By David “Avi” Shefet, President, Daisy Data Displays
1. Space Allocation
The system’s footprint is as large of a consideration as
its ability to operate reliably in its intended environment.
Minimizing the size of the hardware is important, but
sometimes this desire is taken too far. A small form factor
is desirable, but it isn’t always practical.
First: Stop thinking ultra-thin
Consumer market computers are not the same as ruggedized computers, and while engineers know this, it’s desirable to specify a ruggedized computer that is super thin
even when then installation footprint will not support it.
Specifiers must change this mindset and stop creating
configurations that include ultra-thin computers or displays like those available on the commercial market or in
Now: Start thinking custom — and collaboratively
Consult the manufacturer at the beginning of the
design process, not at the end when it’s time to request
a quote. By consulting the manufacturer you will
ensure smooth integration of ruggedized computer into
your system and avoid issues related to inadequate
2. Life Cycle
What’s standard in rugged system development is to consider the lifecycle of the entire system. Three years or better
is the norm, but to avoid in-field failures related to product
and component life cycle, engineers should look at all parts
instead of just the sum of the parts.
Not all components are considered mainstream and can
be difficult to replace in the result of a failure, or may not be
able to be replaced at all. If the latter issue arises, the cost is
significant. Typically a complete replacement of not just the
components but the entire system itself is required.
To avoid this, ask questions at the beginning of the specifi-
• What is the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) of the
entire system? What is the time measurement between the
replacement of a failing part and the next failure?
• Which component is the limiting factor of the MTBF?
Example: a fanless system with low power i7 processes will
significantly increase the MTBF.
• Have all of the individual components within my system
been tested to and validated at the same level of testing and
standards as the ruggedized computer itself? Are all com-
ponents designed to withstand the range of environmental
requirements that my application demands?
• What is the life cycle for all components?
• What is the replacement or service plan associated with the
Operating System Compatibility – While many government agencies and military branches choose Linux as
their primary Operating System (OS) there is no across-the-board standard. With this lack of standardization and
the many different versions of OS (using Linux’s Ubuntu
vs. Debian as an example), system engineers cannot
assume that the chipset will be compatible with the OS.
To avoid compatibility problems, it is best to test the OS
using the CPU card to make sure the system operates
EMI/RFI Compatibility – Ensuring EMI/RFI compliance
for a system is critical. Electromagnetic interference
(EMI) and radio-frequency interference (RFI) are among
the most dangerous environmental conditions that can
impact the performance of electrical equipment. However,
certain components, such as power supplies and touch
screens do not always meet EMI/RFI compliance for all
4. Restricted Materials
Certain dangerous substances commonly used in electronic
equipment in consumer applications are restricted in military
Mercury, often found in older generation LCD panels with
backlight using CCFL (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamp), is one
example. In spite of the fact that LED backlights are rising in
prominence due to significant advantages over CCFL, parts
containing CCFL — and therefore mercury — are still available. Systems engineers should be aware of the amount of
restricted material that may exist within a computer system,
particularly when using COTS.
5. Longevity & Serviceability
Serviceability may be an afterthought during the initial
specification process. But rising technology costs make the
longevity of a solution more important than ever. To create
a system that lasts 10 or even 20+ years, customization and
vendor capabilities are key.
R E S Concerns of Military
Computer System Configurations
There is zero tolerance for failure in the battlefield. Developing a rugged
computer that lasts involves a defined process of identifying the need,
designing the system, and specifying the equipment.