how to select ruggedized computershow to select ruggedized computershow to select ruggedized computers

Ruggedized desktop. Fanless box PC. Mobile computing terminal

Image Credit: Advantech Corporation | RF Industries

 

Ruggedized computers are intended for use on factory floors or in other harsh environments. Unlike office computers, these systems are designed to withstand shock, vibration, humidity, EMI, RFI, dust, mist, and splash. Industrial computers are available in many configurations with a variety of CPUs, displays, and I/O interfaces.  Configuration or mounting style, processor type, memory, storage, and display are the most important parameters to consider when searching for industrial computers.  Additional specifications that are important to consider include I/O interfaces, expansion, power supply, features, and environmental parameters.

 

Computer Mounting Options

Choices for configuration or mounting style for industrial computers include

  • Panel Mount- The computer has a flange for mounting to a panel. The flange can have mounting holes or mounting studs.
  • Touch Screen- The screen is touch-sensitive allowing for input of data via fingertips of a special pen known as a stylus.
  • EMI / RFI Shielded- The computer is shielded against electromagnetic interference or radio frequency interference.
  • Handheld / Portable- A portable computer is a computer small enough to carry. Portable computers include notebook and sub-notebook computers, handheld computers, palmtops, and PDAs. A handheld computer is a portable computer that is small enough to be held in one's hand. Although extremely convenient to carry, handheld computers have not replaced notebook computers because of their small keyboards and screens. The most popular handheld computers are those that are specifically designed to provide personal information manager (PIM) functions, such as a calendar and address book.
  • Integrated BluetoothTM Technology- The device has integrated Bluetooth technology. Bluetooth is a short-range radio technology aimed at simplifying communications among Internet devices and between devices and the Internet. It also aims to simplify data synchronization between Internet devices and other computers. Products with Bluetooth technology must be qualified and pass interoperability testing by the Bluetooth special interest group prior to release. Bluetooth's founding members include Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia and Toshiba.

  • RAID Controller- The computer has support (controller) for RAID (random array of independent disks).

Specifications

There are many important specifications to consider when selecting a computer. These include the operating system, speed, memory, and storage available as well as user interface specifications such as screen resolution.

 

Operating System

The computer operating system should be chosen based on the specific needs of the user and the application. Each operating system comes with a unique interface and system requirements.

  • Linux- The computer includes the Linux operating system. Linux is an operating system which allows for multitasking and multiusers. It is a free and can be distributed, used, and expanded.
  • UNIX- The computer or workstation includes the UNIX operating system. Unix is a command line oriented operating system. It is also a free operating system with several variants.
  • EPOC- EPOC is an operating system from Psion PLC, designed specifically for mobile, ROM -based computing devices. EPOC16 is a 16-bit version and EPOC32 is the 32-bit that supports preemptive multitasking. EPOC is competing with Windows® CE in the growing PDA market.
  • Microsoft®-The computer includes a Windows® operating system. Windows® has several versions and is  one of the largest commercial projects ever built. The operating system allows for personalized menus, Secure Virtual Private Networking (VPN) support, and supports peripheral devices such as USBs.
  • Apple®-The computer includes an Apple/Mac operating system. The Mac operating system includes new and unique features that are not found in other operating systems such as support for sharing files, peripheral device synchronization, and color management tools.
  • Google®- The computer includes a Google® operating system.  

Processor Type

There are many processor types that are available for industrial computers.  These include Intel, AMD and VIA.

 

Speed

CPU speed is important to consider when selecting a specific processor.  CPU speed refers to the speed at which the CPU operates internally. It is calculated by multiplying the memory bus speed by the multiplier of the processor, or Processor Speed = Memory Speed x Multiplier. The multiplier is different for each processor. For instance, for a Pentium II 350 the multiplier is 3.5, and for a Pentium II 450 the multiplier is 4.5.

 

Memory and Storage

Memory and storage specifications to consider for industrial computers include RAM, flash memory (RAM), hard drive capacity, CompactFlash® capacity, and other drive options. 

  • RAM (Random Access Memory) is the main memory of the computer. 
  • Flash memory is a type of RAM that can electronically hold memory even when the power is off. 
  • The hard drive capacity is the storage capacity of the computer's main storage device. 
  • CompactFlash are mass storage devices first introduced in 1994 that provide complete PCMCIA functionality and compatibility. The small, card-like devices are solid-state products (they contain no moving parts) that provide greater protection for data integrity than the conventional magnetic disk drives.    

User Specifications

Display options include no display, cathode-ray tube (CRT), and flat panel displays.  Choices for display resolution include VGA (640 x 480), SVGA (800 x 600), XGA (1024 x 768), AND SXGA (1280 x 1024).  Important display parameters to consider for industrial computers include minimum display size, color display option, and touch screen option.

 

Resources

Operating Systems

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