Embedded Computers: What are they and where are they used?

Embedded Computers: What are they and where are they used?

Embedded Computers (sometimes known as ‘ embedded systems) are purpose-built computing platforms designed for a specific task or fixed functionality – where at every re-boot, a fixed environment is activated.  These are not your typical desktop or tower computers that we are used to using at home or in the office.

Applications that embedded computers are deployed for range from Industrial Automation and Control, Intelligent Transportation, Medical Imaging, Digital Signage, to unmanned military & defence – to name but a few. There numerous applications where a Embedded Computer can be deployed.

Embedded Computers can operate in normal, ambient (room temperature conditions) – built with industrial grade components which are typically available on 3 – 5 year lifetime availability program (sometimes longer).  Additionally, Embedded Computers can be deployed in challenging, harsh environment conditions, such as extreme temperature diversification (-40°C to 85°C) and where there’s also risk through other influencing factors like vibration & shock, dust and humidity. There are various types of embedded computers – which comprise of various Motherboards, System (Box) PCs, Panel PCs, Industrial Rack Mount systems, In-vehicle computers, rugged tablets, COM (SOM) modules – and many others.

What is an embedded computer?

In this article, we’ll show different types of embedded computers and their uses.

Embedded Computers : What are they?

What is an Embedded Computer?

An embedded computer is a specialized computing system designed to perform specific tasks or functions within a larger system or device. Unlike general-purpose computers, embedded computers are typically integrated into everyday objects, machinery, or equipment, such as cars, appliances, medical devices, and industrial machines. These computers are optimized for efficiency, reliability, and often have a fixed purpose, running dedicated software to control and monitor the device’s operations.

Embedded computers come in various forms, from microcontrollers with minimal processing power to more sophisticated systems-on-chip (SoCs) with greater computational capabilities, all tailored to meet the requirements the industries using them. For example:.

Embedded Computers vs Desktops and Laptops

Industrial Embedded Computer Systems are designed with a purpose that is unique to their user/s. Therefore, they are able to perform specific functions, within a range of Harsh Environments, such as MarineVehicle and Rail. In essence, Embedded Computers process information and control, monitor or assist the operation of both equipment and machinery.

Benefits of Embedded Computers

For long-term use, Embedded Computer Systems are better than standalone, general purpose “office” computers. Embedded Systems offer many benefits, such as:

• They’re task specific
• They cover a wide variety of environments and can cope with demanding conditions.
• They’re less likely to encore errors

• Their system hardware is simplified, which reduces costs overall
• They can have a have a fanless design
• The use of less power than desktop systems ensures there is no need for cooling

Examples of Embedded Computers

Rugged Industrial Box PCs

Rugged Industrial and Embedded Computers are specifically designed to operate reliably in harsh usage environments and conditions, such as strong vibrations, extreme temperatures and wet or dusty conditions.

Where are they used?

A good example of where a ruggedized, embedded system (box) PCs can be deployed as an effective solution, is in offshore oil rigs. Facilities are often located in remote, unmanned ocean locations – with surrounding heavy machinery (producing noise & vibration) with potentially volatile substances in the vicinity, too.

Just like many other remote facilities, offshore oil rig platforms must always be online. Whether it’s something simple as WiFi Internet access for the employees – or for advanced cloud-based surveillance systems and IoT monitoring sensors. In these environments, industrial-grade rugged networking equipment are far more reliable than the traditional consumer-grade hardware. PC solutions equipment should guarantee around the clock operation in diverse hot & cold temperatures – and where wet and corrosive substances can be prevalent.

Industrial Panel PCs

Panel PCs comes with an integrated touchscreen display (with onscreen keyboard) and can be expanded with different I/O modules. Panel PCs are designed to provide easy interaction between the user and system they control.

Where are they used?

Panel PCs are available with integrated touchscreens display (generally – resistive or projective capacitive (pCAP)) and possess a rich multitude of i/o to suit their intended use, weather this be for general Industrial Automation & Control, Medical – in ward use or critical care or Transportation (rail, marine, in-vehicle). Where required, they’ll carry the necessary pre-certifications allowing them to be operable within their intended environment (e.g. rail –EN 50155). In short, Panel PCs are designed to provide easy interaction between the user and system.

Panel PCs are ideal tools for use in general control and automation processes. For example, where an assembly production line performance needs to be monitored; ,performance data gathered & analysed – where process parameters need to be easily be changed to maintain the efficiency of a production line. Panel PC’s can be used as terminals to provide instruction to assembly workers on production lines – installed at each work station on the line providing information on how to manufacture the assembly, provide checks to ensure the quality of product is maintained as it passes down the line through each individual assembly process.

Fanless Small Form Factor PCs

Space saving, compact fanless PCs designed for application support in a wide range of environments, such as Kiosk operation, Industrial Automation and Digital Signage. Available as fully configured systems or as a ‘bare bones’ systems (without memory, storage and operating system) for user configuration

Where are they used?

Digital Signage in retail and hospitality, airports and railway stations are good application examples of where SFF PCs can be deployed. They can be mounted and easily secured in tight spaces – and in particular, on the back of TFT monitors via the VESA mounts. Small Form Factor PCs can be connected via Local Area Networks (LAN’s) – either via RJ45 connections or WLAN (Wireless LAN – WiFi), down loading from & uploading information to a central network or cloud  – outputting to single or multiple displays.

Industrial Rack Mount PCs

Industrial Rack Mount PCs can be provided formats from low power Atom processor solutions – through to high performance series iCore (i3/i5/i7) and Xeon processor solutions. The most popular format are ‘1U’ rack PCs, the ‘1U’ denoting the (industry standard) height of the rack. Additionally, ‘3U’ and ‘4U’ formats are also available were taller solutions are required to accommodate more complex electronics internally (typically to accommodate expansion cards, rider cards and backplanes) in order to provide increased functionality. Additionally, they come varying levels of external i/o – dependent on what’s needed for the application at hand.

Where are they used?

Industrial rack mount PCs can be found about anywhere – but particularly where space is of a premium and fast & easy access is needed for change out of any internal components. Typically, they can be found in any server based applications – from the IT server room of any modern day office complex – through to AV (audio visual) broadcast equipment and military based applications such as naval frigates or submarines. Additionally, they can be deployed in environments where ambient temperatures are present – or harsh conditions where temperature diversity is extreme (-40°C to+85°C) – or there’s vibration present.

In-Vehicle PCs

Sometimes known as ‘MDT’s’ (Mobile Data Terminals), in vehicle PC’s need to be robust enough to withstand just about anything that can be thrown at them, inclusive of the extremes of temperature where storage is concerned, frequent & high levels of vibration – and be operational via the electrical supply of the vehicle which are typically ‘dirty’ in its format in regard to voltage spikes and electrical noise.

Where are they used?

One of the best examples are emergency response vehicles such as police response vehicles, ambulances or fire appliance vehicles -continually on the move, at high speeds and often through rough roads or terrain.  The environment these vehicles are operational in requires fast and ‘always-on’ connectivity, which typically will be provided via cellular connectivity – 3G, 4G – and 5G.  Additionally, the vehicle PC may need to be able to manipulate, store and send (working as Network Video Recorder) high levels of data such as video feeds during critical situations in real-time for feedback and support – and ultimately, decision making

Other types of Embedded PCs

Embedded and Industrial Product Features

2.5GbE 9~36V Artificial Intelligence CANbus Capture Cards – HDMI DDR5 Fanless GPIO / DIO High Performance Industry – CCTV / Surveillance and Object Recognition Industry – Gaming and Casino Industry – Harsh Environments Industry – Industrial Automation Industry – Interactive Digital Signage and Retail Industry – Medical and Smart Healthcare Industry – Military and Defence Industry – Transport and Smart City Intel Alder Lake Intel Atom Intel Raptor Lake Internet of Things (IoT) IP65 IP66 Low Power M12 Connectors MIL-STD Mini-ITX Multi Display – Dual Display Multi Display – Quad Display Multi Display – Triple Display N/A NUC Computers NVMe OS – Linux OS – Windows OS – Windows 11 PoE Powered by AMD Powered by Intel RAID Rugged Ryzen Embedded System – Box PC System – COM System – Motherboard System – Panel PC System – SBC Touchscreen TPM 2.0 Wide Temp

Cant find an Embedded Computer that meets your needs?


Customisation, Performance and Reliability.
Our 24/7 embedded systems never need resuscitation.

BVM supply a wide and diverse range of Industrial and Embedded Computer Systems, if you cant find an off the shelf system that meets your specific requirements speak with our in house design team who can design a new product from start to finish.

If your application lies within the Industrial Automation and ControlMilitaryMedicalTransportation and Smart City – or any type of market vertical we’re sure we’ll have a solutions that fits. All configured, tested and logistically delivered to your specification.

  • Customization: Built on the South Coast of England BVM’s industrial and embedded computer systems can be configured to any specification, from the integration of standard items into a selection of enclosures or rack mounts to the creation of a totally new design with custom boards and metalwork. See how we have helped these customers and their businesses in the past.
  • Performance: Our industrial and embedded computer systems are available with a wide range of industrial components. With CPU’s ranging from Intel Celeron to the latest Intel Core i7 CPU’s, DDR4 memory, high performance storage solutions and more.
  • Reliability: Built from the highest quality industrial components BVM’s industrial and embedded systems are designed to run 24/7 in the harshest of environments.
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We like to make life easier ….

BVM supply a wide and diverse range of Industrial and Embedded Systems.
From Industrial Motherboards, SBCs and Box PCs, to Rack Mount computers and Industrial Panel PCs. Our support teams have worked in a variety of industrial and embedded environments and consequently provide knowledge, know-how, experience and all round good advice around all BVM’s products & services when and where you need it. 

We don’t profess to know everything you need at the time – but we’ll always help in the first instance and get back to you when a little more information is required.

You can either call us directly on +(0) 1489 780 144 and talk to one of the team | E-mail us at sales@bvmltd.co.uk | Use the contact form on our website

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When a standard embedded design won’t suffice for what you need, you can always turn to BVM for help and use our custom design and manufacturing services.