Nine Raspberry Pis power this entire office

Monterail decided they needed a bigger office, and they wanted that office to be smarter, so they turned to Raspberry Pi to make it happen.

It was a real leap of faith because the team couldn’t find a similar Raspberry Pi project quite this big, so they didn’t have much to go on. Spoiler: their courage paid off.

monterail smart office
Each TV gets its own Raspberry Pi

What does Raspberry Pi power in the office?

The team had a long list of tasks they wanted to transfer over to the control of Raspberry Pi:

  • lighting
  • signals to show meeting room occupancy
  • security access codes for the main doors
  • wireless music streaming
  • content selection on five TVs
  • special colour-changing LED lamps in the kitchen

They wanted to be able to control everything via a web app that would work on desktop and mobile phone, as well as via panels mounted on the walls.

Where are the Raspberry Pis?

One lead Raspberry Pi controls all the low-level hardware (door access, lighting, etc) from the custom-made distribution board pictured below. This computer also runs the web server with a web app that allows people to control all of the features.

monterail smart office
The one Raspberry Pi to rule them all, top centre

Five more units are connected to the five individual TVs. Two Raspberry Pis are connected to a broadcasting amplifier which runs several speakers dotted all over the office space. And a special separate unit lives in the bathroom, controlling speakers that play ambient radio for users to enjoy their bathroom time to.

monterail smart office
Two Raspberry Pis control this amplifier, which is connected to all the speakers

How does everything work?

Kamil G贸rski’s blog about the fit-out goes into lots of nerdy technical details, if you’d like to know about the lighting circuits and whatnot. Here’s an abridged look at how a few office features work.

TV content

Each TV has its own Raspberry Pi running Chrome in kiosk mode, and the lead Raspberry Pi controls each of them. The TVs can all display different things or, using HDMI switches and splitters, they can all display whatever is showing on the projector during keynote presentations.

monterail smart office
Pro tip: motivate staff by showing them burger memes

Audio

All of the office speakers are divided into sections and connected to a broadcasting amplifier, which has two Raspberry Pis running DLNA and AirPlay servers connected to it. The aforementioned bathroom Raspberry Pi has its music choices managed by a Slack channel, an excellent idea with which nothing could possibly go wrong.

Meeting room occupancy

Android tablets mounted to the wall outside meeting rooms run the web app controlled by the lead Raspberry Pi. They display the meeting room occupancy calendar so everyone can see the availability of that room at a glance.

monterail smart office
The meeting room occupancy display was an especially simple fix

One year on and everything still seems to be running well on Raspberry Pi. Excellent innovation, Monterail! We’re getting a few ideas for Pi Towers.

30 comments
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Pi’s are for development use only! Not for end product use like this. STOP IT!! 馃ぃ

Reply to Paul

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Aww does this mean I have to stop all my end product use as well? :(

Reply to Joseph chrzempiec

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IKR?! The don’t have nearly enough “Enterprise Grade” equipment! At least 1 Windows box should be forced in… I mean, how will the technical team earn their keep with this setup?! Madness! 馃ぃ馃ぃ

Reply to Technical John

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Windows is to much memory Hog.to much resource time ……

Reply to Mike h.

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Why Paul, I don’t agree with you – rpi is a very much finished product and not just a development kit.
The only other option for them would be to go for making a custom carrier board for cm3 or cm4 – but I don’t see a good enough reason for something like that.
What’s more, working with the CM3 is sometimes unnecessarily complicated and longer than with the Raspberry pi, especially with custom board’s.

Reply to Rango

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Right. Have a problem. Change sd with new one with image on it. Still have issues. Swap the pi out. Dead simple. Sure could be smaller. Why?

Reply to Adam

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I think he鈥檚 being sarcastic, hence the 馃ぃ.

Reply to Kate P.

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Any why is that? What would the cost of their downtime be for this “critical” infrastructure. Do they not have a physical bypass key available for the lock? You’re comment is useless

Reply to Kevin Parlee

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You should recommend something instead of just recommending against the Pi. Also explaining the reasoning would be helpful too.

Reply to Tim

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At my workplace, we have some machines that use Extol NanoStake for plastic staking solutions. Believe it or not, the prepackaged industrial solution runs on Raspberry Pi boards.

Reply to Nick

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Only for development???
With 30 or 31 million sold and a lot of professional solutions in the market.
Even industrial ones…

Reply to Ant贸nio Sousa

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Well over 40m sold, actually – and more than half of those have gone into industrial applications.

Reply to Liz Upton

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Indeed: we have a growing collection of Pi 4s, all going into industrial applications across our grid-balancing power sites. So far, they’ve proved to be a very reliable component of our ever more complex network infrastructure, although the real-time controllers do still run on bespoke ruggedised hardware.

Reply to AL

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remember that the computers that got the U.S. to the moon had a fraction of the power of a Raspberry Pi and perhaps this will make it seem more reasonable to you.

Reply to Grazza

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Not true at all. Companies use them to send reports to main offices to Hollywood production and film to security and home automation.

Reply to McGee William

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Paul wake up it is already the 4th gen of Pis and there are lots of raspberry pi powered commercial and enterprise products around.

Reply to Kerem

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Once again people don鈥檛 get your jokey comment and go into technical defence mode.

Reply to Robert Oliver

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i have 120 Rasp Pi 3B installed all around my country for video playback since 9 years working 16h/d and i had absolutly zero problem with them! So yes, you can use Pi for end product!

Reply to Peter

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Ehhh, I think the smiley face after Paul’s comment MAY have been an indication that his post was meant as tongue-in-cheek?
So please, don’t pounce on him for introducing a touch of levity.

Reply to Petter Nordgren

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Some of the replies seem to have understood the OP’s (British?) humour! Like Petter said, the laughing emoticon was a pretty good indication! 馃檮馃槈

Reply to Ian

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Incredible. I have an RP4 running Docker that handles all my home media needs. I have an RP4 gathering dust right now, I’ll find a use for it. And finally, a Banana Pi Pro that is running on my network but currently not doing anything. I need to find a purpose for that little guy, too.

Reply to Dave Lowe

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I have Home Assistant running on an rp3 with sad. I also have an unused rp4. Where do you find solutions software pkgs for the rpi?

Reply to Bob nmeet

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This is awesome, what software are you using for the meeting room?

Reply to Mikeyh

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I would like to see this turned into a PCBs with 2, 3 or 4 sockets for CM4 (with GPIO headers for each) and that would be a drop in solution for many applications like this and should make the bandwidth available between them fast while costing less.

Reply to Jeffrey Tackett

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Looking forward to the day when a Pi news article about Raspberry Pis powering an entire office is one in which the employees are using them to run (and print from) LibreOffice apps, email with Claws, and/or (and this is the toughest one) browse the internet on them.

Reply to Karl

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Why do people have Raspberry Pi’s sitting doing nothing? If you can’t find a use for one, just such ntp on it and make it the network time server, there’s always something an unused Pi could be doing 馃槈

Reply to Andrew Jones

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9 raspberry for this kind of job? So called embedded world is insane nowadays. Previously some low end microcontroller would have done the most of these tasks. Only thing were Raspberry is useful is the content selection and music streaming and even there one Pi might be sufficient.

Reply to Sam

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I have run a TVHat with headend on a Pi3 for a couple of years now.
It has sat in my loft for two years without any intervention streaming live TV. Absolutely reliable :-)

Reply to Karl K

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the problem is not having a rpi sit around doing nothing, that its an extra one just in case I come across a neat project like this I don’t have to rip apart a different project or buy a new pi. In fact I’m gonna try this at work next.

Reply to James H.

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