What is a rugged PC these days? Just about everything except a PC. Even laptops and tablets could be considered rugged PCs. This wide range depends upon the criteria assigned to the PC’s requirements.
For example, the Curtiss-Wright Controls 3U OpenVPX conduction-cooled system (Fig. 1) is based on the company’s new CoolWall technology, which more than doubles the amount of power and heat the system can handle (see “2.4x Improvement In Conduction Cooling”). The solid frame will find a home in aircraft, on the battefield, and in possibly less demanding environments as well.
This type of system may often run headless, but even the display side can be rugged too. MEN Micro’s rugged 10.4-in. DC2 panel (Fig. 2) 4:3 thin-film transistor (TFT) LCD boasts 1024-by-768 resolution and capacitive touch support. It also hides an Intel Atom 1.3-GHz XL Z520PT processor with 1 Gbyte of DDR2 SDRAM and a 2-Gbyte microSD card behind the panel for a complete interactive, rugged PC.
The DC2 even has the usual PC interfaces like dual Fast Ethernet ports and a pair of USB ports. Its power supply can handle 9-V to 36-V inputs. Operating from –40°C to 70°C, the system can handle automotive and railway applications.
Rugged And Mobile Means Batteries
Rugged mobile devices often pack the power of their fixed counterparts, but batteries tend to limit their operational time. They can still pack a computing punch, though, and even link to the cloud like the HRC-4200 from Eurotech.
The HRC-4200 houses Marvell’s 520-MHz PXA 270 processor with 128 Mbytes of RAM and 1 Gbyte of flash memory. It has a 6.2-in. TFT touchscreen with a 620-by-240 pixel display. Communication links include IrDA, Bluetooth, GSM/GRPRS, and 802.11b/g. GPS is also part of the bundle.
Also, the HRC-4200 runs Microsoft Windows CE 5.0 and Eurotech’s Everyware Device Cloud Client software. Everware is based on OSGi, and the client communicates with the Everyware Device Cloud services using Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT), a lightweight publish/subscribe system (see “Developers Can Expect To See Everyware Everywhere”).
The number of rugged solutions available off the shelf is mind-boggling. Finding one that fits your requirements is a challenge all by itself, let alone the work needed to mate the platform with the application. Solutions like Eurotech’s that incorporate major chunks of integrated software will significantly reduce time-to-market if they mesh well with the end application.