IoT infrastructures are shifting the data processing from the cloud to the edge. This migration has been triggered by the fact that edge computing eliminates the latency that’s typically associated with cloud computing. Processing data at the edge enables applications that require real-time data analysis and decision-making where every second count. Windows single board embedded computers are capable of running the Windows 10 IoT Enterprise operating system. Many organizations use windows on single-board computers to run their applications. For example, Microsoft windows IoT is often used on kiosk machines, automotive PCs, automation devices, digital signage, and mobile devices.
Windows single board computers make great edge computing solutions, allowing organizations to perform data processing and analysis at the edge in real-time. Recently, there has been a significant increase in demand for smaller and more compact edge computers. Edge computers based on single board design deliver compact yet powerful solutions.
What is a Windows Single Board Computer?
SBC is the abbreviation for single board computers, they are commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) computers that are designed to excel at embedded IoT and edge computing tasks due to their small form factor, high flexibility, extra-durable, and great performance. Windows SBC refers to a single board computer that supports running Microsoft’s Windows IoT operating system. SBCs offer ready-to-install hardware that is pre-configured with a processor, memory, I/O ports, chipsets, power input, and many more components that are all soldered right on the computer PCBs (plastic circuit boards) merging them together onto a single circuit board. SBCs are great for industrial applications because they adopt compact form factors and fanless design that makes them capable of fitting into space-constrained deployments. Also, they have a rugged structure while maintaining robust performances.
Benefits of SBCs
Embedded IoT applications pose several challenges that standard commercial computers are struggling to perform amid edge deployments. In contrast, SBCs configurations are capable of executing embedded IoT applications. SBCs are known for their small footprint and powerful performance which are ideal for IoT deployments. They are used in various applications from industrial automation, automotive computers, health-care, deep-sea exploration, outer space, and military applications due to their expandability, reliability, durability, longevity, and more.
SBC Form Factor
SBC form factors are considerably smaller than the ATX motherboard standard commonly found in PCs. Additionally, there are a wide variety of SBC form factors that comply with different form factor standards including ITX standards, embedded computer standards, and other smaller form factors. That said, choosing the type of form factor you need will greatly depend on the application's needs. Therefore, here are some of the form factors that are mostly adopted for embedded IoT and edge computing applications.
|Form Factor||Dimension Size (mm)||Total Area (mm2)|
|EBX||203 x 146||29,638|
|Mini-ITX||170 x 170||28,900|
|EPIC||165 x 114||18,810|
|3.5-inch||146 x 102||14,892|
|Nano-ITX||120 x 120||14,400|
|PC104||96 x 60||8,640|
|Pico-ITX||100 x 72||7,200|
|Femto-ITX||84 x 55||4,620|
Tiny Footprint. Industrial Computing Focused
Mini-ITX is the largest form factor among the ITX standards that was developed by VIA Technologies in 2001, it can fit a full PC configuration with enough expansion slots and I/O inputs on its compact 170mm x 170mm (6.7 x 6.7 inch) form factor to cover various embedded computing applications. Although it’s the largest ITX form factor, Mini-ITX is still considerably smaller when compared to ATX-standard form factors. Moreover, Mini-ITX supports a PCIe slot and up to two memory slots for expandability. For industrial applications, Mini-ITX SBCs are configured with various I/O inputs for practicality, these inputs include VGA ports, HDMI ports, COM ports, Wake-on-LAN, GPIO, DIO, and more. Mini-ITX architectures are also power-efficient, consuming less than 25 watts and some versions can consume as low as 5 watts.
3.5-Inch | Rich and Compact
3.5-inch is not the form factor dimension measurement instead, the motherboard dimension is measured at 4 x 5.75 inches in width and length. 3.5-inch is defining the form factor of the compatible disk drive which actually measures 3.5 x 3.6-inch dimension-wise. Therefore, due to the small form factor and fanless design, it can be set up with a 3.5-inch rotating Hard Disk Drive that usually needs more space. The 3.5-inch windows SBC is ideal for industrial applications, due to its form factor of the motherboard that is small enough to fit into tight spaces and big enough to host powerful feature-rich system-on-chip (SoC) with diverse I/O inputs and mini-PCIe expansion slots.
The system is packed with powerful components including intel 8th Generation Intel Core Mobile U-Series or a Celeron processor and a DIMM slot for DDR4 (up to 32GB) to support powerful data processing and smooth multitasking to handle various IoT sensors and devices. To ensure compatibility and expandability, 3.5-inch SBCs can be configured with a myriad of options including 4K HDMI, Display port interfaces, LVDS, and eDP connector for HMI panel displays. For connectivity, they are packed with x2 SATA (6GB/s) busses, x4 serial COM, and for legacy technologies, x4 USB 3.2 Gen (10 Gbps), x2 USB 2.0 form internal pin-headers, and x2 Mini PCIe Gen 2 expansion slots for mSATA storage, Wi-Fi, and SIM socket (4G/LTE) coverage. All of these while maintaining a low-power 15-Watt TDP design.
The nano-ITX form factor measures in at 120mm x 120mm in length and width, another form factor that is compact and powerful which is ideal for embedded IoT deployments. Nano-ITX total area measures at 14,400 mm2, quite similar to the 14,892mm2 total are for the 3.5-inch SBC form factor. Both architectures share pretty similar size characteristics. However, the Nano-ITX form factor is slightly smaller and forms a square shape compared to the rectangular shape formed by the 3.5-inch SBC. Therefore, Nano-ITX components are slightly denser and can replace the 3.5-inch SBCs to fit into spaces that might not suitable for the 3.5-inch form factor.
2.5" Pico-ITX | Going Even Smaller
The pico-ITX form factor measures in at 72mm x 100m in width and length, it is considerably small when compared to the other form factors discussed earlier. Pico-ITX total area is 50% smaller compared to the Nano-ITX form factor. Also, a similar concept with the 3.5-inch SBC, 2.5-inch is not the form factor dimension size. Industrial applications are demanding ever-smaller industrial solutions. Pico-ITX SBC is an excellent solution for embedded computing applications that is highly reliable and ideal for advanced deployments such as in-vehicle systems, industrial automation solutions, kiosks, medical devices, portable IoT hardware, and more. Pico-ITX SBCs support quad-core Intel Celeron Processor, DDR3L memory (up to 8GB), and one mSATA port (for SSD storage). This palm-sized board is built with a common practical IoT connectivity I/O ports that include a Gigabit Ethernet interface, 2x half-size mini PCIe, 1x USB 3.0, and 3x USB 2.0. Additional peripheral devices can be connected via 2x serial interfaces and an 8-bit GPIO. This configuration is maintained while operating at a low thermal design power (TDP) under 10 watts, making it a great fanless computing solution.
1.8" Femto-ITX | Card Size SBC
Femto-ITX 1.8-inch measures in at 55mm x 84mm in width and length, similar form factor with a typical credit card. It is by far the world’s smallest industrial motherboard that is powered by high-performance AMD Ryzen R1000 processors balancing both cost-effectiveness and performance packed onto a mini size board. Despite its ultra-small form factor, this SBC is powerful enough for industrial application solutions, edge computing, intelligent machine vision, and more. The 1.8-inc SBC is proof that a small footprint doesn’t necessarily sacrifice power and expandability, this will be the next step for SBC’s future trend for embedded IoT and edge computing solutions.
Broad Operating System Support
Both hardware and software play an important role in embedded IoT and edge computing applications. SBCs are highly integrated with various operating systems and system interfaces. SBCs are capable of smoothly operating a full desktop PC’s operating software and other software that are more specifically created for IoT solutions. This software includes Windows 10, Windows 10 IoT Enterprise, Windows 7, WES7, Linux Kernel 2.X, and more. That said, Windows single board computers are ready to use right away, performing like a desktop PC but with a much more compact form factor, slick design, and power-efficiency. Furthermore, Linux SBCs also works incredibly well for Linux users, running a full Linux operating system within a mini SBC architecture. This proof SBC’s wide compatibility from personal use such as desktop Windows SBC and Linux SBC up to commercial use running Windows 10 IoT for industrial automation, self-service kiosks, and many more.
Durability | Extreme Temperature & Fanless Design
Industrial applications tend to deploy their devices within harsh environments where ordinary computers and even some SBCs wouldn’t be able to survive. That said, industrial-grade SBCs are the solutions for reliable, durable, and long life-cycle solutions for embedded IoT and edge computing applications. Due to their fanless design that utilizes passive cooling, Industrial grade SBCs are capable of surviving and operating smoothly within extremely cold and extremely hot environments.
Industrial grade windows SBCs can withstand a wide temperature range from freezing cold temperatures going as low as -10℃ up to scorching hot environments where the temperature reaches 70℃. This makes windows single board computer significantly more resistant to extreme temperatures when compared to regular desktop computers. Regular consumer-grade desktop computers can only operate at a temperature range, ranging from 5℃ up to 40℃.
Moreover, industrial-grade SBCs can withstand humid environments with relative humidity ranging from 10% up to 90% relative humidity, non-condensing. Furthermore, to ensure ruggedness and durability, these industrial-grade Windows based SBCs are tested and validated in controlled testing facilities specially built to test electronic devices to their limit. Testing methods and procedures are carefully tailored to provide the highest quality hardware.
Industrial SBCs are tested and validated in advanced temperature and humidity chambers to guarantee their ability to withstand harsh environments. So, if you’re in the market for a windows SBC (single board computer), you should explore the different variety of windows single board computers that Premio has to offer. If you have any questions or need assistance selecting a solution, contact us and one of our embedded computing professionals will be more than happy to assist you with choosing an option that meets your specific requirements.