What goes into creating the best compact rugged computer? We asked some of the key members on the OnLogic team to share their perspective on developing the Karbon 300 Rugged Computer. Combining the latest in vision processing, wireless communication, security, and cloud capabilities in a compact form factor, the Karbon 300 is the computer of choice for builders around the world who need a solution designed to withstand some of the harshest environments. Below, you’ll read about a few of the incredible thing innovators are building with Karbon 300, and discover what led us to combine the features and capabilities that Karbon 300 has to offer.

Meet some of the Team!

Jim Watson is an Applications Engineer here at OnLogic. One of his key roles is to work with our customers to help them find a system that’s going to excel in an area that a traditional computer will not. His job is to make sure that the hardware we suggest is going to work exactly as intended when it’s taken out of the box. Jim also performs thermal and functionality testing on all the new hardware. (Connect with Jim on LinkedIn.)

Maxx Garrison is Product Manager at OnLogic working across the company to develop the best possible products for our customers. Product Managers are the liaison between customers and the engineering team. They work closely with customers to understand their application requirements for now and for the future and then they work with engineering to make those requirements possible. (Connect with Maxx on LinkedIn.)

What were Some Customer Requirements that Led to the Development of Karbon 300?

Jim: To create the best compact rugged computer, we wanted total control of design, engineering and testing. So Karbon 300 was developed at OnLogic from the ground-up. We’ve ensured that this system will offer full performance no matter the conditions. This rugged computer may go into an enclosure that’s going to get heated up by the sun in the desert while monitoring an oil head. It can also be mounted in a freezer at a meat packing facility, where you’re going to find temperatures that are sub-freezing. We set out to create a system that will not only survive in those environments, but also perform at a high level.

Maxx: We also built Karbon 300 to combine application-specific features that our customers require, such as automotive interfaces like ignition control or CAN bus, and industrial features like DIO and wide power input. By combining this feature set into a compact rugged pc, we’ve created a differentiated offering at a price point that will fit within our clients’ project budgets.

What are Some Real World Applications for Karbon 300?

Jim: One example is a manufacturing application in Germany. The compact form factor allows the Karbon 300 to be added to an existing cart system that tests the strength of metal components after they have been welded. This application, although industrial in nature, will utilize a number of automotive features such as CAN bus, which is required to talk to other devices on the cart. The wide voltage input that is required for automotive applications is useful in these types of environments where the system may be connected to an unregulated power input, such as a battery. In addition to this the automotive ignition sensor is being used as a way to safely power the system on and off via a PLC (programmable logic controller).

Maxx: Another interesting Karbon 300 use case is a customer who is using the CBRS radio band for next-generation wireless communication. This technology was previously only available for military use, but has now been opened up for civilian use. Karbon 300 is deployed in weather-tight containers on cell towers around the coast to actively manage prioritization of the radio band. The IoT gateway senses if there’s a naval ship using the band for radar, and automatically prioritizes the communication bands used, allowing for dynamic management of both military and civilian access. A compact rugged system like Karbon 300 is required for an embedded use case like this because wide temperature swings are common and reliability is essential.

Can you Offer Some Examples of how Karbon 300 Powers Data Processing at the Edge?

Jim: It has become common to send data to the cloud. But, in many instances, particularly with vision processing applications with high data volume, it is not feasible because of the high cost. First the cost to transfer the data into and out of the cloud and you would need to have a fleet of servers in the cloud to process the data. 

We work with customers who have fleets of vehicles that are doing a level of data acquisition and edge processing that require compute power directly in the vehicle. Autonomous vehicles, for instance, need to process data from cameras and other sensors in real-time. If a traffic light turns from green to yellow, the time it takes to collect this data, transmit it to the cloud for processing, and then receive the instructions is far too long to avoid an accident, and that’s why localized compute power is required. The Karbon 300 is equipped to deliver on that kind of requirement. (Not to mention its rugged features including vibration tolerance, wide temperature operating range and compact size, making it easy to install anywhere.)

This edge compute processing provides for a much faster response time. We’ve seen other customers using these options to maximize efficiency. For example, we’ve received interest from cities who are seeking to save on overhead development when adding new infrastructure, as a large data center will no longer be required thanks to the processing happening at the edge.

Karbon 300 has been Designed to be very Compact, how is this of Benefit to Customers?

Jim: The compact form factor supports a lot of customers who are looking for a rugged, wide-temp solution that can be installed in a space-constrained location, for example in a sealed and waterproof enclosure with other electronics which can all generate heat. A computer that can be DIN rail mounted in a small form-factor is tremendously beneficial because often customers only have a pre-defined limited amount of space with which they can install the computer.

There are typically a number of other components that have to also be installed and it can be challenging to fit all of the needed components in tight spaces, such as within a vehicle. the compact Karbon 300 offers the ability to install a high powered rugged computer discreetly and still leave room for the other sensors and cameras to be installed in the vehicle as well. It also features expansion options which provide installers the option to further save space by consolidating and integrating numerous external devices into the computer, such as 4G gateways, GPS, and Movidius.

How does the Combination of the Intel® Apollo lake Platform in a Compact Rugged Computer help Customers Achieve their Goals?

Digital signage requires compact rugged computers

Maxx: With the Intel Apollo Lake platform, the Karbon 300 can drive up to three independent digital signage displays, and the fresh lifecycle is a major advantage for customers who are embedding these compact devices in locations that are difficult to access to perform service or to replace equipment. Combine that with a rugged, wide-temp design and you really open up the number of possibilities. For example, an outdoor digital sign needs to contain all the electronics behind the screen and it is exposed to wide swings in temperature from the winter through summer. The computing solution needs to be reliable year-round.

Jim: Another example of the need for wide operating temperature is for those customers who are installing outdoor kiosks in locations such as Texas or Florida, or customers who are looking to install a video display inside gas pumps in northern Canada. If the revenue model involves playing ads, for example, then it’s critical that the system is able to meet those demands and always be operational to secure that revenue.

How does Karbon 300 fit into OnLogic’s Existing Rugged Portfolio?

Maxx: The Karbon 300 balances rich integrated features with an entry-level price point for a compact rugged computer. We offer many features that are not common on a rugged PC including an integrated CAN bus which is a feature of interest for automotive and even some industrial automation customers. Another unique feature at this entry level price point, is the integrated DIO.

Jim:  The key word here is integrated. Every system has a maximum number of expansion options, and that’s true across the board. When you talk about taking advanced features and integrating them into the computer, it frees up space for other things to increase connectivity, like wireless, cellular, LoRa, and Bluetooth. When the board itself can only accept a certain number of expansion options, you restrict your ability to be open and flexible. By adding these features natively to the board, those expansion options are still free, so this gives innovators in the field the option to create a rugged system with expansion options that we haven’t had before.

Anything else you would like to highlight about the Karbon 300 Compact Rugged Computer?

Maxx: The Karbon 300 is compact, but is not the smallest system available because it has a proprietary motherboard design to offer far more than a standard form factor board. We engineered this system to balance small size with as much high performance as possible and to still include a rich feature set that’s tough to match. We packed in 3 LAN, 4 USB, 8-bit DIO, NVMe or SATA storage, plus mPCIe for 4G and M.2 for WiFi, all in such a small system. Every component has been thermally optimized to provide reliable wide operating temperature operation, in a chassis that is thermally designed to perform in whatever situation it finds itself in, from deserts to glaciers.

Jim: We were able to design this chassis in a way that thermally accommodates all the expansion options that innovators in the field can conceive of, and that’s what we kept in mind through the entire development process.

To learn more about Karbon 300 visit www.onlogic.com/karbon300 or contact our application engineering team to find the system that’s right for you. 

Note: This blog was originally posted on 4/8/2019 and was updated for content on 7/29/2020.