Finding the Sweet Spot: How OEMs Can Achieve Product Differentiation with Off-the-Shelf Modules

In the fast-paced world of embedded systems, OEMs and system integrators face a seemingly binary choice: speed to market vs. differentiation. Off-the-shelf embedded computing products are a quick and easy answer but can leave customers unimpressed. Custom designs can satisfy unique requirements but can be slow to develop and costly to build.

Fortunately, there’s a hybrid approach that combines pre-integrated system-on-module (SoM) solutions with advanced design services. This unique approach delivers the benefits of both worlds—rapid electronic product development with the freedom to customize.

SoMs, also known as Computer on Modules or CoMs, pack the essential components of an embedded computer onto a compact module. Unlike traditional off-the-shelf solutions, these modules provide the flexibility to customize I/O interfaces and other elements on a separate carrier board. This opens doors for hardware differentiation without a fully bespoke design:

  • Leveraging pre-existing, tested, and optimized embedded hardware accelerates time to market.
  • Pre-built components avoid the cost of fully custom designs.
  • By avoiding the reinvention of basic functionalities, resources can be focused on cutting-edge capabilities.
  • Custom-designed elements deliver precisely the features that products require.
  • Modules and carrier boards can be upgraded over time, following industry standards with a long track record of compatibility.

A solid foundation for differentiation

SECO SoMs showcase the versatility of this approach. These modules come in various form factors (featuring SMARC, Qseven, COM Express, and COM-HPC) and support a range of compute architectures, performance levels, memory configurations, and I/O capabilities. Consider these examples, just two of many:

  • The SOM-SMARC-MX8M-Plus is a tiny Arm-based module with everything from camera interfaces to built-in USB, making it ideal for cost-sensitive, low-power applications.
  • The SOM-COMe-CT6-TGL-U delivers high performance for demanding applications with an Intel processor, Gigabit Ethernet, and a host of other high-end features.

This wide range of hardware opens up a world of differentiation without the hefty investment of fully custom designs.

Of course, much differentiation is accomplished through software—typically at the application layer. To facilitate Internet of Things (IoT) functionality, SECO modules are enabled with Clea, SECO’s middleware software suite for the IoT. Clea provides an application-enabling infrastructure that gives developers a shortcut to unlocking the value of field data, enabling innovative services, and implementing AI algorithms.

Clea can be deployed as-is to streamline development, or as modular components to complement existing infrastructure.

Design services make the difference

SECO’s comprehensive design services further accelerate the journey from concept to reality. SECO capabilities span the entire development cycle, from requirements definition to system integration, verification, regulatory certification testing, and production. Specifically:

  • Carrier board design: Custom-built carrier boards pair with standard modules to reduce time-to-market while minimizing technology lock-in.
  • Customized single-board computers: For complete control over every aspect of the hardware, SECO can customize one of its commercial off-the-shelf SBC platforms, or even a fully custom design.
  • Dedicated software support: Get assistance with BIOS customization, firmware development, and driver creation, all with long-term support throughout the product lifecycle. SECO has expertise with Linux, Windows, Android, VxWorks, and other operating systems.
  • Mechanical engineering and thermal analysis: Ensure that all electronics seamlessly integrate with the physical components. SECO can design, certify, and manufacture fully packaged devices – whether stationary equipment or portable electronic devices.
  • Turnkey sub-systems: Receive fully assembled hardware and software sub-systems, pre-loaded with requisite firmware, encryption keys that enable secure boot, and application software images - ready to deploy securely from the factory.

In short, SECO is more than just a component supplier. We’re a strategic partner equipped and ready for collaboration throughout the design process. Our team of dedicated engineers and design experts work alongside you to:

  • Analyze unique product requirements and challenges
  • Propose a tailored design that utilizes the most advantageous blend of off-the-shelf modules and custom elements
  • Provide seamless integration and implementation support
  • Offer ongoing technical assistance and product lifecycle management

Ready to optimize your product design cycle? Contact us today to learn how we can help you deliver custom solutions in a hurry.