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.
In this article, we’ll show different types of embedded computers and their uses.
Embedded Computers : What are they?
What is an Embedded Computer?
Embedded Computers are small computerised devices (or systems) that are designed to perform a dedicated function and have been “built” or embedded into larger computer systems. For example:
- Industrial Automation
- Intelligent Transportation
- Medical Equipment
- Vending Machines and Kiosks
- Digital Signage and more.
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 Marine, Vehicle 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 ruggedised, 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.
Industrial Panel PC Examples
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.
Industrial Rack Mount PC Examples
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
ATEX certified explosion proof Panel PCs,
IP rated Stainless Steel waterproof and Marine PCs,
Easy clean with an anti-bacterial finish Medical PCs,
EN50155 and EN50121-4 certified Railway PCs and Panel PCs,
High Performance Deep Learning AI Ready PCs,
GPU/VPU Accelerated Machine Vision AI Ready PCs,
Ultra Compact Iot Gateway PCs,
Marine certified Panel PCs
DIN-Rail mount PCs,
4″ X 4″ AMD Ryzen and Intel NUC PCs and more…
Other Embedded PC Examples
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 who can design a new product from start to finish.
If your application lies within the Industrial Automation and Control, Military, Medical, Transportation 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.
Design | Develop | Test | Manufacture
Here’s a selection of our design, OEM manufacturing
& associated services: –
Whether we’re utilising our own manufacturing & production facilities here in Southampton – or our ecosystem of partners in Asia, BVM can cope with any size or complexity of batch manufacturing. Our production team are highly motivated with a flexible “can do” attitude ensuring consistent quality and on-time delivery.
Whether we’re designing a bespoke printed circuit board or a complete embedded system PC assembly, our ‘Design to Order’ process encompasses us producing prototypes for mechanical, electrical and thermal verification of the design.
Additionally, environmental/extended temperature testing, EMC testing and functional tests (with your application software on board) are all part of the services that BVM provide in a products design so discrepancies can be identified & improved upon before your product is released for manufacture & marketing….Find out more
Our ‘Build to Order’ services are provided so our customers can concentrate on other immediate business needs.
We only select components from reliable sources with long life time availability to ensure your product stays in production for its required life cycle – and remains on budget. Our procurement and production management team will provide you the advice and experience that you’ll need….Find out more
It’s relatively straightforward to get up and running with an embedded O/S, but to obtain a robust, optimised and secure operating system – a deeper understanding is required.
Our own processes are proven – and we can provide you with guidance on how an implementation should be configured with consideration to the implications of using flash storage, write filters, resilience to attack and system recovery procedures….Find out more
We like to make life easier ….
Our Embedded Computer Services are intended to save our customers time and let them concentrate on on their own business needs, knowing that the technical design and/or software configuration is taken care of by BVM. We’re definitely here to try and make your life easier, so if any part of our integrated system services provide an interest for you – don’t hesitate to contact us.