Industrial PCs (IPC) have been the driving forces for various industries. With the global smartization constantly trending up, businesses resort to digital transformation for sustainable growth, which is highlighting the increasing importance of the role that IPCs play.
According to Jerry Chang, Senior Director of DFI Product Planning Division, the new trend spurs new demand, which traditional architectures can no longer keep up with. Smart systems today require IPCs to meet stronger AI computing power, more comprehensive network capabilities, and smaller footprint.
IPC designs can be highly industry-specific and purpose-driven, such as healthcare, recreation, and transportation. What distinguishes IPCs from consumer electronics is that various essential specifications greatly factor in when designing and/or customizing IPC products. Nonetheless, Chang told Digitimes that, based on his observation of the market development, there are still some essentials shared by both business and customer settings, which are exactly the above-mentioned three: AI computing power, network capabilities, and smaller footprint.
The demand for AI computing and networking emerged on the account of recent years' Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) trend, and it seems that IPCs' computing power hasn't yet stepped farther enough outside general data processing. The ubiquity of AI will bring edge computing to light, and today's IPCs are still not decent enough for that or for the performance level that aligns. Network capabilities on the other hand have become a must in IPCs. OT systems - mostly used in standalone systems - may require network connections, internally at most, with a few cases externally. But the tide has changed. Under the AIoT paradigm, enterprises are now stressing more on the importance of networking to external cloud and servers, which has already shifted the course for IPC design.
Despite the importance of the above, IPC downsizing also seeks improvement. "IPC looks for maximum flexibility, and has to be the computing power inside miniature architectures in edge devices, so we will have to optimize that, especially in small form factors, without a question," Chang said. He also showed Digitimes that DFI already on the market has an array of products with the performance level of AI computing, robust network capabilities, and miniature design. Take GHF51 - it recently received major marketing efforts - for example, the 1.8-inch SBC form factor and AMD Ryzen R1000 processor make GHF51 a high-performance unit to support image processing and robotic arm control. For network connectivity, GHF51 also provides multiple high-speed, reliable and secure I/O interfaces to enable flexible expansion and connecting external devices.
GHF51, in addition to business and industrial applications, also seems to catch academic attentions for its performance and footprint improvements. Raspberry Pi, academia and research institutions' favorite, is built on ARM-based processors, whereas GHF51, using x86-based AMD Ryzen processors, provides an upgraded alternative. We will see how this breakthrough affects the market.
In addition to GHF51, each of DFI SBC series products has its own features respectively, such as ALF51 powered by Intel Atom platforms, "palm-sized" EC90A-AL, AL05P featuring Power over Ethernet (PoE), Freescale-based and "palm-sized" EC900-FS6 with "ultra-wide" operating temperatures, "mini-sized" EB100-KU powered by Intel Core i processors, CS551 with -30 degree C to 80 degree C operating temperature and smart heater triggered below -30 degree C, and a COMe Mini board, WL9A3, with Core i processors. As a tactic move, DFI foresaw the need to expand its portfolio of miniature models, and now they have more similar projects in roadmap.
There may be two major reasons in DFI's miniaturization success unseen in its competitors, Chang specifically told Digitimes. One is its experienced system-on-module (SOM) development - the know-how in balancing between high-performance and small-footprint. DFI's long-term commitment to this field is believed to have accumulative values that allow it to build a complete product mix. The other reason is that, as a subsidiary of Qisda Group, DFI has received from a few benefits - the access to Qisda's supply chain that results in reduced cost estimation, and leverages for expanding regions and sectors. These advantages have been enabling system integrators to quickly build systems that combine flexibility and performance, thereby tapping new AIoT opportunities.
Feel free to visit the DFI's website for more information.
DFI's miniaturization asset lacked by its competitors, according to a senior director of DFI, lies in the experienced system-on-module (SOM) development, key to help system integrators build optimized AIoT systems.
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