As computing requirements get increasingly demanding, so do the physical environments in which many embedded applications are deployed. Solutions built with extended temperature components benefit from the ability to be deployed and redeployed in a wider variety of environmental conditions without the need to modify an existing design for a new environment.
While extended temperature means different things in different circumstances, the most general definition is the industrial temperature range of -45 °C to +80 °C, which contrasts with the more typical commercial temperature range of 0 °C to +60 °C. Environmental conditions beyond the commercial range actually occur more often than you might think – a car’s interior, for example, can easily reach temperatures of around 55 °C after just 40 minutes on an average summer day, easily pushing the upper limit of the commercial temperature range. In the event of an above-average summer weather event, component failure becomes a very real possibility, a dangerous prospect given the importance of automotive computers in modern cars.
Extended temperature requirements are also often found in scientific or military research projects, particularly those involving deployment to space. This presents a challenge to researchers, as tested extended-temperature hardware is often difficult to find off-the-shelf. This, in turn, necessitates the costly, time-consuming process of developing customized hardware to meet an application’s needs, where an appropriately designed commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solution would have sufficed.
Many embedded systems manufacturers have expanded their selections of commercially available extended-temperature hardware. For example, Gumstix recently released its Overo IceSTORM Computer-on-Module (COM), offering embedded graphics processing capabilities with extended temperature ratings. The IceSTORM joins the Overo IronSTORM COM in the company’s extended-temperature family.
With many applications developers considering commercially available hardware as a cost- and time-saving measure, the availability of affordable, extended temperature hardware will become of critical importance for creating the next generation of embedded devices.
Andrew Simpson is a content developer at Gumstix. He has an avid interest in technology and open-source development. Since joining Gumstix in 2012, he has published numerous articles and tutorials on embedded systems. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of British Columbia.