Rugged Embedded Systems
This post will provide you with everything you need to know about rugged embedded systems, as well as a great source for buying rugged embedded computer systems.
What Are Rugged Embedded Systems?
Rugged embedded systems are industrial grade computer systems that are engineered and built to withstand deployment in volatile environments where they are exposed to frequent shocks, vibrations, dust, debris, extreme temperatures, and water. Everything from the internal components to the outer housing is designed with ruggedness in mind for the harshest deployments. Furthermore, our systems are tested and validated to ensure 24/7 reliable operation regardless of the environment in which they are deployed.
Rugged embedded systems are able to operate in volatile environments where they may be exposed to the following environmental challenges:
- Extreme heat
- Extreme cold
- Dust & debris
- Water splashes
- Electromagnetic interference
- Unreliable power sources
Let’s explore some of the features that permit rugged computer systems to survive in volatile environments in the section below.
What Are the Features and Benefits of Rugged Embedded Systems?
Here are some of the benefits and features of rugged embedded computer systems:
1. Rugged Outer Enclosure & Heat Dissipation
Rugged embedded systems are engineered and built with ruggedness in mind. The main design feature of rugged embedded computer systems is the fanless design, which allows us to cool down the industrial computer system passively by using heatsinks to move heat away from the internal heat-generating components to the outer enclosure of the PC. The outer enclosure then dissipates the heat into the air surrounding the system. Heat dissipating fins are added to the outer enclosure to increase the enclosure’s surface area so that it can more efficiently dissipate heat into the air. Furthermore, the outer enclosure is extremely rugged. In fact, the most rugged embedded systems use both aluminum and copper in its thermal design for resistance to wide-temperature. The alloy creates a rugged computing solution that can efficiently dissipate the heat, allowing rugged embedded systems to be deployed in extreme environments.
2. Dust and Debris Resistance
Rugged embedded systems are resistant to dust and debris because the systems have no vents or openings through which dust can enter the system. This is possible due to the fanless passive cooling of the system via the use of heatsinks. The use of heatsink permits computer manufacturers to create a totally closed system that’s resistant to dust and dirt. This makes rugged computing systems able to survive and operate reliably and optimally in environments that are frequently exposed to dust, dirt, and debris.
3. Shock & Vibration Resistance
Rugged embedded computers are able to survive deployment in environments where they will be exposed to frequent shocks and vibrations because they have been designed and built in a way that allows them to withstand such exposure. For example, all cables have been eliminated from the systems, making the systems resistant to shocks and vibrations. This is so because the elimination of cables eliminates the chance of a cable coming loose, rendering the system inoperable in applications that experience movemet. The fewer moving parts there are, the fewer parts that can fail, creating a more reliable and durable computing solution. Premio’s rugged embedded PCs have been tested and validated to ensure up to 5GRMs of vibrations and 5Gs of shock in compliance with the MIL-STD-810G.
4. Extreme Temperature Operation
Another benefit of deploying rugged embedded systems is that they are able to operate in environments that experience extreme temperatures. For example, some solutions have a wide temperature range, ranging from -40⁰C to 85⁰C, making them deployable in freezing cold and scorching hot environments. Embedded systems are able to survive such environments because they are configured using wide temperature range components and the passive cooling technology that’s used in them. Both combined create an solution that is able to survive deployment in extreme environments. So, whether you’re deploying a system in the Sahara Desert during the summer, where the temperature reaches 50⁰C, or in Antarctica, during the freezing winter, where the temperature reaches -20⁰C, the computing solution will operate reliably and optimally.
5. Wide Power Range
Rugged embedded systems come equipped with a wide power range, ranging from 9 to 50 VDC, making them compatible with a variety of different power input scenarios, allowing them to be installed in automotive vehicles, railway vehicles, marine, and emergency vehicles. Also, rugged embedded computing solutions come with a variety of power protection features to protect the sensitive component of the systems. Power protection features include overvoltage protection, surge protection, and reverse polarity protection. Overvoltage protection cuts off the power to the system if it detects that the voltage exceeds a safe level for the system. Power surge protection protects the system from power surges. Reverse polarity protection protects the system in the event that input power polarity is reversed.
6. Wired & Wireless Connectivity
Rugged embedded computer systems come packed with a variety of different connectivity options. At a minimum, rugged embedded systems come with two RJ45 Ethernet ports for ultra-fast wired connectivity, capable of transfer 1GbE to 10GbE of data per second. Additionally, rugged computers come with Wi-Fi 6 connectivity for deployment in environments where wired connectivity is not possible or not available. Wi-Fi 6 offers blazing-fast wireless LAN connectivity. Furthermore, in the event that wired and wireless connectivity options are not available, rugged systems can still connect to the internet via 4G, LTE, and 5G connectivity options. Dual SIM slots allow the system to connect to two different carriers (Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile) and use the carrier that has a working connection. This makes them great for deployment in remote environments where reliable internet connectivity is not always available.
7. Compact Design + Mounting Options
Rugged embedded systems have a compact design that makes deploying them in space-constrained environments possible. The small footprint of such devices allows them to be deployed in small enclosures, cabinets, drawers or mounted on walls or ceilings in tight spaces. This is something that is not possible if you’re deploying full-size desktop computers, which are bulky and not made for deployment in harsh environments. Moreover, most rugged PC systems come with a universal mounting bracket that allows the systems to be attached to walls, ceiling, or other surfaces for a secure fit.
8. Power Efficiency
Rugged embedded systems often utilize efficient, low powered processors that are powerful enough to perform the tasks they are required to perform while using little power. Power efficiency is very important if you’re deploying an embedded computing solution in a remote environment where stable power is not always available. This is so because the computing solution you deploy must be able to run on battery power until power is restored to the system. As such, for remote deployments that require power efficiency, we have equipped some of our solutions with low-powered processors that range from 7W to 15W TDP for power efficient processing. That said, if you have demanding workloads that require significant processing power, your embedded computing solution can be configured with more powerful 9th Generation Intel® Core® i3, i5, and i7 processors that range from 35W-65W TDP.
What Are Rugged Embedded Systems Used For?
We will now discuss some common use cases for embedded computers. Embedded computers, commonly referred to as embedded systems, are often used for industrial automation and control, autonomous vehicles, food and beverage processing, intelligent transportation systems, digital signage, serving as IoT gateways, medical and healthcare, railway, and military and defense applications.
1. Industrial Automation and Control
Rugged embedded systems are often used for industrial automation, industrial control, and Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs). Embedded computing systems are used to control industrial machinery, processes, and production lines. The biggest benefit that embedded PCs offer in the industrial space is the ability to consolidate workloads into a single point of control. This is done by connecting and integrating robots, machinery, motion control systems, and HMIs into a single system. The system can be used to act as a real-time controller of machinery as well as send processed data to the cloud for remote monitoring and control. Combining all of these systems into a single embedded computing solution creates a more efficient system and frees up space since fewer systems have to be deployed to manage factory machinery and equipment.
2. Autonomous Vehicles
Autonomous vehicles utilize rugged embedded systems to guide autonomous vehicles, helping them avoid obstacles and pedestrians. Embedded computing systems are often tasked with collecting, processing, analyzing, and making decisions based on data gathered by sensors and cameras on vehicles. Autonomous vehicle computers must be robust and powerful enough because they will have to process, analyze, and make decisions using vast amounts of information provided by sensors and cameras to guide the vehicle, control its speed, and route it effectively in real-time.
Furthermore, rugged vehicle embedded systems are designed and built with ruggedness in mind. This is so because embedded computing systems must be able to handle the harsh and unforgiving environments in which they are deployed. Vehicles are often exposed to frequent shocks, vibration, jolts, and dust, making rugged industrial computers a requirement for systems deployed in vehicles. This is so because rugged vehicle computers are built to withstand exposure to such environmental conditions while providing optimal performance and reliability.
3. Intelligent Transportation Systems
Rugged embedded systems are used for a variety of different intelligent transportation workloads. For example, they can be used to enable passenger information systems, vehicle monitoring, and control, CCTV surveillance of transportation vehicles, transportation automation, and intelligent traffic management systems.
Embedded computing systems are often used for passenger information systems. They are installed in transportation vehicles to monitor their status and provide passengers with real-time information as to the location of the transportation vehicle, making it easier for passengers and commuters to schedule their trips thanks to the real-time information provided by intelligent passenger information systems powered by embedded computers.
Fleets also use rugged embedded systems to monitor and track the status of their vehicles. Rugged computers can tap into a vehicle’s CANBus system, collecting and relaying information such as vehicle speed, engine status, airflow status, fuel consumption, and much more critical information to the cloud for remote monitoring via Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity options.
Furthermore, rugged embedded systems are used to bring intelligence to CCTV surveillance systems deployed in transportation status and transportation vehicles, such as buses, ferries, vans, and many other types of transportation vehicles, making them safer for passengers and employees alike. Also, compact computer systems can be used to facilitate toll collection, identification of vehicles of interest, identifying persons of interest, and monitoring traffic patterns for better route planning.
4. Digital Signage
Rugged embedded systems are often used in digital signage. Premio’s digital signage computers are a great cost-effective solution to power digital signage. Furthermore, our solutions are compact and powerful enough to run digital signage applications. Moreover, our rugged systems can withstand deployment in signage that’s deployed both indoors and outdoors thanks to the rugged design that offers resistance to dust, debris, extreme temperatures, shocks, vibrations, and water. Ultimately, rugged embedded computers offer organizations the power of full-size desktop computers into a form factor that is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Embedded PCs are able to serve as digital signage players, power interactive kiosk machines, and power everything from single screens to multiple display panels.
5. Industrial IoT Gateways
Rugged embedded solutions are often deployed to function as IIoT (industrial IoT) gateways, collecting, storing, processing, and analyze the information provided to them from sensors, devices, and machinery. IoT gateways facilitate device to device communication, as well as device to cloud communication. The main benefit of deploying embedded IoT gateways is their ability to connect to both legacy and new technologies since they are equipped with both USB ports and COM ports. Also, the data collected by IoT gateways offers valuable insights that can be used to finetune the production process for a higher output of better quality products. Furthermore, IoT gateways enable predictive maintenance, allowing organizations to predict when a breakdown or failure is about to happen, and perform maintenance ahead of time at a convenient time, preventing the breakdown of machinery or equipment during normal production hours.
6. Medical Imaging
Rugged computing solutions are often used in stationary and mobile medical imaging devices. For mobile medical imaging devices, embedded computing devices must be mobile, power-efficient, have a rich I/O, have dust resistance, and have shock and vibration resistance. This is so because medical imaging carts are often mobile, which means that they will be exposed to shocks, vibrations, dust, and debris as they are being moved around.
Furthermore, performance accelerators, such as GPUs, are often added to rugged embedded systems to improve the performance of embedded computers that are used for medical imaging. This is so because they are often tasked with running AI applications to accelerate workflows and analyze images for the detection of diseases.
What Makes Rugged Embedded Systems Different From Regular Desktop Computers?
Rugged embedded systems are different from regular, consumer-grade desktop computers in that they are designed and built to withstand deployment in volatile environments, whereas desktop PCs are designed for home or office use on desks. Regular desktop PCs are not made for deployment in harsh environments where they will be exposed to shocks, vibrations, dust, debris, and extreme temperatures.
Furthermore, rugged embedded systems are made from industrial-grade, wide-temperature components that have been tested and validated to run reliably and optimally in harsh environments that are unfriendly to regular desktop computers.
Moreover, rugged computers are configured using SSDs (solid-state drives) vs. regular HDDs (hard drives). SSDs are much better able to cope with exposure to frequent shocks and vibrations because they store data on NAND chips vs. HDDs, which store data on spinning metal platters, which are more likely to fail when exposed to shocks and vibrations than are silicon chips in SSDs.
Additionally, rugged embedded systems have eliminated the use of cables throughout the industrial computing solutions, making them better able to handle exposure to shocks and vibration since there are no cables that come loose or become tangled as a result of exposure to shocks and vibrations. This makes rugged embedded PCs a significantly more reliable computing solution than regular desktop PCs.
Where Can You Buy Rugged Embedded Systems?
You can buy rugged embedded computing systems from well known U.S based manufacturers such as Premio. Premio has been designing and manufacturing industrial-grade embedded computing systems for over 30 years in the United States. Premio offers premium industrial-grade computing solutions that have been tested and validated to operate reliably and optimally in the world’s harshest environments. So, if you’re looking to buy a rugged embedded system that can survive deployment in environments that experience frequent shocks, vibrations, dust, debris, extreme temperatures, and water, you should explore the excellent options that Premio has to offer.