Suggestions for SBC or industrial Android tablet?

Hi all,
I’m starting on a new project soon where we want a Tablet-like interface to control an industrial machine. It seems that any vendor that can sell you a vesa mount tablet (without battery, so it turns off when you turn off the machine) are stuck at Android 7 or 8. They’re also not very good at maintaining their Android distributions, so your device wil get more and more insecure with time. Does anyone know of good vendors that actually maintain and keep the OS secure?

Right now we’ve come to the conclusion that the simplest might be to just use a Raspberry Pi Compute Module with eMMC, but I’d love to hear what others have used for similar solutions!

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Hi Jensa,

We’ve arrived at the same conclusion where I work. After experimenting with off the shelf android tablets in one of our products, we were left frustrated that we wouldn’t have a lot of control over the embedded drivers, and that manufacturers would pull them out of production with not a lot of visibility.

We’ve been using Raspberry Pi compute modules in our latest line of products, and that has been working really well for us. If your hardware requirements can be met with what they offer, I’d say go with that.

Otherwise, you can start exploring the family. A lot of companies offer sodimm-sized system on modules that will happily run their or your own yocto-based linux os.



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That’s good to hear Nicolas. Then I know that my thinking is right.

Got any advice on designing for the Compute Modules? It looks to me that it’s only like $25 in parts for the Dev-boards from Raspberry that are being sold for $125?

Curious about this as well. Just looking around right now for some compute modules and it seems like there’s not too many in stock anywhere, but maybe I’m missing something? I was checking for the 3+ modules in 8,16,&32GB versions.

Also just as @nicolas.schurando mentioned there are some of the higher end family have the capability to run Ubuntu, android, or if you dare Windows CE.

Not a plug for the company, but one place that does the sodimm-sized modules that I was looking at was Boundary Devices. I haven’t ever used their products, but I was looking for similar solutions and thought I’d share the link. They looked pretty interesting.

No shame in Windows CE? I currently work on a robot we’re controlling using an Embedded PC from Beckhoff automation. There’s apparently a whole world of industrial components that are running off Windows CE :wink:

Haha ya you’re right. I’ve actually worked with a Low-pressure injection moulder that used Windows CE and a beckhoff PLC. I guess I’m just more of a Linux guy

Sadly no advice from me on designing for the compute module right now, it was all my colleague’s doing. But according to him it was pretty straightforward. I’m actually about to look into it for a personal project and I feel confident I might get it right on the first try. Good luck!

linux gizmos maintains some good reviews and what not on SBC’s.

I’m curious why “the device will get more and more insecure with time” is a problem. Aren’t you talking about using these tablets connected to a local machine in a factory? Those aren’t usually online are they? Or maybe the machine is online but not the user pane.

You might want to see if Samsung has an offering that might fit for you? I believe that they have a commercial/industrial division that caters to the needs of longer-term deployment versus consumer electronics that flip over on yearly cycles.

I was peripherally involved on a tablet-based product for a nationally recognized food chain interested in having a tablet at each table…

I worked for an embedded systems integrator for several years, they were a Microsoft Gold partner. Microsoft basically exited the embedded space in 2013 with WEC8, but will continue to support until 2023. IMO best to steer clear of it due to EOL.

It is now Windows 10 IOT, they’re still in the embedded space just CE that has been deprecated

I couldn’t tell if @jensa was serious or trolling so I pointed out EOL just in case. “Deprecated” is far too generous; ignored to death is more like it, and good riddance. I wish a similar fate for Windows IoT.

I’m not saying it was a pleasant experience getting to know this, I’m merely confirming that it’s still being actively used & sold. If anyone ever needs to login to a Beckhoff Embedded system or PLC, the default password is “1” and the username is given in the manual :smiley:

But seriously - it seems like it’s only the Raspberry Pi CM3 and i.MX based modules that are actively sold and supported out there currently? I would love to hear if there are others. What I’ve seen on videos from i.MX based systems, they do not seem to be very performant in terms of GPU? For any touchscreen, the customers will automatically compare it to the iPad they have at home. An embedded product obviously does not need to have that level of perfection, but it cannot per perceived as “sluggish” either.

If your application really needs Android features, you might want to explore doing your own AOSP build. If all you need is a basic multi touch app, connectivity, and perhaps some soft-real-time I/O, then bare Linux with a framework like Qt might be better.

I confess that after a decade of working with Windows CE/PocketPC/Mobile/Compact/Embedded, I’m pretty sour on using Microsoft for anything embedded, unless an existing application or domain requires it – legacy Win32, .Net, UAP, media kiosk, ATM, POS, etc. Their roadmap, hardware support, and licensing policies have often been capriciously inconsistent, and their support for device and platform customization limited.

(Embedded Linux is certainly no walk in the park, either, but at the very least you can “take ownership” of it and find and fix the issues.)

Exploits happen all the time, so anything connected to the web without a way to keep it secure is basically just a botnet. This device will be reporting realtime to several online services continously, but yes - it’s an industrial machine. It’s for an upcoming (larger) version of this

(What is the policy here WRT reviving old topics? I bumped into this without noticing. Maybe next time I should delete my draft message and move-on?)

I think the big attraction of rPi compute modules is a guarantee that you will be able to get linux and kernel updates for a very long time.

If you go with an Android tablet the question I would ask is what SoC is in there, how many binary blobs go into the build, and for how long those will be updated (and whether Linux kernel 5.x is in the roadmap at all). You can create your own AOSP build but if there are binary blobs for radios when those cease to get updates your ability to update the kernel starts to get into question. Binary blobs for GPU may have a similar effect. (Google has been pushing the envelope lately, but the fundamental problem remains.)

The reason that Android phones only get 2-3 years of updates max is that by the time they’re sold the kernel is 2 years old, and has a 5-year guarantee of support (“LTS kernel support”), so there’s just 2-3 years left to go. The SoC vendor also stops updating the binary blobs for radio and other devices. In the end, the phone vendor can’t upgrade to a newer kernel due to sheer cost/benefit considerations and binary blobs, and can’t keep backporting security patches 'cause the security of that starts to be very questionable.

I haven’t thought much about what I would do if I had to build a connected device into a machine that has >5 year life expectancy… Maybe I would try to split the problem in two parts: a main device that handles everything local, and a separate communication device that is expected to be field-replaced after some number of years? (And obviously a well defined interface between the two.)

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I think I pulled up this company before looking around at various SBC industrial solutions, but I recently had someone send me a link. I don’t have any experience with the hardware or company, but I thought if someone was looking to try something this maybe something to try. I feel like they’re a little on the pricy side, but it’s an out of the box solution. They are offering an industrial solution with a raspberry pi or Arduino based platform and have custom boards that have various capabilities.

I’m very pro waking up threads like this! Long term support is one of my biggest reasons for going with a Pi Compute module. With such a large community and promised life of at least 8 years, I’m sure it’s a good bet. Pi Foundation write that “Compute Module 4 will remain in production until at least January 2028”. I have not found anything like this from other vendors, but would love to hear about alternatives. I’ll check out Sfera Labs now.