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What is an embedded computing system and how to choose an embedded PC?

Introduction

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An embedded computer, sometimes known as an embedded PC, is a dedicated computer system that is integrated into a larger machine or system. Unlike a standard desktop computer, an embedded computer is typically intended or purposed for a single task. An embedded PC is used to process a specified function, possibly designed to sit inside a kiosk or digital signage unit, or even directly connected to one of those machines on the factory floor. An embedded PC executes one task at a time as opposed to business IT equipment, which may handle numerous jobs simultaneously in a manufacturing environment, such as timesheets in Excel spreadsheets, and software for production planning, and stock management.

Types of embedded systems

  1. Standalone embedded systems: These systems are made to carry out specific functions independently of a host system. MP3 players and calculators are some examples.

  2. Mobile embedded systems: These systems include a portable design. Digital cameras come to mind as examples.

  3. Networked embedded systems: These systems are made with the provision of network connectivity and send data to other systems. Systems for point-of-sale (POS) and home security are two examples.

  4. Real-time embedded systems:These systems are built to deliver output in a predetermined time interval. Braking and traffic control systems are two examples.

Embedded Computers around us

Its likely that you have encountered an embedded PC at some point, possibly even today, whether or not the word embedded computer is familiar to you. They are present everywhere and serve as the anonymous brains of the everyday electronic gadgets we see and use, such as ATMs, billboards, construction zone signs, and passenger information systems on train platforms.

Whether we see them or not, or even realize they exist, embedded computers are the hidden heart of the automated space, providing many of the amenities we enjoy in today's electronic society.

Imagine yourself on a coach. You unwind and engage with the onboard entertainment system on the seat in front of you. You enjoy some gaming and perhaps watch a film. What you can't see is the embedded computer that provides both your and the rest of the coachs onboard entertainment. The embedded computer in the waterproof housing is mounted on the lamppost. At the same time, the coach travels through the town, analyzing traffic patterns and sending the data back to the central control room through a cellular connection. A bit further down the road is a discrete box that holds another embedded PC that uses data from the control room to operate a variable message sign warning of stalled traffic or poor sight up ahead. As the coach passes a speed camera, a radar sensor and embedded computer inside it analyze the speed of moving vehicles to determine whether to turn on the camera and flash.

The coach is passed by a car as it enters the freeway by the driver, who is lounging and reading a newspaper. A system conceived and developed employing the capabilities of an embedded computer mounted in test vehicles, a self-driving car, connected to a variety of motion and Lidar sensors, uses GPUs to analyze data from those sensors and give a safe autonomous driving experience. An onboard embedded PC safely shuts off the entertainment systems at the end of the journey when the coach ignition is turned off, and it then intelligently powers itself down after a predetermined amount of time.

This brief tour is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of embedded computer applications. When you receive an Amazon delivery, the item you hold in your hand has likely been through a variety of embedded PC-based machinery and systems, including automated picking and trolleys, GPS delivery driver tracking systems, and vehicle-mounted CCTV cameras. Embedded computers have made our life so easy in ways we can’t even imagine.

Advantages of Embedded Computers

  1. Easy to Manage: Embedded systems created for widespread use are simple to these devices require minimal maintenance because the materials used to create them are inexpensive and durable. If your company relies on embedded systems, you might want to hire the engineering skills of a seasoned company to help maintain or resolve any issues that could crop up. The engineer can assist in troubleshooting any software-related problems because the complexity of embedded systems varies depending on the software employed.

  2. Fast Performance: An embedded system's performance is influenced by a number of variables. To maximize a systems performance, developers must meet non-functional constraints such as execution time, energy usage, and memory capacity,An embedded system's performance is influenced by design scalability and other performance parameters. Fast and dependable embedded systems are those that have only one task to fulfill.

  3. Small Size: Embedded systems are more compact than conventional computers, which makes them more portable and require less room. Embedded systems use less electricity than bigger systems because of their compact nature.The size also speeds up loading because there are fewer elements for the system to handle. A manufacturer's flexibility is also ensured because they can produce them in enormous quantities.Note that the smaller the embedded system, the faster the load time.

  4. Cost-effectiveness: The advantage of the embedded system hardware is that it rarely needs modifications, such as extra memory or storage, making it perfect for any device, regardless of size. Furthermore, the end user is not required to physically access the embedded gadget. Embedded systems less expensive hardware is a result of their focus on particular tasks. Even though the hardware is less expensive, the system's quality and performance are still quite high.

How to Choose an embedded PC ?

With so many options on the market — different manufacturers claiming their unique characteristics, and new technologies being integrated into devices that often perform similar activities — it's no surprise that selecting an Embedded Single Board Computer may be a difficult and time-consuming procedure for people who are unfamiliar with the Embedded business. Following considerations shall be kept in mind before considering an embedded PC:

  1. Consider the environment: Whether you even need one is the first thing to think about when selecting an embedded single-board computer. This might sound odd but the deployment environment and intended usage are the single most crucial considerations when picking the best product for your application.

  2. Performance: As we find creative ways to solve issues or automate processes that were previously only conceivable with pen, paper, and the necessary grey matter, modern embedded computing applications demand progressively  ;greater computing power. The first stage in building an embedded system is to consider the computing power needed, whether it be CPU, GPU, or both. This generally affects many other areas such as thermal design, mechanical footprint, data handling, and communication. A crucial first step in choosing the best platform is to have a firm grasp on the volume and type of data processing that your application requires.

  3. Temperature: Depending on the heat sink design of the console and the computing complexity of your application, a specific embedded system shall be chosen that can handle the operating temperatures and can be cooled down by the heat sink system.

  4. Need for display: Embedded computers occasionally need to be linked with a display of some kind. In essence, there are two different sorts of display interfaces embedded display connectors and those found on the board's I/O plate. It would seem alluring to employ the usual I/O plate possibilities DVI, DisplayPort, HDMI, and good old VGA are all common connectors, and the majority of engineers have a draw full of these kinds of interconnecting cables. Where there is sufficient room for the connectors or where the display will be a typical off-the-shelf style monitor, they work nicely. However, a TFT LCD panel is nearly always the display of choice when creating a machine or OEM product that houses a single-board computer.

  5. Expansion and storage: When the I/O options on the datasheet don't exactly meet your needs, it is always worthwhile to look at the expansion possibilities on an embedded SBC. Much like I/O, there are more expansion choices as embedded SBCs grow in size. The key to expansion and storage is to remember that modern boards frequently use the same Bus for both ;functions. This may be used to the systems; benefit by keeping them;flexible and minimizing the total footprint.

Conclusion

When selecting an Embedded Computer, there are numerous things to take into account. It's challenging to cover everything because there are so many industry- and application-specific intricacies. However, we have tried to address the major points here.

The important factor is the data you wish to collect and process. Consider where your sensors are located, how much data they collect, how you want to interact with your data sources, and where you intend to display and process the data you collect. Having a firm grasp of these fundamental concepts will make selecting an embedded computer much simpler, and with some market research or a reliable hardware partner on your side, you shouldn't have too many problems with your upcoming project.


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