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Karbon Series Micro Control Unit: Challenge What’s Possible with Rugged Edge Computing

By ·Categories: Tech Explained·Published On: July 20th, 2020·3.9 min read·

The micro control unit (MCU or microcontroller) is a key feature of Karbon Series rugged edge computers and it’s one feature that is helping our partners push the limits of what’s possible. We love hearing about all the innovative solutions to problems and we’re hard at work developing the tools to help our partners make it possible.

The use cases for edge PCs vary dramatically, as do the requirements. Operating temperature, power handling, peripheral support, and connectivity are critical features that determine how an embedded computer fits into the equation and inform which one is the best fit.

Technology should elevate and support your application, not get in the way. This is why we built the Karbon Series rugged edge computers with a custom micro control unit (MCU) to enable the level of customization and functionality required by today’s IoT applications, while remaining easy to use.

A photo of the Karbon 300 from OnLogic

Our Karbon 300 features a programmable micro control unit for easy customization and integration.

What is a Micro Control Unit (MCU)?

A micro control unit is a small chip on the motherboard that serves as a mini command center for the system and enables customizable behavior through a programming interface. The MCU acts as a bridge between low-level hardware interfaces and high-level software, which makes it possible to interface and exchange data over DIO and CAN from within the operating system. It also handles automotive subsystems, such as low battery voltage monitoring, ignition detection, and power on/off delays.

The K300 integrated MCU enables additional functionality not commonly found on all systems.

Why is the MCU Important?

Not all deployments are built the same. While commonalities exist across applications, the need for customization below the surface level is something we’ve heard from users time and time again.

The benefit of building the Karbon series with an MCU at its core is greater control over the system’s functionality to allow more granular control in customizing system behavior to your needs, particularly for environments that are hostile to technology.

The Karbon Series MCU allows us to enable features like CAN auto-baud rate detection, wake from digital input events, and programmable user configurations from the outset. It’s a flexible tool that can be used to address very specific (and sometimes esoteric) application challenges to create more efficient and integrated solutions while allowing us (and you) to respond to project needs quickly.


 A closeup photo of the K700 from OnLogic

The Karbon Series micro control unit gives finer control over ignition sensing and timing for in-vehicle applications.

For example, you might have a vehicle-based application requiring precise timing of computer startup, shutdown, and hard shutdown behavior. With an MCU, you have control down to the second without the need for an external regulator. This level of control makes integration and deployment faster and easier, with the MCU serving as a customizable bridge between the needs of your project and the computer itself.

What Can You Do With an MCU?

Part of the customization possibilities that are enabled with a micro control unit come from Digital Input/Output, or DIO. One of the simplest ways to transfer data, DIO consists of a set of pins that can be either high or low. Some pins are inputs read by the host system to get information externally while others are outputs set by the MCU to send information to external systems.

DIO offers complete control of the Karbon Series functionality with a simple software interface to make adjustments. Pairing DIO with a micro control unit and in-house firmware allows us to offer more unique features such as ‘wake on DIO’ that cause the system to power on when a DIO event is detected to prevent data events from being missed.

A simple and reliable system, DIO adds additional flexibility to our Karbon Series and provides an opportunity to get creative when working with partners to help solve their specific application challenges.

Interacting with the micro control unit module using Python.
Interacting with the Pykarbon MCU module using Python.

Getting Started With MCU-enabled Systems

Our aim with the Karbon Series was to create a rugged system that could adapt to any situation and environment. With industry-leading ruggedization and customizable micro control unit, we’re excited to see what challenges innovators will use it to solve.

Want to learn more about rugged edge computing? Click here to to learn more. Click to configure the compact and powerful Karbon 300 or the expanded Karbon 700 and their MCU today!

Note: This blog post was originally published June 20th, 2019 and was revised on July 20th, 2020

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About the Author: Jacob Caughfield