Raspberry Pi for Small Businesses

Since 2012, the Raspberry Pi has been a major success that parallels the growth of the maker movement.  The smartphone sized device is a fully functioning computer capable of a multitude of roles from running a home cat feeder to acting as a supercomputer.  That’s all fine and dandy, but what can an everyday small business owner do with it to make their lives easier? We’ve found four super-cool ways that crafty entrepreneurs are putting the Pi to use:

1.  Digital Displays:

Ever research how much a digital menu board costs? Hint: Over $1,000 after purchase and installation, plus your monthly subscription.  Using Screenly and a Raspberry Pi, you can get a professional DIY digital display going with $40 and flat screen TV.  Best of all?  Pi does so much more than the typical processor behind even the most modern digital displays.  Foster greater in-store interaction with your customers and up-to-the-minute information with a DIY display powered by Raspberry pi.

Screenly Open Source Edition for Raspberry Pi:
https://www.screenlyapp.com/ose/

2.  Network Storage

Cloud based storage helps us store, share, and collaborate on documents.  Most of us have to rely on third party giants like Dropbox and Google Drive in lieu of spending thousands on a locally hosted file sharing system…until now.  Create a local area network drive with Raspberry Pi and regain control of your data by hosting it locally.  While the Pi can’t necessarily compete with the speed and unlimited storage capacity of cloud storage services, it makes up for that with convenience and local availability.

3. In-Store Advertising

Hyper-local advertising with Pi allows you to effectively gauge the efficacy of you campaign, and foster more walk-ins to your store.  There are two main ways to do this, using the Pi as a WiFi hot spot (although this requires action on the part of the customers who walk in) or using low-energy Bluetooth beacon technology.  The WiFi option is easier to deploy and works with the most devices.  It involves setting up a WiFi hot spot on the Raspberry Pi and then setting up a wireless advertising system similar to the one used in the NYC Transit WiFi system.  The beacon option is harder to deploy and can reach a smaller portion of devices, but the future potential for this technology is huge.  Apples iBeacon technology enables a properly configured Pi in your store to interact with apps on iPhones when they come within proximity of it.  This could include delivering coupons, identifying returning customers, or enabling mobile checkout.  Google recently released its own beacon technology for Android devices.

Using beacon technology with Raspberry Pi:
http://www.wadewegner.com/2014/05/create-an-ibeacon-transmitter-with-the-raspberry-pi/

4. Store Analytics using Facial Recognition

A $40 Pi plus a properly installed camera attachment and open source software will enable you to collect data on how often customers come back to your store, how many people walk in, what employees are on duty (and when!), and so much more.  In a more advanced set-up, you can use PyGaze, an open source software to analyze saccadic eye motion, a capability that top companies pay tens of thousands of dollars for.

Facial Recognition and Raspberry Pi:
http://www.open-electronics.org/raspberry-pi-and-the-camera-pi-module-face-recognition-tutorial/

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