Five Awesome Headless Raspberry Pi Uses

December 28, 2020


Five Awesome Headless Raspberry Pi Uses

Here I’ll outline five uses for the Pi where they can be set up and tucked away to do your bidding!

While you can use the latest generation Pi 4 as a dual-screen “desktop replacement,” where the Raspberry Pi really shines is as an embedded, or “headless” device. Here I’ll outline five uses for the Pi where they can be set up and tucked away to do your bidding!


Monitor your prints from afar with OctoPrint ( Screencap)

3D printers allow us to make nearly any shape we can imagine. Why then, in this day and age, should you have to save a print file on an SD card, take it out, plug it into your printer, and fiddle with its onboard controls? Why shouldn’t it be just like a “2D printer,” where you hit an on-screen button on your computer, and a finished print pops out?

While OctoPrint might not make it quite that easy, it does allow you to send print files over your local network to a Raspberry Pi, which in turn connects to your printer via USB for control. You can start prints right from its browser-based interface, monitor conditions during the process, and even view your print’s progress by hooking up a camera. It’s an amazing upgrade, and highly recommended.

Home Automation Hub

If you want local control of your smart devices, platforms like openHAB and Home Assistant let you run your own home automation server. Both can run on a Raspberry Pi, and I go through my experience setting up Home Assistant in series of posts here. You can run each system on other types of computers, but at a price of around $40, and a footprint about the size of a credit card, the Pi makes a perfect platform. After having my system running in its current-ish iteration for over a month, I’m extremely pleased with its performance.

Since such a system runs on your local network, it doesn’t have the same delays and potential security issues as a cloud-based system. It also means you don’t have to be connected to the Internet at all, which is extremely convenient if you lose connectivity for whatever reason.

The Raspberry Pi that quietly runs my household “things” (Jeremy S. Cook)

Network Attached Storage

If you take a lot of video and photos, you’ll eventually run out of local storage on your computer. You could plug an external hard drive in and offload things manually, but, as with manually transferring 3D printer files, this seems a little antiquated. Another alternative is a network attached storage device, or NAS. Such a system is basically a computer with no purpose other than to store and retrieve files from attached hard drive(s). This connects to your local network to share files, giving you an easy way to access everything.

As explained here, you can set up your own NAS with a Raspberry Pi. The Pi 4, with its USB 3.0 ports is more capable than previous generations, though in my case I eventually had some issues with my installation. Your results may vary, but for inexpensive file storage, a Raspberry Pi may be worth a look.

Security Cameras With MotionEyeOS

If you’ve ever wanted to integrate a video surveillance system at home or somewhere else, there are a plethora of commercial options available. On the other hand, you can also turn a Raspberry Pi and camera into one using motionEyeOS. The system gives you a huge amount of control over the implementation.

MotionEyeOS can run on a Raspberry Pi Zero W, allowing for a compact WiFi package that you can place where needed. Such a system could be a cost-effective alternative to an off-the-shelf solution, or a great use of hardware that you have lying around.

Plant Watering... Anything Else You Can Imagine!

For a bit of fun, why not use a Raspberry Pi to water your plants? As shown below, I was able to turn a Keurig coffee maker into a watering device. This was a fun project, though there are certainly simpler ways to do this. For that matter, an ESP8266 and a bit of fiddling with Home Assistant could allow you to set up a schedule, while providing a nice user interface.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this particular setup is that with a Raspberry Pi ready, you don’t have to rely on things others have already tried. If you have a potential automation project that’s new–and perhaps even a little off-the-wall–you can probably make it happen!

Raspberry Pi: for All Your Compact Embedded Needs

Inexpensive and compact, Raspberry Pi single-board computers make excellent embedded platforms. You might even have a Pi or two lying around in a drawer somewhere. With this little single-board computer in-hand, it’s possible you could put it to use today, quietly (and “headlessly”) serving your needs, with no monitor to take up space or demand attention!

Jeremy S. Cook is a freelance tech journalist and engineering consultant with over 10 years of factory automation experience. An avid maker and experimenter, you can follow him on Twitter [], or see his electromechanical exploits on the Jeremy S. Cook YouTube Channel! []