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Customized Embedded Computer – Create One the OnLogic Way

By ·Categories: Industrial IoT·Published On: February 20th, 2021·3 min read·

Looking for a customized embedded computer? We’ve created hundreds of thousands of computers for customers creating everything from test and measurement devices and machine learning solutions, to autonomous vehicles and even entire smart cities.  Over the past 17 years, our team has developed a consultative “needs analysis” methodology.

Our system for creating the perfect computing solution for you centers around 7 key questions:

1. What are your PERFORMANCE needs for your Customized Embedded Computer?

  • Do you have a current platform to use as a point of reference?
  • Does the software you are using have a minimum hardware spec?
  • How graphically intensive is your application?

These questions inform CPU, GPU, single vs. dual core choices and more. Significantly, according to most senior hardware engineers, “overspec’d” performance requirements is the most common (and frequently costly) computer hardware configuration mistake.

2. What ENVIRONMENT will your unit operate in?

A photo showing the dirty inside of a computer with a fan

  • Will the system be in a dusty environment?
  • Will it be subject to impact or vibration forces?
  • Is signal or EMC interference a concern?
  • Can you describe the ambient temperature?
  • Is there a space constraint?
  • Mounting requirements?
  • How will you power the system?
  • Will you require wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or 4G)?

These environmental considerations drive case, motherboard, power supply, and storage choices. The more demanding the environment, the more likely you will need a fanless, solid state, wide-temperature system.

3. Are there I/O CONNECTIONS you need?

  • What are your I/O Considerations?
  • If video output is required, what type?
  • Are there special video considerations?
  • What are your USB needs (A, C and what generation)?
  • What are your COM needs?
  • How many LAN ports and what speed do you require?
  • Audio requirements?
  • Any other I/O needs?

4. OPERATING SYSTEM and software?

  • Do you require an operating system? (Windows or Linux & what flavor?)
  • What other software will you be running?

Unfortunately, some hardware simply doesn’t play well with some software. A smart configuration takes into account driver support for the OS you have built your application on.

5. STORAGE & MEMORY requirements?

  • Based on the environmental considerations above, is solid state or hard disk storage more appropriate?
  • How much storage capacity do you need?
  • What are your storage performance requirements?
  • Do you have any special storage considerations (RAID, multiple drives, hot-swap, wide-temp)?
  • What are your RAM capacity requirements?

6. Do you need EXPANSION capability?

  • Do you have an expansion card?
  • Why are you using it? (Perhaps we can find a way to omit the need!)
  • What is the power draw?
  • Is it a PCI, PCIe, or mini PCIe card?

7. BUSINESS/LIFECYCLE requirements?

  • At scale, what price per unit do you need to hit?
  • What are your lifecycle needs for this platform?

These are typically < 3 years, 3-7 years, 7+ years. Lifecycle needs will determine whether you need particular motherboards and whether you need to look at case revision control. Is this system replacing an existing unit already in the field? If not, when do you need to launch? What testing/certification do you need? This drives case material considerations, among other component choices. What is the cost of downtime or remote servicing? This last question will drive reliability needs.

And remember, by using Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) hardware, you can get a custom configuration without the cost and lead times associated with truly custom systems.  In other words, “Custom-Off-The-Shelf” is not a contradiction in terms.

Customize your own Embedded Computer

Having trouble answering these questions? Reach out to our knowledgeable sales team to walk you through them. Or download our Ultimate Hardware Guide and Checklist.

Note: This blog was originally published on March 20, 2013 and updated for content on February 20. 2021.

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About the Author: James Floyd

James Floyd has been with the company since January 2007. He manages some of our top customer accounts with astute technical knowledge and a warm and friendly approach. He also has three adorable children: two boys and a little girl.

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