What Is a Single Board Computer And Who Might Need One
A single board computer, commonly abbreviated as SBC, is a computer with all its components fitting onto a single circuit board. Single board computers are used in larger equipment of various sorts, from PCs to robotic devices, and are favoured by tech enthusiasts and hobbyists eager to create their own devices.
How Are SBCs Different From Regular Computers?
It’s all in the name. While a typical computer diversifies and has several components all connected to a central circuit board with cables, a single board computer cuts out the middle man and has its microprocessor, memory and storage all on a single circuit board.
SBCs come in various sizes and cover various applications: some are compatible with PCs and feature the same type of hardware, while others may be more specialized, some come with microcontrollers, some are expandable and welcome reconfiguration and some offer no options for modification. You get the idea –whatever you have in mind, there is probably a single board computer out there to fit your needs.
What Are SBCs Used For?
As mentioned earlier, SBCs have had a number of applications since their release in 2000 and have recently become a formidable force in the development field. They serve as the base for a multitude of open-source projects, thanks to their compactness and inexpensiveness.
In addition to proving a vital tool to developers, single board computers are used in the education field for teaching computer science. Hobbyists have also embraced the idea with open arms for SBP’s openness and cost-efficiency in bringing their ideas to life.
How To Choose A Single Board Computer?
It goes without saying that your choice of an SBC will be determined by the intended application. However, there are a few common considerations to keep in mind and keep on your checklist while indulging in some SBC shopping.
Make sure that an SBC is a good match for the power requirements your project will be adhering to. Count in thermal management as well, so that the single board computer can have enough cooling muscle.
Depending on the project you plan to work on, you may have different memory needs. Older SBPs came with 512MB of memory only, which seemed perfectly reasonable at the time. These days, you will want to for something with, at least, 1GB of memory and more advanced models will offer 32GB.
Memory goes hand in hand with your choice of processor. Currently, there are three main options on the market: Intel, Power Architecture and ARM. Your choice may be guided by memory requirements, previous experience with the specific type of processor and, of course, project considerations.
The typical operating systems available on most SBCs are Linux (most popular), INTEGRITY, Wind River VxWords, QNX, LynxOS and GreenHills. Once again, your intended application will be the determining factor here. While a great number of processors support Linux, a smaller number will be compatible with Wind VxWorks and the design tools it features for creating safety applications.
With your intended use in mind, you may want the SBC to provide the right input/output elements, such as Ethernet, USB, DIO, board interconnect and others. If the needed I/O is not supported by the base SBC, look into its support of add-ons.