Understand Consumer vs. Commercial vs. Industrial vs. Military
July 19, 2022
On the surface, it may not appear that there’s a difference between consumer versus commercial versus industrial versus military product grades, particularly at the component level. But I assure you there are vast differences. The distinctions are important because they significantly affect reliability, endurance, and total cost of ownership over time.
The lines between the various sectors can sometimes blur, as some manufacturers are more stringent about the components they design in. It’s not unusual to see a consumer or commercial product carry a higher price tag because its useful life is guaranteed by the manufacturer for a longer time period compared to other products in that same sector. It bodes well for the manufacturer to slightly over-design his system to ensure that failures are less frequent.
That said, let’s start first with consumer versus commercial. While consumers don’t expect their products to fail, there’s some level of tolerance built in. Consumers are not shocked when they have to reboot the computers, phones, and even televisions when a bug pops up. It’s typically an annoyance, but that’s about it.
When you look at commercial computers, this could be something operating in an office environment, or a platform used for digital signage, kiosk control, ticketing, even gaming. Here, a failure goes to a level beyond annoying, but rarely results a significant in revenue loss, assuming the fix can be handled in a timely manner.
From a component perspective, there may or may not be a big difference between the consumer and commercial arenas. How the system is packaged would more likely make the difference. For example, a commercial system might have to account for longer run times, higher and lower temperatures in the operating environment, and even moisture or humidity.
Industrial Adds Predictive Maintenance
On the industrial side, failures are less tolerated, though generally aren’t fatal, although they can definitely result in a loss of revenue, amongst other things. For example, if a piece of manufacturing equipment has to be taken off-line for a short duration, there may be a small loss of revenue. However, if equipment is offline for a significant period in a high-volume production environment, loss of revenues can skyrocket. Examples of industrial equipment range from manufacturing and automation systems, down to control panels and other high-voltage applications.
It’s platforms like these where predictive maintenance is becoming the norm. This means that a manufacturer knows when a piece of equipment should come off line and be brought in for service—before a failure occurs. Hence, the down time can be scheduled and can occur at a time that does not cause a large inconvenience. That said, because the components for industrial applications can tolerate more shock and vibration, higher and lower operating temperatures, and so on, failures are far less common.
The ITX-P-C444 is a good example of the difference between a true industrial SBC and a Raspberry Pi with similar form factor. Note that while a Raspberry Pi can be somewhat ruggedized, it’s not the same as an SBC like the ITX-P-C444 whose PCB and components are designed to withstand extremes in temperature and shock and vibration and deliver highly reliable performance with long product lifecycles.
The ITX-P-C444 is a rugged, small form factor single board computer that is ideal for industrial IoT applications requiring performance in harsh conditions such as digital signage, industrial automation, energy, building automation and others.
The ITX-P-C444 is designed with NXP’s i.MX8M applications processor for industry-leading video performance and adds dual Ethernet, industrial I/O, and other expansion options. The SBC is suited for industrial IoT applications requiring performance in harsh conditions such as digital signage, industrial automation, energy, and building automation.
The WINSYSTEMS PXI-C441 serves applications in the commercial and industrial sectors. This would include industrial IoT, industrial control, transportation, and energy.
Another great example of an industrial product is the WINSYSTEMS’ PX1-C441 single board computer (SBC) that’s designed to a PC/104 form factor. Aimed squarely at industrial applications, the PXI-C441 features the latest generation Intel Apollo Lake-I dual- or quad-core SoC processors. It includes up to 8 Gbytes of soldered down LPDDR4 system memory and a non-removable eMMC device for solid-state storage of an operating system (OS) and applications. In addition, the board supports M.2 and SATA devices. Finally, the PXI-C441 is designed with PCIe/104 OneBank expansion, so the SBC can be customized for specific applications.
Designed For the Military
Military grade (known as MIL-STD) takes systems and components to a completely higher level, where failure is not an option and should never occur. In many instances, lives depend on the equipment never having a fault or failure, and down time simply can not be accommodated. In many cases, the specifications for military-grade products are set by the US Department of Defense (DoD). These standards tend to cover the devices themselves, the interfaces they communicate through, and the testing procedures.
Components built to a military specification go through more rigorous testing. Such components are made with higher grade, more rugged materials, exhibit higher tolerances, and adhere to more stringent measures of quality control. Because of these extra accommodations, you can expect to pay more for military-grade components and systems.
WINSYSTEMS is an example of an embedded systems supplier who spans different areas discussed here. For example, it has products for the military space, as well as those that function in the industrial and commercial sectors.
On the military side, the company designs and manufactures products using open standards-based technologies consistent with the Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA). Such products are rugged, highly reliable, and adaptable across multiple platforms, and they can be customized to meet special requirements.
And for the industrial segment, WINSYSTEMS can help OEMs realize maximum value by delivering rugged embedded systems and customized solutions, especially for those in the industrial IoT (IIoT) sector, which could include wireless, wired, or a combination of connectivity technologies.
When your application fits the commercial, industrial, or military sectors, it’s always best to talk to the experts first to ensure that your computing platform suits your needs, and performs at the required level. Talk to the experts at WINSYSTEMS.