Embedded computers are usually just a small part of a larger system and the computer is designed to do one task over and over again, for a long period of time. This is in contrast to a personal computer, which is designed to do multiple tasks, like email, play games and play music. Because embedded computers are built for a specific task, they are minimal in design. They usually just have what you need and nothing more. This makes embedded systems lower power consumption, smaller in size, and more reliable than personal computers. Embedded computers are used everywhere.
Examples of embedded computer uses:
- Digital signage at a fast food restaurant
- Industrial automation on a manufacturing line
- Interactive kiosk
- Modern kitchen appliances
- In-vehicle computer
People often associate embedded computers with box PCs, which are computers without a display, but an embedded computer can refer to a panel PC or a Box PC. Embedded panel PCs are often used as a Human Machine Interfaced (HMI) on industrial machinery. Whether it’s in box form or panel form, embedded computers need to be rugged, durable, and reliable. They typically have fanless heatsink cooling systems, because fans are a common point of failure for computers, and they can have wide operating temperature ranges for extreme heat or cold.
As opposed to personal computers, which can have expansion slots and customizable IOs, embedded computers are not designed to be customized. Embedded computers are built for one task, or sometimes a small set of tasks, and nothing more, so customization and expansion is not necessary.