We are not just making boards

The PC/104 Consortium held their Annual Design Contest at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Francisco earlier this year. The contest, now in its third year, recognizes engineers who have designed innovative products based on the Consortium’s embedded standards for small form factors. The awards are about solving real-world problems, encouraging the use of PC/104 platforms, and developing industry awareness as well as rewarding individuals who have created an outstanding design. Design is an enabling process that drives innovation, creativity, and efficiency so that we can make competitive products that stand out on the world stage.

Once again, this year’s contest demonstrated the breadth of vertical markets that benefit from PC/104 products while highlighting the creativity and energy that the current and next generation of design leaders put into a wide range of projects. As in years past, entries were judged in three categories:

  1. Commercial designs for military and aerospace.
  2. Designs in the areas of industrial, medical, transportation and other commercial arenas.
  3. Designs supporting a research project. Entrants received over the last three years include designs for improving railroad safety, increasing automobile efficiency, improving Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) reliability, automation of factory floor processes, homeland security command centers, and remote video monitoring.

The winner in the commercial design for military or aerospace was the Suborbital Telepresence team from NASA. The team wanted to enable other universities to build derivative systems in quantity. Therefore the hardware had to be low cost and easy to work with – PC/104 fulfilled both of these needs.

The winner for the commercial design of industrial, medical transportation or other was MEDUSA Ltd.’s entry, an Automated Rail Flaw Detector. They chose PC/104 due to its simple open structure, reliability, and ruggedness.

Ohio State University took home the award for their team research project, The Buckeye Bullet. The Buckeye Bullet is an electric car and research vehicle designed with the intent of breaking the electric land speed record. They chose PC/104 for its expandability (stackable) and customizability.

OEMs and end users target the PC/104 platform for its small footprint, stackability, rich ecosystem of vendors and product, inherent ruggedness, low cost, and ease of use. These key end user selection criteria are similar across multiple vertical markets, thereby reinforcing PC/104 manufacturers’ efforts to target “embedded opportunities” rather than unique vertical markets. Medical, military, security, industrial automation, telecommunications, and other vertical markets benefit from the economies of scale associated with offering a similar platform for multiple markets.

The Consortium recently adopted several new embedded technologies, including Embedded Board expandable (EBX) and Embedded Platform for Industrial Computing (EPIC). These platforms incorporate a PC/104 (ISA) and PC/104-Plus Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) bus and promote the use of the PC/104 family of products. Future design contests will no doubt include entrants using these complementary products. In addition, the Consortium continues to examine emergent technologies that might prove an appropriate fit with the organization’s charter.

As end users with a growing list of complex applications demand increases in density and bandwidth, the Consortium and its members need to consider updates to the specifications, introduce new technology, or evolve new platforms altogether. While these events won’t necessarily translate to expansion into new vertical markets, it ensures the long-term viability of PC/104 (and related, synergistic platforms) as these very same markets demand ever increasing data transfer rates and higher levels of processor performance.

As we honor those individuals who have created outstanding designs with PC/104, the Consortium continues to take steps to preserve the value and utility of PC/104 in multiple vertical markets. In short, for the moment and for the foreseeable future, PC/104 and related compatible embedded computer platforms remain the perfect choice across ALL vertical markets.


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For further information, contact the Consortium:

PC/104 Embedded Consortium
490 2nd Street, Suite 301
San Francisco, CA 94107
Tel: 415-243-2104
Fax: 415-836-9094
E-mail: info@pc104.org
Website: www.pc104.org