Industrial Computers – What are they and their Applications
In this article we will describe:
- What are Industrial Computers?
- Typical applications for Industrial Computers.
- Two Protech Industrial Computers.
What are Industrial Computers?
Similar to commercial computers that are used in offices or homes, industrial computers have the same hardware parts, components, and peripherals. However, industrial computers are manufactured from heavy duty materials and in most instances are IP rated to withstand harsh environments such as extreme temperature, dust, high humidity, vibration, power surges, electrical noise, long operation hours, burglary, etc. Under these conditions, the lower cost commercial computers will usually fail after a short period, whereas industrial computers will work as normal and are therefore more suitable for governmental, commercial or industrial applications.
There are many forms of industrial computers. An industrial computer can be a computer in a metal case, an all-in-one flat panel, a kiosk with a circuit board embedded, a signage on a public place, etc. There will be options for parts (e.g. CPU model, memory size, screen type and size) or for components (e.g. hard disks, LTE module, credit card readers, touch panel screen, etc.). The housing can be specifically constructed and mounted for the applications, taking into consideration the environmental requirements. Similarly, software for industrial computers tends to be developed for proprietary applications.
In addition, Industrial computers usually include a number of Input / Output (I/O) ports to allow them to be interfaced to a variety of equipment that need to be controlled or monitored. They also provide a number of expansion slots, e.g. for Wi-Fi, 3G/4G or GPS modules, that can be used to add extra functionality. The image below shows the variety of I/O ports available in the Protech SE-8300 Industrial computer.
Typical Applications for Industrial Computers
The diagram below shows typical applications for industrial computers and systems.
As shown in the diagram, there are numerous applications for industrial computers, including:
- Industrial and commercial monitoring and control
- Signage for commercial or public displays
- Public security monitoring
- Automated traffic control
- Access control in transport or public places
Mobile applications can be used in trucks for fleet management to monitor the vehicles in real time as well as track their movement or to collect relevant data for the control centre at the head office.
Another mobile application can be in public transport vehicles to monitor the passengers for security as well as providing information for the passengers by controlling signage within the bus or train.
The photos below show 2 advanced commercial systems. The first photo shows an Auto Check-in/out system that can be deployed in hotels or motels. Similar to Auto check-in systems in the airports, a customer can key-in (or touch-in) booking reference numbers, names, etc., for the kiosk to respond with customer details so the customer can complete the check-in/out process and be provided with keys or codes to access the rooms.
The second photo shows an automatic sales kiosk similar to entry/exit systems for car parks. The customers can key in the service options or present an entry card to gain entries, and present credit cards or cash for payments.
The photo below shows a restaurant system which allows the customers, the waiters, the managers and the kitchen staff to have different handsets or computers, and so the ordering process is automated. Orders can be keyed in by the patrons or the waiters, and be acted on by kitchen staff quickly. The details and bills are recorded and can be presented on check-out.
Two Protech Industrial Computers
Protech is a leading manufacturer of Industrial computer components and systems and these are available through i-LAN Technology Pty Ltd. Below is an overview of two products that are now available. One is an Industrial Fanless Embedded Computer and the other is an Industrial Panel PC.
The Protech SE-8300 is an Industrial Embedded Computer fitted with an Intel© Atom™ E3845 processor (Quad core 1.91 GHz). It has a fanless design with the housing incorporating the heatsink. The heatsink dissipates heat generated within the unit without the need for forced air ventilation. This means that this unit can be installed in dusty and hot industrial environments without the worry of dust entering into the internal components of the computer or the high temperature causing the components to fail, resulting to longer service life.
This computer will tolerate a wide operating temperature between -30℃ ~ 60℃. This along with Anti-Vibration and Anti-Shock features as well as accepting Wi-Fi, 3G/4G or GPS modules makes it ideal for use in mobile transport applications.
SE-8300 will operate with a power supply between 9~36 Volts DC, and can be fitted to trucks or public transport vehicles such as busses or trains as well as ferry services. It can be used in a variety of installations which are subject to harsh environments or reliability is required. For example it can be used to control traffic lights at an intersection (from a roadside cabinet) or to provide uninterrupted access control for train stations.
The diagram below shows some of the configuration options available to add extra functionality to the SE-8300.
More details on the Protech SE-8300 is available on the web page: http://www.i-lan.com.au/products/protech-systems/se-8300/
Protech SP-7625 Industrial Panel PC
The Protech SP-7625 is a 15″ Industrial Panel PC is fitted with the LGA1155 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ i5/i3/Pentium® processor. It is also equipped with Intel® Q77 chipset. It also has a stainless steel front bezel and an analogue resistive touch screen. This panel PC is designed for panel or wall mounting with all the cabling for data and power connections on the rear of the panel PC being enclosed within the equipment panel or wall cavity.
The Front Panel has an IP rating of IP65 meaning that it has ingress protection against dust and water jets (first digit 6 means dust tight, second 5 means protected against water). This means that this unit can be used in environments that are subject to dust or moisture, such as manufacturing or food industries for applications such as manufacturing process control.
The image below shows the rear of the Protech SP-7625 and the type of data ports that are available. The data ports include COM ports, LAN ports, DIO, USB, printer and audio ports as well as ports for external monitor, keyboard and mouse.