What are Embedded Computers?

In this article:

  1. What Are The Benefits of using an Embedded PC ?

You might be researching ‘what is an embedded computer’ because you’ve been having problems with consumer-grade tower PCs and you’ve been recommended to replace your infrastructure with embedded solutions fit for purpose.

Assured Systems proudly support so many customers to move from consumer-grade platforms not built for their requirements and ultimately helps them choose the best, embedded computer platform suitable for the application and environment it’s to be deployed. To view our catalogue of embedded computers, please visit our embedded computers department.

Embedded computer systems get called many things, such as; Box PCs, Vehicle Controllers, Industrial PCs and so on. When we talk about an embedded computer with our customers, we refer to a commercial-grade PC that is integrated as part of a more extensive system designed for a specific purpose with software-controlled tasks, not just serving purposes for desktop applications. Our customers have used Embedded Computers for a wide range of applications. Examples of these applications include simple remote data collection devices for energy monitoring or displaying content on elaborate digital signage displays or intuitive, interactive kiosks. Chances are highly likely that in your travels today you passed right by several embedded computers without even knowing they were there, silently powering the devices and systems that we’ve all come to rely on in the modern day.

What Are The Benefits of using an Embedded PC ?

So far, we have defined an embedded PC by how they’re used, but some key features make choosing an embedded computing solution critical. When compared with consumer-grade computers which you may be currently using, most embedded computer systems have three key elements:

  1. Small Form Factor Design As demonstrated, a standout feature of nearly all embedded computers is their compact size. Utilising small form factor motherboards such as the Mini-ITX board, an embedded computer can be installed, in places where a typical tower PC or rack-mount PC would never fit. When designed with flexible mounting options, flexible integration is possible in virtually any position or orientation. If size is one of your most significant constraints, we have filtered out our small form factor PCs which utilise the Pico-ITX board, commonly known as Mini PCs.
  2. Efficient Fanless Cooling Avoiding Dust Ingress A potential point of failure when using fan-based technology to cool the PC is ingress of particulate matter such as dust. Typical consumer-grade computers have openings in the case and utilise fans to create airflow. This method circulates cooler air over its components, however allows for dust ingress. Removing the fan for cooling the PC decreases failure rates, eliminates noise and provides more space for integral parts. You might be thinking how does the PC keep cool and prevent itself from overheating? While some embedded PCs still utilize fans typically for expansion modules or graphics cards, the majority use thermal pads on the CPU and external heat sink technology to dissipate the heat given off from core components such as the processor. All heat-generating components are segregated evenly on the PCB to avoid heat-soak. Embedded computer cases also use a external heat sink design either on top or down the side to further help dissipate built up heat from components. These passive cooling techniques allow many industrial PCs to remain sealed against the elements while still effectively dissipating heat without the need for fans. If you’re struggling with dust ingress or any other particulate matter, we have a wide range of fanless embedded computers and even IP67 waterproof computers.
  3. Low Maintenance Reliability is of the utmost importance. Often required to run 24/7 with an uninterrupted operation, these computers also must withstand other factors present in demanding applications. For example, if you deploy a consumer-grade PC with moving parts in a vibration prone environment, you can expect components such as the hard drive to fail. Assured Systems are proud partners with the best-embedded computer manufacturers that design and manufacturer their hardware to specific criteria and certification. Wide temperature components are often used to tackle operating temperature ranges wider than 0-60C. Conformal coatings can also be applied upon request to protect the system against moisture, dust, corrosion and electrical or thermal conduction.
  4. Long-term Availability Another important factor is the difference between embedded computers and the consumer grades alternatives is the life cycle support. Unless specifically stated by the manufacturer, most consumer grade computers offer a very limited procurement life cycle. Consumer grade computers are typically subject to discontinuation in six to twelve months which poses a big problem for embedded and industrial applications. Unwanted side effects often come when computer components change. Software that was proven to work on one system may not operate correctly on different hardware or even operating software. Many of our embedded and industrial computer customers prefer to lock down an operating system image to deploy on all systems in the field. When hardware components change, the operating system image is no longer compatible, and this requires a new software image to be created when hardware changes take place. Managing different software deployments on multiple hardware platforms complicates IT infrastructure and is never desirable.
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