Embedded computing is the use of a dedicated computer system within a larger system to perform specific functions; these are used very widely in electronic applications everywhere from home electronics all the way up to large industrial applications where each part of a plant may have its own embedded systems to keep processes in check.
Embedded solutions are very well suited to industrial applications since they’re typically easier to seal against the elements (and whatever else may be present), which can be key in industrial applications. Industrial workplaces can often be harsh environments for any equipment, with the potential for corrosive or damaging chemicals, large volumes of dust, excessive heat and moisture, each of which could cause big problems for electrical equipment or computers exposed to them.
The reason embedded computers are easier to seal than larger computer systems such as a desktop computer, is primarily because they are smaller. Building a case to house a full sized motherboard with many other parts takes a fair amount of space and requires a fair amount of mounting options for each of the different components. Embedded systems, while normally requiring custom mounting, can be fitted into far smaller cases and are a lot easier to seal.
Embedded systems also typically use a lot less power than desktop systems which gives them a few more advantages in that they don’t require large power supplies and will produce a lot less heat, which in turn reduces the need for cooling.
While most desktops require fans and a fair amount of airflow to keep them cool, this opens up a huge number of vulnerabilities such as dust, moisture, chemicals and even bacteria which may be in the air. An embedded system can potentially do away with the need for air flow as it’s a fanless system which radiates heat away passively, meaning you can make embedded systems highly resilient; even waterproof fairly easily.
There are some drawbacks to embedded systems however; they’re typically fit for fewer purposes than desktop computers, which are a lot more versatile and often capable of processing several threads of data at the same time, though are more prone to errors than embedded systems, which are often used in situations where constant use may be required for years.
Such demanding needs are common in industry where continuous production is something performed by many factories. Some examples of key areas where this may be the case include; systems which cannot easily be shut down, systems in areas where repair would be hard or even impossible, redundancy systems to keep systems running while another system is down, and also systems which may be very costly if failure was to occur.
This all makes embedded computing invaluable in a huge number of applications, not only in industry, but also in much of the technology we use every day, so keep in mind embedded solutions when you have a problem you need solving, it may just provide the answer you’re looking for.