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What is Best for Your Business: General-Purpose Computer or Embedded System?


When businesses face the challenge of acquiring computers for specialized equipment, they can be tempted to procure general-purpose computers. More often than we'd like to admit, this decision is influenced by the familiarity of the developer team with a particular system. After all, general-purpose computers are typically readily available and cost-effective in a test environment. While this approach may work well in the lab to determine basic requirements, it can lead to significant challenges in production environments if any design features resistant to change are not considered. So, should you select a general-purpose computer or an embedded system? That is the dilemma!

To address this question, let's start by defining what a computer is. A computer is a versatile machine capable of performing a wide range of tasks, such as calculations, text processing, communication, and analysis. It relies on an operating system to function correctly.

An embedded system is a specialized computer system designed to accomplish specific tasks or a limited set of functions as a purpose-built solution. The key difference lies in the design stage, in which embedded systems are meticulously crafted to execute specific tasks or design requirements that will ensure the system can accomplish what it was designed to do. In general, embedded systems require long lifecycles and support as they may be implemented in solutions that require a long runway for proper ROI or may not be easily accessible for service. In addition, changes in these systems may require costly software rewrites or new certifications which could impact production lines.

In contrast, general-purpose computers are just that. They are excellent choices for general computing where the above-mentioned constraints do not impact your solution.

Security is also affected by the choice of system. On one hand, general-purpose computers benefit from regular operating system updates, enhancing cybersecurity and reducing vulnerability to attacks. However, this can create problems when security updates affect the software code. On the other hand, embedded systems often require custom updates and bug fixes to address potential cyber threats if they are connected to a network.

Choosing the best solution depends on the specific problem at hand. For high-volume production with repetitive tasks, an embedded system like Nvidia Jetson products (https://www.contec.com/products-services/edge-computing/embedded-computers/ai-computers/dx-u2100/price/) may prove worthwhile. Alternatively, for low-volume production with cost considerations, solutions like the BX-220 could be preferable. (https://blog.contecamericas.com/challenges-when-selecting-computers-applications-edge )

To assist in making the right choice, you can refer to our blog series on determining system requirements (https://landing.contecamericas.com/embedded-systems ). Moreover, when opting for an embedded system, understanding the distinction between a developer board and an industrial solution is crucial to avoid physical challenges. (https://blog.contecamericas.com/always-hit-home-runs-by-choosing-the-right-board-for-you-application)

While this decision-making process may appear daunting and resource-intensive, remember that rectifying mistakes early on is more cost-effective than dealing with them later. In this post, research further on how to bridge the gap between hardware and software. (https://blog.contecamericas.com/achieve-business-success-by-bridging-the-gap-between-software-and-hardware-in-embedded-systems). Familiarizing yourself with the best technology and partnering with the right hardware manufacturer provides you with the best chance of success. You can read more about how a Hardware Manufacturer can help you in this post: (https://blog.contecamericas.com/a-hardware-manufacturer-can-hold-your-ladder-to-success).