Board Provider or Embedded SOLUTIONS Provider?
March 10, 2022
No two embedded applications are the same. Hence, no two solutions should be the same.
There is far more behind that statement than meets the eye. For example, the engineering expertise of one vendor might surpass that of another vendor. Something that would seem simple, like specifying the optimal memory configuration or ensuring that parts are soldered properly for rugged applications can be application breakers.
Another often overlooked, yet vital piece of the engineering equation, is the supporting technology ecosystem curated by the solutions provider. The board hardware itself, though an important part of any solution, is just one piece of the puzzle. What about software, security, and maintenance?
The simple resolution to this dilemma is to find a trusted solutions provider that has a broad array of offerings.
The optimal embedded solutions provider works with a robust partner network to supply all the various components of a complete platform solution, including the hardware and software.
The Starting Gate
It's imperative that you know what your needs are at the outset of the design, based on your application. Then, and only then, can you source out the embedded computer vendor whose supporting technology ecosystem, also known as a partner network, can deliver the solutions you need to fit that application. Typically, the ecosystem partners have been vetted by the embedded computer supplier and their hardware and/or software has been tested to ensure compatibility. See the WINSYSTEM’s partner network as a great example.
Beyond the embedded computer itself, the pieces that may need to be acquired through the ecosystem include:
- Drivers and source code for any standard or proprietary I/O or functions (note that these should come from the ODM/OEM)
- Support for embedded software development, and potentially embedded code
- Security and OTA patches that may need to occur in the field
- Application layers to support specific use cases
- Full stack implementations for CI/CD development and the OTA transfers
- Production-level operating-system (OS) support (including the OS itself)
That last item can be tricky depending on the OS that’s chosen. Support is readily available for most commercial real-time OSs, like Wind River’s VxWorks, Green Hills’ Integrity, or the QNX OS. However, when you get into some of the open-source OSs like some Linux variations, you may potentially have to fend for yourself.
For the other items, support for embedded software development could come from the likes of Qt Embedded. Security and OTA patches could be acquired from BG Networks and Mender.io, while application layers fall into the domain of vendors like ClearBlade and CODESYS. Finally, the OTA stack could be obtained from Foundries.io.
Remember That “Essential” Component
As stated previously, the logical starting point for your application buildout should be the embedded solutions supplier. More specifically, it should be the supplier that offers an ecosystem that’s robust enough to contain members like those listed above. That’s where WINSYSTEMS shines, as it boasts all these partner types within its ecosystem and many more.
While the WINSYSTEMS PXI-C441 contains all the functionality needed to drive most IIoT applications, it’s the company’s partner network that makes it stand out.
For example, your design may start with the WINSYSTEMS PXI-C441 single board computer (SBC) that fits a PC/104 form factor. This form factor (4.55 by 4.39 in.), combined with a rugged design and extended operational temperature range, is ideal for industrial IoT (IIoT) applications and embedded systems in the industrial control, transportation, Mil/COTS, and energy markets.
The PXI-C441 is equipped with PCIe/104 OneBank expansion, allowing you to customize the board to fit your application and still maintain a high level of ruggedness. The SBC also features the latest generation Intel Apollo Lake-I dual- or quad-core SoC microprocessor. Intensive graphics processing is the hallmark of this processor/board, which includes up to 8 Gbytes of soldered down LPDDR4 system memory and a non-removable eMMC device for solid-state storage to hold the OS and any application code. In addition, the board supports M.2 and SATA devices for further expansion.
The bottom line is this: look for an embedded computer supplier that offers value beyond just the hardware; one that has an ecosystem of proven technology partners and can deliver a complete integrated embedded solution to maximize your application’s performance, security, and maintainability.