ABSTRACT: There was a time not many years ago when 3U-size processor boards were among the smallest embedded computers imaginable. This form factor, 100 by 160 millimeters, or about the size of a paperback novel, opened a multitude of new applications for embedded computing, such as avionics for large unmanned vehicles, electronic subsystems for armored combat vehicles (vetronics), and portable electronics for soldiers on the battlefield. In that era, 6U computer boards were the standard, and 3U circuit cards were amazingly small.
Today, however, those paperback-book-sized embedded computing modules are starting to look large and clunky compared to the newest generations of small-form-factor embedded computing modules. Engineers are shrinking today's computer boards to the sizes of smartphones, credit cards, business cards, sticks of gum, and even postage stamps, which is encouraging systems designers to rethink their definitions of small-form-factor embedded computing.
Mark Benson is Vice President of Engineering at SmartThings, a technology company based in Mountain View, CA and a wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics. Mark is a regular speaker and writer on the intersection of technology, business, and society as it relates to product development, technology leadership, strategic planning and execution, intellectual property portfolio management, software architecture, information security, competitive positioning, and organizational behavior.