By JC Ramirez, Director of Engineering, ADL Embedded Solutions, Inc.
Embedded Computing Trends
Security, the Industrial Internet of Things, and longer product life spans are among the areas where embedded computing
will shift this year.
One of the most appealing aspects of embedded computers is the fact that there is still enormous
potential for future research and development, in
addition to new applications. In 2018, we will see a
number of trends in addition to the always-important
considerations of size, weight, and power. We will also
see embedded computing trends that touch the areas
of network and cybersecurity, the Industrial Internet of
Things (IIo T), products with increased longevity, and a
continued move from programmable logical controllers
(PLCs) to industrial PCs as a primary control system.
Network and Cybersecurity
This year will emphasize the critical interest that
commercial and industrial customers have in securing
their networks and data assets, continuing a trend that
becomes more essential over time. With respect to the
constant threats posed by cyberattacks, the focus of
attention in 2018 will primarily be on cyber protection
for Industrial Control Systems (ICS), especially for such
high-value assets as utilities, power grid substations,
water plants, and wind farms. In short, there will be
considerable attention paid to any kind of high-value
system performing a critical, broad-interest function,
and which might be exposed to the elements.
An interesting development is the potential for creating
intelligent embedded computers that take advantage of
‘fog computing,’ an extension of the cloud computing
metaphor that relates to the distribution of stored files
while addressing latency and intermittency issues. In
remote cloud computing, files are stored on servers that
are presumably safeguarded against most cyberattacks,
but there is still a possibility of having data hijacked,
ransomed, or corrupted by the criminal-minded hacker.
In fog computing, there is never a complete file available
on any single server, but the file would be dispersed in
packets across several servers. The advantage to this
configuration is that only a legitimate user could have
the know-how to reassemble a file back to completeness.
This exciting technology holds the promise of providing
a virtual defense from cyberattacks, and would make the
IIo T considerably safer.
The IIo T Move to Next-Level Industrial Automation
Although the Internet of Things (Io T) has long since
established its popularity and pervasiveness in consumer
technology, industrial applications and opportunities
are only now coming to the forefront, and that will
comprise another of the dominant 2018 trends in
embedded computing. The move from PLCs to PC
types of architectures is being spurred on by the next
generation of machinery and equipment, which requires
more flexibility and intelligence than the traditional PLC
micro-controller can provide.
IIoT applications require real-time connectivity
without latency or intermittent connectivity issues,
along with industrial-grade equipment that can handle
a factory environment, which means that hardware
quality must be much higher than it typically is for
consumer products. Processors built in 2018 will enable
more and better industrial applications by combining
hardware, data processing, data analytics, and storage
in a physically close configuration that will provide
cutting-edge industrial technology. From this, you can
expect compact but full-featured CPUs in embedded
computing products, which can vastly expand the
capabilities of factory automation and the IIo T.
Moving Away from PLC Toward PC Controllers
PLCs are the go-to choice for control systems used by
intelligent machines, since they could be dedicated