Application diversity is a characteristic of embedded systems. Any automation-related application, such as financial services, healthcare, retail, construction, manufacturing plant, and so on, has embedded systems. With different applications, users' needs for industrial computers vary. This presents a dilemma for manufacturers i.e., how to meet the needs of customers whilst delivering customized products within the shortest time.
Ren-Jie Zhang, the Assistant Manager of Advantech's Industrial Automation Group, indicated that from internal sales statistics, there is great demand for customized products. Unfortunately, the market response was slow due to a lack of resources, manpower, and many other factors. Therefore, Advantech tried to find ways to improve this situation. According to market research reports, the demands for customized industrial computers are roughly divided into the following three categories: The first is the basic customization, such as changing logo, stickers, colors, labels, and so on, which demand for customization is simple and easy with fast delivery time. The second is moderate customization, which has the highest demand: to add more modify certain features of standard products, such as adding a LAN port. The third is highly-modified customization: standard products completely cannot meet customer demand and must be redesigned and manufactured.
The biggest challenges for Advantech are how to meet the above requirements without changing mechanical design drastically, to create the greatest customization flexibility and to speed up delivery time. After much research and discussion, Advantech developed iDoor technology which offers a high degree of integration with rapid market response.
iDoor emphasizes integration and product flexibility, allowing users to configure their I/O requirements according to their needs. In order to achieve this goal, iDoor needs the following three characteristics.
First, the interface and color standardization: iDoor uses a mini PCIe interface embedded on the motherboard. According to the current market trends, mini PCIe can have many add-on functions and also meet the needs of the fieldbus protocol. As for color, iDoor complies with the color convention of fieldbus protocol, which is easy to recognize and more intuitive. In addition, Advantech also provide a variety of functional modules with their representative colors.
Second, size optimization: the iDoor size is 81*19.4mm, suitable for Advantech's various platforms such as embedded box PC, industrial tablet PC with touch interface, and so on.
Third, the integration of multiple functions: Customers can decide functions for themselves. iDoor application modes include: 1) Fieldbus protocol: Ethernet IP, Profibus, Profinet, EtherCat, Powerlink, and so on. The I/O module extending from the Mini PCIe can be used as a fieldbus. 2) Used as an expansion for the memory/storage: To connect the motherboard with iDoor via Mini PCIe interface, serving as a redundant memory or storage to reduce the risk of system malfunction. 3) Digital/analog I/O: To embed plug-in digital and analog I/O modules in the industrial computer via iDoor, it is very convenient for users who only need a small number of I/O points and can also reduce system installation costs and space. 4) Communications WAN / MAN / LAN: To integrate iDoor into WiFi/GPS/GPRS/LTE modules with Mini PCIe interface and to put an antenna on chassis; thus, industrial computers can have wireless transmission. 5) Connecting to different sensing modules like temperature, brightness, smart meters, and others.
iDoor not only provides different types of I/O via Mini PCIe interface, but also extends the motherboard features without taking up space in the chassis. Take the CFast memory card as an example. In the past, the CF slot took up a lot of space in the chassis, so when customers needed customization, they could only stack embedded computers because of the limited space. They had to readjust or design the chassis and therefore, delay the delivery time. With iDoor technology, the I/O of the CFast card can be put directly on the iDoor and connected to the motherboard SATA interface, providing greater possibility of applications.
Therefore, iDoor flexibility is not used to expand I/O, but also to extend the motherboard features. Advantech fully respects the different needs of customers and customers can use their expertise to tailor different application systems and to create their own unique market differences.
For System Integrators, in addition to those modes mentioned above, iDoor allows customers to develop their own MiniPCIe card, their own exclusive iDoor functions, and even iDoor shell colors (eg: combining company logo) to shape their brand images through color recognition. For those key accounts, they can integrate industry expertise in automation applications via iDoor. Because iDoor is so flexible, even if there will be further expansions in the future, users do not have to worry about compatibility. Advantech iDoor technology makes products to respond to customer needs and create value with customers through product development and creating more diverse automation applications.