Here at GRiD, we use embedded processors in all of our hardware. They allow us to create higher quality and more versatile products than if we were to use ordinary microprocessors. But why is this? To work out the benefits of doing so, and why we have chosen to go down the route we have, we first need to look at and understand exactly what an embedded processor is and why they are used in general.
WHAT IS AN EMBEDDED PROCESSOR, AND WHERE ARE THEY USED?
An embedded processor is a microprocessor designed especially for handling the needs of an embedded system. A little bit of background is probably useful here. Embedded systems are computer systems that have a dedicated function. These embedded systems often require less power to run due to the fact that they are a singular, confined unit rather than having the same components in separate units. Due to being confined into an embedded system, these processors can be very small and draw less power from the source than their ‘ordinary’ counterparts. An ordinary microprocessor only comes with the processor in the chip, meaning that all of the peripherals are separate from the main chip, resulting in more power consumption over-all as each component draws in power separately as well as more space being taken up by the same number of components.
Thanks to the design of embedded processors, they are able to provide electrical systems with high performance while drawing a low level of power. This enables them to be used in a great multitude of devices, and in some cases, entire industries rely on this to produce the products they deliver.
Typically, embedded processors are used in systems that are intended to have an extremely long life or are required to be ‘always on’. This is because embedded processors have very long production runs compared to standard or mobile processors. Some of the more prominent and perhaps recognisable examples of these long-life applications are in cash machines, or ATMs (depending on where you’re from), which use embedded processors due to their long life and the fact that they are able to operate for extended periods of time without any issues. Similarly, embedded processors are used on mass across the automotive industry, utilised in almost every aspect of a car because of their ability to easily slot into the embedded systems that run all manner of electronic tasks within the vehicle. From the system that runs your anti-lock brakes to the system that manages the in-car infotainment. The low power requirements of the processors help keep the car running without completely draining your battery every time you start it up.
HOW DO EMBEDDED PROCESSORS BENEFIT MILITARY HARDWARE?
As a generally accepted rule, all hardware that is designed for either the military or the aerospace industry is built to last. Whether the goal is to make a product as rugged as physically possible, like with our devices, so that they can be used anywhere on the planet without fear of them being damaged or to ensure that the same technology can be used for 15+ years without having to deal with any of the planned obsolescence that is more prevalent in standard commercial industries.
Military hardware is more often than not, used for a singular purpose within a system as opposed to being used as an all-purpose, personal computer. Thanks to this integration and reliance on other pieces in the chain, it is even more important that any products introduced into this system are going to be able to function properly without causing any issues over long periods of time. Reliability is therefore key.
WHY DO WE USE EMBEDDED PROCESSORS IN OUR HARDWARE?
We use embedded processors, and embedded systems in our hardware because we need reliable components that can ensure our products last as long as feasibly possible. We build our laptops and tablets to last in excess of 15 years, if not longer, so we need to;
a) Make sure that everything we build them with is going to be able to operate in the same way from the first time a tablet is turned on to the 10,000th.
B) Ensure we do not run into obsolescence issues when building the same configuration 5, 10 or even 15 years in the future.
Embedded processors are the perfect choice for us. They last as long as the unit they are put in to, draw a very small amount of power so that our devices as a whole can last longer before they need to be plugged in or recharged (although we use hot-swappable batteries so that even when the battery does run out, you can simply swap it out with a charged one without having to power the unit down) and they allow us to vastly increase the performance of our devices over what would not be possible using other commercial processors (such as mobile processors).
If you’re interested in learning more about why we use embedded processors in our equipment and hardware or want to see our kit in action, drop an email into firstname.lastname@example.org or give one of our team a call on +44 (0)1628 810 230 and they will be more than happy to help.