Overcoming the Outdoor Design Challenges of Complex AIoT Systems

March 30, 2020 Evelyn Tsai, Marketing Manager, Wincomm Corporation

Companies looking to deliver value in the AIoT marketplace will be faced with extreme design requirements. Many of these systems will be deployed in rugged outdoor conditions, harsh climates, explosive environments, and wet or dusty settings, and therefore need a significant amount of customization. To succeed, these AIoT vendors must carefully consider their entire system design, from hardware to software to integration. Selecting the right end-to-end design partner can help avoid early pitfalls while adding value to end customers.

Paradigm shifting technology trends like artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) have disrupted the electronics marketplace. This disruption has opened the door for countless startups, as well as existing companies looking to enter new application areas.

However, developing a successful AIoT solution is full of challenges that can make or break a product. These challenges go beyond the complex AIoT technology itself, and include the rigorous work of designing to specific functional and environmental requirements of a target application.

Highly regulated industries like healthcare, industrial automation, outdoor automatic control, and transportation demand that most electronic systems conform to a wide variety of standards. But developing to the electronic safety standards of the medical industry, rugged requirements of the automation industry, or harsh environments of the oil & gas and chemical processing industries are neither simple nor inexpensive endeavors.

Below are just a few rugged outdoor design requirements a design team could encounter on their path to productization.

  • Ingress Protection (IP) – The IEC 60529 standard specifies a variety of IP ratings that signify how resistant a system is to objects, dust, water, and even submersion, while ISO 20653 ratings dictate resiliency against steam jets (Figure 1). These standards are principally a measure of how well a system is packaged. Of course, the more heavily packaged a system is, the more susceptible it becomes to overheating.

Figure 1. Industrial-grade systems are typically rated from IP66 up to IP69K, the highest ingress protection grade against high-pressure, high-temperature steam and water jets (Source: Phoenix Contact).

  • Sunlight Readable under Outdoor Environment - Under extreme climate changes environment and rapid temperature changes, it has been able to operate normally in an extensive outdoor temperature range, such as from -20℃ to 60 ℃. For higher temperature locations, it is required to prevent the CPU from overheating, and for low temperature environments, it needs to preheat circuit ensures for a circuit warm-up and system start-up. Users do not have to worry about motherboard components failure caused by low to high temperatures. The peripheral components of this system such as the LCD, touch, RAM, SSD, and HDD are all rigorously selected for wide temperature range designs and capabilities. This rugged PC systems are required to operate 24/7/365 safely in either outdoor or semi-outdoor environments low temperatures down to -20℃ and direct or indirect sunshine high-temperature environment.
  • Light Control to Dynamic Dimming for Day-Night Running - Due to high brightness LCD is too bright at night and wastes energy, it is required with brightness automatically control timely, and thus makes LCD picture readiness quality during day-night with better cost saving.
  • Smart Ventilation to Prevent Water Condensation - It is reviewed with smart ventilation design to prevent screen condensation from wide outside temperature fluctuations in outdoor environments. In long time direct sunlight, it will not produce screen albino.

Ingress Protection for Rugged Applications

In almost all of the application areas mentioned, such as outdoor information stations, vending machines, parking meters, outdoor ordering system, desert solar power stations and other automation equipment, this rugged AIoT systems must operate for many years in dirty, wet environments that experience extreme temperatures. Rugged housings composed of plastic, steel, or aluminum are a baseline requirement in these conditions.

Wincomm, a long time leading manufacturer on industrial PC design, leverages a variety of mechanical and thermal design techniques in its custom IP67/IP68/IP69K-certified designs and wide temp high brightness series (Figure.3) of touch-panel PCs. These include:

  • Fully-Sealed, Expertly-Machined Housings – By utilizing rounded housings, robust connectors and antenna covers, Wincomm engineers are able to deliver fully-sealed, gapless packaging options. Not only does this allow AIoT technologies to be dust-proof and even submerged completely in water. This serves as a baseline for IP69K-rated single- or multi-touch solutions. Downward-facing I/O also minimizes the overall footprint and minimizes installation headaches for machinery deployed into tight spaces (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Wincomm provides hot swappable COM interfaces on the underside of designs for easy installation of AIoT systems in space-constrained environments.

  • Stainless Steel and Aluminum Packages – These packaging options are ideal for equipment that requires anti-corrosion and anti-oxidation properties. Apart from being robust against soaps, chemicals, water, and debris, these architectures are low maintenance; produced using green, recyclable materials; and support wide temperature operation.
 
  • COM and Power Port Available - In this series, it is supported with wide-voltage input to secure system from power instability, from 7 to 32 volts. Besides, end user may use a COM interface device, such as barcode scanner, which needs COM plus DC power from PC via single cable to operate. The way COM cable works is that a serial connection does not use all its pins in the interface with a COM cable. Therefore, Wincomm customizes the mother board with a 5V or 12V power supply in COM port.
 


Fig 3. Wincomm wide-temp high brightness series provide a wide range of products from metal to stainless steel enclosure for different requirement to best suitable for rugged outdoor applications.

The wide temp high brightness series (Figure 3) has passed FCC, CE (EMC), VCCI Class B certification standards, which results in an upgraded product for industrial, to home, to office, and laboratory usage. It secures users to have a higher protection level in their health and safety while using our products.

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