What is a Computer-on-module?
A computer-on-module (COM) (sometimes referred to as a ‘SOM’ – system-on-module) is a reduced format of single-board computer (SBC).
COM’s are embedded computers built on a single circuit board. The design is centred on a microprocessor with RAM (commonly coming with flash memory – eMMC – embedded Multi-Media Cards consisting of both flash memory and a flash memory controller integrated on the same silicon die), input/output controllers and all other features needed to be a functional computer on the one board.
However, unlike a single-board computer, the COM usually lacks the standard connectors for any input/output peripherals to be attached directly to the board.
Therefore, the module usually needs to be mounted on a carrier board (sometimes referred to as a baseboard) which breaks the bus out to standard peripheral connectors.
A COM solution offers a dense package computer system for use in small or specialised applications, generally where low power consumption or small physical size is needed within the embedded system design. However, as a COM module unit is very compact and highly integrable , both low power (Intel Atom and ARM) and high processing power CPU solutions (multi-core/multi thread technology) can be provided in the format of a COM module with Intel Core Series (i3/i5/i7) level and AMD Ryzen where attention needs to be provided to both computing power & intensity of graphical performance.
A “computer-on-module” is also known as a “system-on-module” (SOM).
The use of a carrier board means that there can be provision and implementation of special I/O interfaces, memory devices, connectors or physical form factors. Separating the design of the carrier board and COM makes the embedded system design more ‘modular’.
The latter means a carrier can be tailored to a specific application – which will initially mean the overhead for :-
- The design time required for the carrier. This depends on the carrier’s design complexity, and,
- The physical design of the carrier; deployment costs for an internal hardware design engineer or the subcontracting of the design to an electronics design house.
With the actual processor and main I/O controllers being located on a COM, it’s much easier to upgrade the CPU component to the next generation as and when subsequent (more capable) processors are released to the market. It’s a case of replacing the current COM solution – with the new one which possesses the latest on-board technology. All of which can be completed without having to re-design the carrier.
Using the design ethos of COM modules can mean the shortening of development times and associated costs – also facilitating release of new products to market faster.
The use of ‘mezzanine’ modules (the module ‘plugs’ into the base/carrier board) means the facilitation of being able upgrade to newer, backwards-compatible versions. One of the most popular and widely used versions of module design is ‘COM Express’ (COMe) which is commonly deployed in Industrial, Military/Aerospace, Gaming, Medical, Transportation, IoT, and general embedded computing applications.
The COMe module works on the principle of defining different module “Types” – each implementing different pinout configurations and feature sets on one or two 220-pin connectors. There are 8 different pin outs defined in the specification with the most commonly used pin outs being ‘Type 6’ and ‘Type 10’.
The latest pin-out added in revision 3.0 of the COM Express specification is ‘Type 7’. The Type 7 provides up to four 10 GbE interfaces and up to 32 PCIe lanes, making COM Express 3.0 appropriate for datacentre, server, and high-bandwidth applications.
The 4 x available formats of COMe platforms (defined by footprint size) include:-
- Mini: 55 × 84 mm (2.2 × 3.3 in)
- Compact: 95 × 95 mm (3.7 × 3.7 in)
- Basic: 95 × 125 mm (3.7 × 4.9 in)
- Extended: 110 × 155 mm (4.3 × 6.1 in)
Other available module formats (with their own individual footprint sizes and pin out definitions) include:-
Computer-On-Modules and Carrier Boards
Off-the-shelf and reliable System-On-Modules that include COM Express Mini, COM Express Compact, COM Express Basic, and Qseven based on the latest Intel, AMD, and ARM platforms.
COM Express is a highly integrated and compact PC that can be used in a design application much like an integrated circuit component. Most COM Express Modules integrate core CPU and memory functionality, common I/O, USB, audio, graphics and Ethernet.
COM Express Compact
COM Express Compact module is designed with computing capability and cost efficiency in a compact form factor with a footprint of 95 x 95 mm, making it the best option for transportation and defence applications. Compact modules are available with COM Express pin-out Type 2 and Type 6.
COM Express Mini
COM Express Basic
Smart Display Modules
We have wide range of industrial and embedded hardware suited to different environments. If you cant find off the shelf hardware 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, Military, Medical, Transportation and Smart City – or any type of market vertical we’re sure we’ll have a solutions that fits.
BVM – COM Module Supply and Carrier Design Services
Located in Southampton since its inception in 1989, BVM Ltd has expanded its range of products and services and is recognised for its core abilities as a systems integrator in the supply of standard and customised industrial PC (IPC) solutions to a customer base spread across a range of industry verticals.
BVM’s expertise is in the development of industrial PC solutions – providing services around the integration of power supplies, PC peripherals, TFT displays, cabling assemblies, Wi-Fi & Bluetooth & cellular modems for local & remote connectivity, GPS, multiple channel video capture cards, generic & customised operating systems and custom electronics for provision of base or additional functionality.
BVM have a wide & varied portfolio of industrial COM modules – in a variety of formats (Type 2, 6, 7 and 10 COM Express and Qseven or SMARC) to provide for an equally wide diversity of application needs; low power Atom or ARM through to high power Intel Core Series or AMD Ryzen – working in normal/ambient operating conditions – or harsh conditions, where temperature extremes are prevalent (-40°C to +85°C).
If you need help, advice or assistance in the design of your carrier/base board – consider BVM’s bespoke custom designed solution services where we provide you with your carrier design with the specific i/o needed to provide interfacing to the outside world for peripheral devices – even with an optimised (custom) embedded operating systems if that’s also needed.
In the first instance, speak with our in house design team who will talk to you around designing your carrier solution from ground up; concept, design, development and production.
We like to make life easier ….
Our supporting team have all worked in industrial and embedded environments for a number of years, consequently providing knowledge, experience and 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.
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