Welcome to the final installment in my top hardware picks from ESC. Part 1 looked at small form factor boards and modules, while part 2 looked at high performance parts. In this final roundup, I’ll note some of my favorite panel PCs and industrial computers. I’ll also share the wildest demo I saw at the show.
Let’s start with those panel PCs. There was a wide selection of panel PCs at the show, but three models caught m eye for their unusual designs and features. First up is the IEI AFL-F08A 8” multi-touch PC shown in Figure 1. This Intel® Atom™ N270-based PC has loads of great features, but the flat-bezel design is what makes the PC stand out from the crowd. The flat-bezel design uses a single piece of glass to cover the screen and frame (bezel) for a frameless look. The frameless look is slick and stylish, and it makes the AFL-F08A easy to clean. (Amusingly, IEI’s product page shows the PC being used as a cutting board—something I would never do despite the screen’s robust 7H hardness rating.) The other big feature of the AFL-F08A is its multi-touch capability. This feature is great for Windows 7 multi-touch, among other things.
Figure 1. The IEI AFL-F08A flat-bezel design makes the screen and frame blend together for a sleek look. The bezel also incorporates capacitive-sense hot keys—a nice touch.
I also liked the Advantech UTC-W101 panel PC shown in Figure 2. This PC features a low-power Intel® Atom™ Z5xx series processor and a sleek industrial design. The panel’s good looks are coupled with high durability—the front panel is IP65/NEMA4-compliant, meaning it is dust-proof and able to withstand jets of water. The panel is also available with UL60601-1 and IEC/EN60601-1 certification for medical applications. (Wikipedia has a good overview of the IP/NEMA standards. For more on medical certification, I recommend the Embedded Innovator article Taking Advantage of Medical Stimulus Spending.) Other notable features of the UTC-W101 include programmable capacitive touch hotkeys, and a service call LED lamp on the top of the frame.
Figure 2. The Advantech UTC-W101 is a good pick for providing service in hospitality, retail, and healthcare settings.
It’s also worth noting that the UTC-W101 is a winner of the Taiwan Excellence Award. This award is reserved for products that demonstrate excellence in R&D, design, quality, and marketing. Kudos to Advantech for achieving this honor! (You can find other winners at the Branding Taiwan site.)
My third panel PC pick is the IEI UPC-12A/910. This ruggedized system comes with a built-in UPC battery backup—a rather unusual feature, to say the least. The battery is useful for mobile installations and for environments that require uninterrupted operation. Other notable features of the UPC-12A/910 include an optional 450 cd/m² sunlight-readable panel available and an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the screen brightness.
Figure 3. The IEI UPC-12A/910 features a built-in back-up battery and an ambient light sensor.
Now let’s turn our attention to tablet PCs. The show featured a number of interesting industrial and medical tablets, but the one that stood out to me was the IEI ICEROCK-08A shown in Figure 4. This 8” tablet is remarkably light, weighing in at under 1kg, yet it is packed full of multimedia features. The media features start with the Intel® Atom™ Z5xx chipset, which can handle full HD video playback. The tablet also boasts a 300K pixel CMOS camera, a microphone, speakers, and accelerometers that allow the tablet to toggle between portrait and landscape screen layouts.
Figure 4. The IEI ICEROCK-08A weighs less than 1kg but packs a serious multimedia punch.
There were also a number of noteworthy embedded computers at the show. Without question the most impressive of these was the IEI WStrider-200A. This Intel® Atom™ Z510PT solution is incredibly rugged. It is IP67 compliant, which means the computer can be submersed in up to 1m of water. The WStrider-200A can also handle temperatures extremes of -30 C to 70 C and input voltages of anywhere from 9 V to 28 V. As you might guess from Figure 5, the machine comes with built-in 802.11b/g/n wireless. It also comes with two channels of analog video input and a Techwell TW6805 video engine for D1 resolution video encoding. These features make the WStrider-200A a great choice for surveillance in extreme locations such as heavy industrial settings.
Figure 5. The IEI WStrider-200A can be submerged in up to 1m of water, and can handle extreme temperatures and voltages.
I also enjoyed browsing the large lineup of embedded computers at the Anovo booth. While I was there, Anovo’s International Sales Director Erik Deng pointed out that Anovo was the only company at the show based in Shanghai. According to Mr. Deng, the Shanghai location gives the company access to China’s best-educated workers. He also noted that Shanghai is the main banking center and the hub of the international business community. I agree that Shanghai is the commercial center of China, but I have no idea if tech companies based there have any tangible advantages. If any readers can comment on this idea, I’d love to hear your feedback.
To wrap up my coverage of ESC, I feel compelled to share one of the most amazing demos I have ever seen—the Intel Atom Z5xx-based Hexapod Robot:
I wish the video gave a better sense of scale—when this bot’s legs are fully extended, it took up the better part of an aisle. It was definitely a traffic-stopper! You can learn more about the bot on the Hexapod Robot page.
That’s it for my ESC roundup. I hope you found it entertaining and enlightening. As I noted in earlier installments, I welcome your feedback. Did anything in these reviews inspire you? Would you like to see me cover any of these products in greater depth? Let me know in the comments section below…
Advantech is a Premier member of the Intel® Embedded Alliance. IEI is an Associate member of the Alliance.
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