What is an embedded computer? Embedded Computing Overview

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What is Embedded Computer?

By definition, an embedded computer is a purpose-built computing platform for a single task controlled by software. They are typically used in a system or a device to perform a single function for which they are programmed.

What Is Embedded Computer?
What is Embedded Computer?

This is not the typical tower or desktop consumer computer we normally use to work from home or in the office. We can think of them as a miniature computer built to run a specific function over and over.

Single Board Computer (SBC) and Microcontroller Unit (MCU) are also classified as embedded computers. Applications of embedded computing can include: Industrial automation, Digital signage, Self-driving cars, Space exploration,…

Is Embedded Computer the same as Embedded System?

You may have come across the term embedded systems somewhere, but they are not the same thing as an embedded computer. An embedded system consists of embedded computers and some other components such as sensors, interfaces and software to perform a specialized function within a larger mechanical or electronic system.

Is Embedded Computer The Same As An Embedded System
Is Embedded Computer the same as an Embedded System

The embedded computer is the core part of an embedded system where all the components work to perform a specific function. With that said, not all embedded computers work in embedded systems. There are also embedded computers that have their own interfaces that can be used independently, but they are still only used for a single, specific function.

Structure of embedded computer

Main Chip

The most important component of an embedded computer is the main chip. The main chip can be a Central Processing Unit (CPU), AKA Microprocessor (MPU) or Microcontroller Unit (MCU). The CPU/MPU is responsible for performing the computing tasks of the computer.

However, the CPU requires additional memory and I/O ports for it to work. There are embedded computers where the CPU and all other components (ie memory, ram,…) are contained in a single chip, called an MCU.

The Most Important Component Of An Embedded Computer Is The Main Chip
The most important component of an embedded computer is the main chip

Embedded computers with MCUs tend to be cheaper due to lower performance, but their functionality is not limited by lower power capacity. The performance of embedded computers depends on whether they have a CPU or an MCU as the main chip.

Storage

The embedded computer must be able to store data such as configuration, programming data, encrypted information, etc. Such type of memory that stores such information is called non-volatile memory. Permanent memory can be internal or external memory. Some examples of them are HDD (hard drive), SSD (solid state drive), EMMC chip, and SD Card.

RAM

RAM (Random Access Memory) is needed by the embedded computer to store data when the embedded computer requires quick access.

Ram Required For Embedded Computers To Store Data
RAM required for embedded computers to store data

RAM uses volatile memory, meaning it wipes the data inside it every time the system shuts down. In general, the more RAM there is in an embedded computer, the faster the processing speed and response will be.

I/O port

Most embedded computers have rich I/O ports for them to connect to new and old technology, devices and sensors, and the Internet.

Common I/O ports found on embedded computers are:

  • USB Type A port
  • Ethernet port
  • Audio I/O port
  • Serial communication port
  • HDMI, DVI and DP ports
  • HDMI, DVI and DP ports

Performance Accelerator

Some embedded computers are equipped with performance accelerators to accelerate workloads. They are not necessary, but they can greatly increase performance.

Some Embedded Computers Are Equipped With Performance Accelerators To Accelerate Workloads. They Are Not Necessary, But They Can Greatly Increase Performance.
Some embedded computers are equipped with performance accelerators to accelerate workloads. They are not necessary, but they can greatly increase performance.

The more common components are GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), VPU (Image Processing Unit), FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array), and NVMe Compute Storage Device (CSD). If you’re looking to boost performance for AI, machine learning, or deep learning workloads, owning one of these would be ideal.

Cooling system

An embedded computer can be low power or powerful, but all still require cooling to avoid thermal throttling. Embedded computers are mostly passively cooled through heatsinks, whereby heat is dispersed through the heatsinks to the outer case and then dissipated to the surroundings. More powerful embedded computers can also be fan-cooled for more efficient heat dissipation

Why use Embedded Computing for Embedded System applications?

Embedded computers are specifically designed to be embedded or as part of a larger system for a specific task. Along with that, they have a lot of advantages for embedded applications in industry, agriculture and even military that conventional computers cannot do.

Embedded computers are specifically designed to be embedded or as part of a larger system for a specific task. Along with that, they have a lot of advantages for embedded applications in industry, agriculture and even military that conventional computers cannot do.

As mentioned, most embedded computers have many different I/O ports. This is a huge advantage because embedded computers are often used to connect both new and old technology. We don’t need to worry about our embedded computer not being able to connect to newly purchased sensors or modules because there is always an I/O port available for them.

High reliability and durability

Since embedded computers are designed to operate 24/7 around the clock, they are all tested to meet reliability standards. This means we don’t need to worry about our embedded computers having a short lifespan because they are built to last.

Some embedded computers are also designed to operate in demanding applications such as confined spaces, outdoor operations with inclement weather. They can withstand extreme temperatures while also resisting water, dust, high pressure, etc.

Energy efficiency

Embedded computers are designed to work around the clock for long hours, so they are designed to be energy efficient. Since they are designed to work on a single task, embedded computers, as mentioned, have a lower capacity. They also come with lightweight specialized software. These elements allow them to operate with only a minimal amount of power. Therefore, the cost incurred to run an embedded computer is much lower than that of a regular PC!

Today, embedded computers are used in almost every industry worldwide. From pipeline monitoring in the oil and gas industry to cybersecurity appliances designed to monitor and combat vulnerabilities,… Finding the best embedded computer requires a complete understanding of the only application in which it will be used. To determine which embedded computer is right for your project, please contact Adtech through the “Online Chat” section at the bottom right corner of the website, Adtech’s consultants are always available to answer any questions. your problem 24/7.

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