RPi gets a separate IP address.

W. H. Heydt avatar

Hoo boy… Get one answer and more questions open up… So that is a “separate IP address” from something else in the display, right? That implies that the is at least and Ethernet hub and much more likely a switch) inside the display, right? Does the switch have more than three ports (one for the display, one for the CM and one for uplink)?

AndrewS avatar

Great stuff! Nice to see an industrial use of Pi made public.

Will the 16GB Flash ComputeModules also be available standalone?

NEC_Displays avatar

The NEC version of the compute module will come with 16GB eMMC on board. The first displays will all provide FHD resolution. And yes compute modules will be available stand-alone (via NEC sales partners). Both CM and IO board /mezzanine board will come either fully integrated or as options for our displays.

W. H. Heydt avatar

Thanks for that data. Is there an estimated price for the 16GB CM3 yet?

NEC_Displays avatar

I am afraid not yet. Stay tuned… ;-)

Robert Zwemer avatar

Happy to hear that production of the Compute Module 3, will be increased by end of year. On another note, any word on production of the Raspberry Pi Zero v. 1.3, when we we be able to purchase say 10 at a time for $5.00 each, rasther than one at a time???????????????

Aaron Newcomb avatar


Ben Nuttall avatar

Cue Futurama reference…

“Have you seen my new 301 inch TV?”

Alex Bate avatar

1″ bigger than Barney has…

Andrew avatar

Haha I Lol’ed

Its2082 avatar

HDMIpi goes super size.

The next question is:- will NEC or another manufacturer release a similar “home” version of this? It’s high time someone sold a “smart” display which isn’t crippled by “dumb” software the user can’t update.

James Carroll avatar

I too would like to see consumer grade tv with this option. To have a smart TV worthy of the name.

PJ avatar

Oh god yes please! That would be so sweeeet.
I’m thinking instant Kodi here!

Richard avatar

WOW This fantastic news. This will give a big resource for the foundation to go even further. You’re taking the world over guys!

And what is great, it shows that you don’t need the best hardware if you have the support of the community.

Well Done. :)

W. H. Heydt avatar

Now if they can see the way to make a monitor with this feature in a 19″ to 22″ range, it’d be great for a myriad of uses.

Richard avatar

I agree, would made a great HMI in an industrial plant, or at home. ;)

HMI’s usually are bolted to big boxes to house the PC. I assume the adopter board they have made includes touch screen support. I noticed that it looks to have the RPi 1 IO port.

W. H. Heydt avatar

It uses the CM family of Pis, so it has whatever capabilities they want to bring out on the carrier board. CMs expose *everything*.

Jim Manley avatar

What, Hal, me pedaling from the Mountain View Caltrain station to the Computer History Museum for our Jams with a 98-inch display strapped on my back isn’t enough of a visual for you? OK, maybe it will be on a pair of bike wheels as on those kid trailers (I just happen to have one of those, it turns out). Oh, and there will be a battery big enough to power it all so I can have “FOLLOW ME TO THE RASPBERRY JAM!!!” and other (_PAID_) messaging obtrusively blinding drivers and pedestrians, even in broad daylight, almost as obnoxiously as those 50-million-candlepower e-billboards that have taken over the freeways in SillyCon Valley and the greater SF Bay area, as well as other metropolii around the country and world, no doubt.

Mark Daniels avatar

Go for it, Jim. You may as well blind car drivers with a 98″ monitor on your bike ;) It’s certainly no worse than the insane, unregulated use of strobing, badly aimed, over-bright LED lamps that are already in use on push bikes and would land me with a ticket if I did the same on my car! ;)

Jay avatar

I agree. My application – and I am terribly excited by the possibilities of RPi teaming up with NEC – would require a smaller display, about 15-inch to 18-inch, touch-sensitive, for industrial applications. At a cost that is magnitude less than fully integrated units available today. Possible?

Phil Atkin avatar

Let’s face it, it’s a Linux computer if you add keys / mouse.

Glen Turner avatar

“Let’s face it, it’s a Linux computer if you add keys / mouse.”

That’s exactly the attraction Phil. If you wander around public spaces you’ll often find small Linux computers attached to the rear of digital signage displays. My university has over a thousand of these, all with a RPi2B on the rear, each attached to a dedicated VLAN on the campus network.

This is a pain from a physical point of view: a standalone RPi needs packaging, mounting, cabling, power and security. Allowing the Compute Module to sit within the display solves these issues and makes NEC’s displays more attractive than those of their competitors.

Anton avatar

If it is possible to disclose at all, are the any plans for smaller monitors (say 21″) with integrated Pi?

PD avatar

Please clarify the situation with eMMC storage. 4GB, 16GB? Is this memory located on the Compute Module 3 PCB, or is this an NEC addition/choice included off the compute module ‘stick’?

Secondly, do these displays all max out at VideoCore’s (AFAIK) 1920×1200 max resolution?

W. H. Heydt avatar

Starting from the current CM1…it has 4GB of eMMC flash on the board. Therefore, one presumes that the CM3 will have eMMC flash on the board, 4GB of it for the standard CM3, 16GB for the special NEC “CM3-16”, and none at all on the CM3L.

So far as I’m concerned at this point, the real question with regards to the CM3 is: Will it be possible (and for how much?) to just buy a CM3-16? Not that I’m necessarily going to do so, but knowing whether or not one can is of interest.

NEC_Displays avatar

The NEC version of the compute module will come with 16GB eMMC on board. The displays (40″, 48″ and 55″) will all provide Full HD resolution and output native resolution.

W. H. Heydt avatar

I find one thing unclear in this blog entry. You wrote, “…adding Compute Module support…” Does this mean just that the CM is an optional addition to a monitor, or does it mean that the CMIO board is an optional part of the monitor?

Richard Collins avatar

Looking at the pictures, it seems the CM is plugged into an adaptor board that then plugs into the monitor. So I guess they could make an adaptor board that takes a different SBC (Single Board Computer).

I would guess that the adaptor for the CM is the real news and that they will be the only ones making them. So unless they make one for your favourite SBC then you’ll be using a CM. Sounds a good solution to me.

Ben Nuttall avatar

That’s how the compute module works. You design your own interface board and plug a module into it. You design and manufacture your own IO boards and buy the CM from Raspberry Pi distributors. We also provide a development kit including a demo IO board which is open-source (gives you a starting point).

The CM uses the SODIMM form factor (think laptop RAM). I don’t know of any other such SBC modules in this form factor so I think it’s a bit too bespoke for plug-n-play… except that you can obviously swap out other Raspberry Pi CMs (say CM1 for a CM3 for future CMs).

W. H. Heydt avatar

That leads to the obvious question of price. Originally, the dev kit with CM was $230. By this time last year, one could buy them for $100. If you shop carefully, you can now get a CM dev kit for a bit over $50.

So….what is the expected retail prices of a CM3 dev kit?

The CM1 has been consistently (until recently, with careful shopping), $40 in unit quantity ($30 each in 100 quantity). One presumes–on no specific evidence–that this will be the price of the 4GB CM3, but what will the price of the CM3L be? It *ought* to be at least modestly lower, as it saves the cost of the 4GB eMMC module, but that may not cost very much. And, of course, one wonders how much NEC will want for the CM2-16 modules….but that’s not something that one can expect the RPT/RPF to influence. Darnit.

Jim Manley avatar

They have a Reduced Interface Structure Computing (RISC ;) board inside the display to provide just the desired interfaces they need, rather than an entire CMIO board, which is primarily for hardware developers, as you may recall. Also, in the NEC announcement, they noted that they had used Element-14’s custom design service for development of the CM3-16GB and the CMIO board in the displays, AIUI.

NEC_Displays avatar

“Does this mean just that the CM is an optional addition to a monitor, or does it mean that the CMIO board is an optional part of the monitor?”

The compute modules will be available stand-alone. Both CM and IO board /mezzanine board will come either fully integrated or as options for our displays. You can get a version with a compute module integrated from the beginning or you can upgrade the displays at a later stage, as we want to keep the modular approach. It’ll be also possible to integrate the “Standard” Compute Module or the “NEC version” which comes with 16GB eMMC on board.

NEC_Displays avatar

The CM will be an optional part. You also need a customized IO board to connect the CM. There will also me models that come with IO board and CM pre-installed.

Yskar avatar

When you will release an Raspberry Pi 3 (or 4) computer module?
This stuff is awesome for clustering.

Liz Upton avatar

Have you read the post you’re responding to carefully?

Trick avatar

Why the hostile reply Liz? He was asking if you guys are releasing a Raspberry Pi 3 version of the compute module, and no where is it written in the article that says that.

Alex Bate avatar

“We’re expecting to do a wider release of Compute Module 3 to everybody around the end of the year.”

Nobody of Import avatar

“end of the year” is a bit vague. While he did ask a bit of a redundant question, I’d be asking for a bit clearer timeline (And AM…)

After all, I’m looking at an industrial temp range solution that a PI3 Module (hell even a Pi2A+ would work) might be the magic solution- they’re considerably lower power than TI’s cr*p and much, much more capable.

IF I could definitively know I can lay hands on the modules or even better yet get same volume and market endurance promise they have… Heh… I could fuel the Foundation, hard and fast…

Liz Upton avatar

If we had a more accurate timeline than that, we’d let you know! These things are always (and necessarily) fluid.

Richard Collins avatar

End of the year.

Mark Keith avatar

Be interesting to see a server blade/cluster board set up to receive lots of these CM’s

hans lepoeter avatar

Will gpio or at least just serial io be made available on the outside of the monitor ? That would expand the possibility to process automation and things the like. I’m thinking home brewing, maybe just brewing equipment.

W. H. Heydt avatar

Carrier board expose what the designer wants to expose. For an application like this, I would expect an internal connection of the HDMI (to the rest of the monitor), a set of USB ports (2 or 3 of them) and, most likely–given the intended uses–an Rj-45 jack for wired Ethernet. A Wifi and *maybe* a BT concetion is possible. The WiFi for the intended use as a commercial display and BT in case someone needs to walk up to the display with a keyboard and make changes. I can’t, off hand, think of what use the typical Pi GPIO pins would be useful for in an display like this.

NEC_Displays avatar

The solution will include:
– 3x USB
– 2 downstream USB interfaces which can be used in combination with e.g. mouse/keyboard USB dongle, WiFi dongle, Bluetooth dongle etc.
– 1 upstream USB interface to write on the eMMC on the RPi CM
– 2x RJ45
– can be used to bring the RPi online; when connecting any internet cable to one of the two RJ45 interfaces, the display gets an IP-address, the internal media player and the RPi
– IR for navigation in the RPi OS you can use the remote control of the display

AndrewS avatar

Thanks for your replies :)

gregeric avatar

GPIO was used brilliantly with digital signage here: and here:

The NEC IO board has what looks like a 26-pin header – possibly for GPIO, original model B/A pinout?

NEC_Displays avatar

We are currently evaluating two Options. Either the 26+14 pin (same as Compute Module 3) or 26 pin (same as Compute Module 2)

Richard avatar

Although this is really for commercial displays I do hope that it may lead to developments in the consumer market. The current offerings (the ones I have tried) of smart TV’s are very slow compared to any of the current crop of SBC’s. A RPi3 connector under flap in the back of a TV will allow for user customisation.

Problem is, is there enough geeks out there to make this a viable option for the big players.

I also wonder if they will open source the design connector to allow others to make their own carrier boards as well as TV’s that accept the carrier boards.

Stick avatar

Great to see a mainstream manufacturer recognize the potential of the compute module. Build it and they will come.

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