Today’s most intricate embedded electronic devices don’t have to be developed from scratch. Developing a completely unique embedded systems is a costly and time-intensive process that’s often riddled with uncertainty and troubleshooting before reaching a functional system. In many cases, the fastest and most cost-effective way to develop a highly reliable embedded system bypasses the headache of development by leveraging a pre-developed System on Module (SOM) that already carries regulatory certifications and key capabilities.
A vast array of SOMs are available from SOM developers and distributors, each packing a unique set of features and capabilities. But there’s more to selecting the perfect SOM than simply matching product offerings with your system requirements. An often overlooked aspect of SOM selection is whether your SOM provider offers the customization and support capabilities required to realize your end device while maintaining the cost and time savings that made a SOM-based solution attractive in the first place.
Why Does Your SOM Need Customization Support?
If accelerating development and reducing cost with a product-ready module is a primary reason to use a SOM, why is it so important that your embedded systems partner offers additional support services? In other words, doesn’t customization and long-term support defeat the purpose of a plug-and-play solution? Not in the slightest! There’s a substantial difference between relying entirely on an off-the-shelf module and designing an entire system from scratch. As with most things, the best option lies somewhere in between. Some key considerations in selecting the right SOM provider for you include:
- Customizing a SOM
- Aftermarket Support
- In-House Manufacturing
Customizing a SOM – The Perfect Fit for Your Specific Application
While SOMs can offer a head start, fulfilling most of your system requirements straight out of the box, all but the simplest devices will have unique requirements and capabilities that pre-developed SOMs may not anticipate. When your SOM provider offers in-house customization and manufacturing, it opens a world of possibilities to modify the module that drives your end product. Adding or removing components, upping resistance to environmental factors like heat or moisture, or even changing basic specifications like form factor can help to ensure your solution matches your unique needs perfectly. By using a pre-designed, pre-certified SOM customized for a specific purpose OEMs can achieve a truly unique, specialty solution without incurring the costs of designing it from scratch.
Aftermarket Support – Following Through with End-Device Services
Pre-market support offers an invaluable opportunity to refine and perfect your embedded system, but if problems arise once your device is on the market your SOM provider’s support offerings become even more important. From routine software and OS updates to aftermarket hardware reworks and lifecycle extension support, it can be essential to work with a SOM provider who’s dedicated to supporting your success at every stage in the product lifecycle. Nobody wants their product’s lifecycle to be cut short by outdated peripherals or a late-stage hardware failure, but if your SOM provider ends their involvement at the point of transaction it can be difficult for OEMs to chart a path forward. The best way to ensure your SOM provider doesn’t leave you high and dry when issues arise is to ensure robust support offerings to serve you throughout the life of your device.
In-House Manufacturing – Full Control from Production, to Rework, to EOL
It’s one thing to select a SOM and provider who offers lifecycle support for their SOMs, but even these dedicated SOM partners can fall short when it comes to delivering the module as engineered. Many SOM companies are little more than an engineering team, relying on outside parties to manufacture and fulfill orders. The advantages of in-house manufacturing may not be immediately clear. As long as the module functions as promised the manufacturing facility shouldn’t matter, right? Sometimes, but this relies on everything going as planned. If mid-process design changes are necessary, the risks associated with coordinating with a third-party manufacturer become clearer. Design changes, product updates, and component availability all can have a major impact on getting and keeping a device in the market – it can be immensely valuable to have a one-stop-shop partner for your SOM engineering, manufacturing, and support.
Finding the Right SOM Provider
How can OEMs effectively find a SOM partner with such wide-ranging capabilities and expertise? Thorough research is always a valuable first step. Explore alternatives, get quotes, and consider potential partners’ entire range of capabilities to be prepared for any eventuality. Distributor sites that aggregate SOM offerings from a variety of providers make product comparisons easy. Once you’ve identified top viable options the SOM providers themselves can provide further insights into their in-house capabilities and what differentiates them from competitors.
In your SOM provider selection process, be sure to count our own team at Beacon EmbeddedWorks among your options. We offer an array of SOMs on the latest processors, each backed by our comprehensive in-house engineering and manufacturing support. Available as off-the-shelf solutions or completely customized for your unique needs, Beacon EmbeddedWorks SOMs boast powerful processing, reliable connectivity, and feature-dense form factors to power today’s compact connected devices.
When you select a Beacon EmbeddedWorks SOM you tap into a network of experts to support all your embedded system needs. Beacon EmbeddedWorks is prepared to support your electronics development process from ideation all the way through end of life! time-to-market.