At the beginning of 2017, LinuxGizmos.com covered 90 different “hacker-friendly” single board computers, a far-less-than-exhaustive list of some of the maker-communities’ favorite boards for various tasks and projects. Maker-community ARM boards are available in hundreds of styles, from dozens of manufacturers today, to suit all types of form factor and performance needs – and every day, there are more of them being released. Habey itself released the HIO Project maker board – a stackable, 3D Expandable Freescale board for all types of maker and IOT projects.
However, as the Internet of Things has grown and embedded computers have found their way into all sorts of devices, both industrial and commercial, it has become clear that “Maker” boards – primarily designed for hobbyists, home enthusiasts, and prototype operations – are not suited to production operations. They may not be manufactured to the proper tolerances, and the connectivity standards for which they were developed may not be adequate for commercial and industrial needs. Additionally, the hardware in a “maker” type board is frequently suited to hobbyist applications, without the selection of memory capacity or onboard storage that is needed for commercial products, and so on. More pressingly, because many commercial, industrial, and military products have a rigorous certification process for each component, it is important that the same ARM boards, constructed with approved components, be available for 5 to 10 years. It would take far too long and cost far too much for an individual product to be redesigned and recertified due to rapid changes in maker-board design and manufacture. Though boards like Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone are great options for designing and developing new products and concepts, they may ultimately not be the best choice for your production operation.
Product Lifecycle – Can You Get It When You Need It
When it comes to product lifespan and time to market, industrial-design ARM boards, like those from Habey USA, aren’t beholden to the same limitations. Habey USA’s boards and other electronics have been designed with industry in mind, and we have the capacity to adapt design and manufacture of any board to meet the needs of our customers. And because Habey only uses tried and true components from reliable manufacturers, we’re able to continue manufacturing the same, certified boards and technology for as long as your product needs to be produced.Some Habey products have lifespans of 10 or more years.
Hardware Capacity – Maker-Boards may be Ill-suited Hot Rods
In terms of hardware capacity, professional boards also typically offer capacity that maker-boards don’t. The latest Raspberry Pi and similar models are quite powerful in many respects, with a Quad-Core, 1.2GHz processor, but the lack of selection of processors and have configurations which limit the performance scalabilityin industrial IoT applications. Pro boards typically feature multiple CPU architectures, with flexible RAM configurationsand on-board storage, making them ideal for always-on, high-uptime industrial and military applications.
Deployment Readiness – Time to Market
For companies that have resolved the issues of product lifespan and hardware capacity, one still must consider deployment readiness and support when debating the appropriate boards for their products. Because maker-boards are designed for maximum flexibility, they frequently require a great deal of adjustment and tweaking before they can be adapted to specific tasks. Since production products are standardized, that level of adaptability is neither necessary nor beneficial. And because maker-boards often support only open-source, hobbyist-friendly operating systems, engineers may have more trouble getting support for their product’s needs than pro boards that support more proven distributions like Android, embedded Linux, and multiple Windows platforms that are backed by the manufacturer.
Ultimately, the extremely low price point of maker-boards is a hard to beat attraction, but many companies will find, when working with a proper engineering and business process crew, that the total cost for a pro-board over the entire planned run of a product is much, much lower.