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SMALL-FORM-FACTOR EMBEDDED COMPUTING SHRINKS PROCESSING FOR UNMANNED VEHICLES AND OTHER TINY APPLICATIONS

31 July 2012 /Mark Benson

Interviewed by John Keller for Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine on a special piece on small-form-factor embedded computing.

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.