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Tiny Embedded Boards

Written by Jeff Child

Mini but Mighty

An impressive amount of computing functionality can be squeezed on to a small form factor board these days. These tiny board-level products meet the needs of applications where extremely low SWaP (size, weight and power) beats all other demands.

  • What’s happening in tiny embedded boards?

  • What is SGeT’s new OSM standard?

  • Exor Embedded’s NanoSOM nS02

  • OSM-MX8MM from F&S
    Elektronik Systeme

  • Ka-Ro Electronics’ QSMP module

  • Keith & Koep’s Myon II CPU module

  • MYC-C335X-GW from MYIR

  • SigmaStar’s IDO-SOM2D01

There was a time when building a complete embedded computer required a PC motherboard-sized PCB with processor, memory modules and I/O cards. But, over the years, semiconductor integration evolved, enabling more and more functionality on a board-level computer. Today you see powerful levels of functionality shrunk down to one or a handful of chips. Leveraging that trend, makers of board-level embedded computers are now able to design computing modules that now occupy extremely small form factors. Many of these are non-standard form factors. Non-standard form factors free designers from the size and cost overheads associated with including a standard bus or interconnect architecture.

One exception to this “non-standard“ form factor trend is the Open Standard Module (OSM) form factor for solderable compute modules. The open source OSM standard was developed by an SDT.05 working group within the Standardization Group for Embedded Technologies (SGET), the group behind the SMARC form factor. OSM is notable for its small footprint and capacity to be soldered directly onto a baseboard (Figure 1).

While most tiny embedded boards are in a non-standard form factor, the SDT.05 working group within the Standardization Group for Embedded Technologies (SGET) is developing Open Standard Module (OSM) form factor for solderable compute modules.

For purposes of this product round-up, we’ve selected representative products that are the smallest available on the market—most under 50mm × 40mm, and going as tiny as 29.5mm × 29.5mm. Note that side by side comparisons should take into account that some of these products are meant to be used as compute modules attached to an I/O baseboard, while others are true complete single board computers (SBCs). These tiny form factor boards seem to be targeting very different applications areas—areas where slot-card backplane or PC/104 stacks wouldn’t be practical. Many of the boards in this article’s product gallery are based on processors like NXP’s i.MX8M Mini and STMicroelectronics’ STM32MP1.

Applications that require these tiny embedded boards included a wide variety of systems. Included are systems such as professional handheld devices, automation and audio/video streaming devices, scanning/imaging, building automation, smart home, machine vision, autonomous drones, portable instrumentation with HMI and medical devices.


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Editor-in-Chief at Circuit Cellar | Website | + posts

Jeff Child has more than 28 years of experience in the technology magazine business—including editing and writing technical content, and engaging in all aspects of magazine leadership and production. He joined the Circuit Cellar after serving as Editor-in-Chief of COTS Journal for over 10 years. Over his career Jeff held senior editorial positions at several of leading electronic engineering publications, including EE Times and Electronic Design and RTC Magazine. Before entering the world of technology journalism, Jeff worked as a design engineer in the data acquisition market.

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Tiny Embedded Boards

by Jeff Child time to read: 2 min