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system architecture

High-level architecture of Qt embedded system with controller, cloud and sensor

Architecture of Qt Embedded Systems: Getting Started

Which system-on-chip is best suited for your Qt embedded system? Should you build a custom Linux system with Yocto, use a container OS or a desktop Linux? Should you use Qt Commercial or Qt LGPLv3? How will the system be updated? What are the operating conditions of the system? How does the system communicate with sensors, ECUs and the cloud?

This is only a small selection of the 50+ questions in this post. You best tackle these questions early in the project. Fixing wrong decisions becomes exponentially harder with the duration of the project. Your decisions can make or break a project.

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High-Speed-Data (HSD) Connectors in Heavy-Duty Vehicles

In a recent blog post, I suggested to replace multiple display computers in a driver cabin by one computer in a silver box with multiple displays. I didn’t specify which connectors and cables to use between computer and displays. I found the answer at Electronica 2018 last week: High-Speed-Data or HSD connectors. You can use HSD connectors for LVDS (including Display Port), APIX, CAN, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Ethernet and Firewire.
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What’s Wrong with Multiple Display Computers in Driver Cabins?

Three cabins with 2-4 display computers each.

Figure 1. Top left: Claas cabin with three terminals. Top right: Agco cabin with two terminals. Bottom: Continental concept cabin with four terminals.

The top row shows the status quo. Two or three display computers (a.k.a. terminals) are normal. Even four display computers are not unusual. The bottom row shows the cabin of the future with four display computers. The display computers at the left and right beam show the videos from the wing mirror cameras. The display computer in the middle is the instrument cluster. The small display computer on the right-hand side shows additional information. It would be bigger in a harvester.

Let us assume for simplicity that the cabin is equipped with two display computers, which have identical hardware and nearly identical software – except for the main application. When sourced from low-volume, high-customisation electronics manufacturing services (LVHC-EMS), the two display computers, the telematics unit and a switch will cost roughly 2750 Euros for 200 machines.

We will bring down the costs to 2350 Euros, if we replace the two display computers by one computer with two displays. The computer doesn’t have a display and the displays don’t have a computer inside. The telematics unit is folded into an M.2 or PCIe card, which is plugged into a slot of the computer.

We will reduce the costs by another 200 Euros to 2150 Euros, if we source the components from a value-added reseller (VAR) instead of an LVHC-EMS. VARs buy standard components from high-volume low-customisation EMSs (HVLC-EMS). They charge lower prices because of the higher volumes, but they allow only minimal customisations.

For 200 machines, the solution with one computer and two displays saves us 80,000 Euros and 120,000 Euros per year, respectively, when sourced from an LVHC-EMS and from a VAR. We save even more, if we replace more display computers by one computer with displays and if the display computers are more expensive like ISOBUS terminals. We do not only save costs on hardware but also on software, because we consolidate multiple diverse systems into one system.

A clever change of the system architecture leads to sizeable cost savings. It also leads to a system that can easily be extended in many directions – a competitive advantage.

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