Embedded computing – what are the benefits?

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Embedded computers are designed for a specific task within a larger system. Compared to a standard PC, which must by its very nature be able to carry out a range of processing and operating functions, an embedded computer can be streamlined to deliver optimum performance for the task required. Rather like a master of its trade, compared to all the other Jacks.

As a result, it is not burdened by irrelevant hardware and software and so is generally smaller and more efficient than a standard PC. With fewer components, it’s often easier to meet compliance standards and industry regulation, and embedded computers are often preferred for highly-regulated environments such as healthcare facilities and defence applications. Embedded computers can be easily ruggedised for harsh environments, and will usually operate though wide temperature variations, withstand high levels of vibration and be more resilient to water and dust ingress.

Embedded computers can be designed from the ground up and customised hardware and firmware is a common requirement. This gives the flexibility to configure the computer to carry out the precise functions needed to meet very exacting requirements of particular applications.

Applications benefitting from embedded computing

The umbrella term of embedded computers includes a wide variety of machines of very different shapes, sizes and functions. Steatite offers a range of industrial computers, fanless computersGPU computerstouchscreen panels and controllers which have been expertly designed for specific applications. Some of these are detailed below.

Industrial automation and robotics

Every industrial process differs, and finding a one-size-fits-all computing solution is rarely feasible. Embedded industrial computers are used in factory settings to regulate the speed, position and torque of motors, and to monitor and control other mechanical and electrical systems. 

They also play an important role in collecting data from sensors and other devices, and, with the addition of AI processors, to analyse this data to identify trends and patterns and take actions based on those results. Embedded vision systems use machine vision to acquire and process images and detect defects or anomalies in items on a production line. 

The Cincoze DS-1302 has been adopted by a European manufacturer for a cutting-edge X-ray inspection system, enabling them to optimise production quality control.

IoT

In both consumer goods and commercial IoT setups, embedded computing is being used more and more. This is mostly due to the compact size of embedded electronics and, as users demand ever smaller yet more powerful processing, embedded devices offer extensive connectivity in small packages.

Cincoze has developed a solution for a leading machinery manufacturer with its DA-1000, enabling an IoT gateway for machinery to process refined beet and cane sugar.

Transport

We’ve seen embedded solutions deployed in the transport industry for some time, for example, ADLINK’s AVA-5500 rail certified fanless embedded computer, used by one of its customers in Asia to build an enhanced surveillance system for a major airport. But traffic and transport systems are getting smarter and require more intelligent computing. 

Aetina’s latest ANPR system uses a real-time AI image detection and inference solution for smart transportation with an AGX Orin system and NVIDIA Triton™ inference server. Other solutions offered by Aetina can manage traffic flow, parking space management, air quality management and more.

Medical Devices

Within the highly-regulated medical sector, minimising the number of components within a system makes compliance easier and cheaper. Installing an embedded medical grade computer simplifies integration while enhancing functionality, safety and efficiency. Additionally, an embedded system is likely to retain the same form, fit and function for many years, alleviating the need to change hardware when it becomes end-of-life.

For example, the mBOX600 from Axiomtek is a medical-grade fanless computer system with triple independent displays specifically for smart healthcare applications and enables fast and precise smart computer-aided diagnosis.

UAVs

For ROVs and drones, onboard components need to be compact, lightweight and power efficient.  COM Express or SMARC modules with a custom carrier board are ideal as these fall within most weight and power restrictions while still enabling real-time control and high-performance computing. Embedded computers are used to control flight by processing the inputs from the sensors, such as the accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers, and generating the outputs to the motors, like speed, direction, and torque. 

Industrial grade Xavier carrier boards are ideal for control units while some Nano and TX2 carrier boards are compact enough to be included in the UAVs onboard devices. For navigation and timing, Safran’s VersaSync is a GPS master clock and network time server that delivers accurate, software configurable time and frequency signals for drones and UAVs. 

For hazardous environments, their VersaPNT is designed to support UAVs that perform a critical task that requires a GPS backup, when the risk of a system failure due to intentional or unintentional GPS interruption needs to be countered.

What to consider when selecting an embedded system

How do you select the right embedded hardware for your project, based on your requirements and constraints? It’s crucial to identify those requirements early on, and identify the key parameters and functionalities that you’ll need to work around.

You’ll want to think about the power consumption, memory usage, I/O interfaces, CPU and storage that you’ll need. You should also consider constraints around communication interfaces, environmental conditions and other factors.

Steatite has an extensive range of embedded computers and can custom-design a solution for any application. Flexibility is paramount when designing an embedded system and our relationships with partners including CincozeAetina7StarLakeAxiomtek, Safran and NVIDIA gives us access to extensive AI and high-performance computing hardware. Take a look at our product range and contact our team to discuss your requirements.

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