The Best SBCs for Security and Surveillance Applications

Press Office, VersaLogic Corporation, 06/02/21

Security and surveillance systems have to operate reliably under a wide range of environmental conditions. Some may be located in buildings, whereas others may be exposed to harsh external conditions. Outdoor applications are various, including, amongst others:

  • High performance surveillance systems
  • Mobile command systems
  • Border security systems

Apart from meeting operational performance and functionality requirements, manufacturers of security and surveillance systems have several key challenges to address:

  • Temperature extremes: Security systems may be required to work equally reliably in the cold of the arctic or the heat of the desert.
  • Mechanical stresses: Use cases for security and surveillance systems can include high levels of shock and vibration. This is particularly true of those mounted in manned or unmanned vehicles. The unmanned variety can include unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
  • MTBF: The need for security does not get to take a weekend off. Security and surveillance systems must be able to operate reliable 24/7.

frozen tundra compared to desertThe world is full of temperature extremes

It’s important to look for a supplier of rugged, reliable, industrial temperature embedded computers. It is not enough to identify a single board computer (SBC) that meets only the technical requirements. The supplier should also have experience in serving security and surveillance applications and be able to supply products that help meet the challenges listed above.

Withstanding Temperature Extremes

The need for security does not get excused just because the environment is harsh. For this reason it is most likely that the best SBC for security and surveillance will also be one that can operate over the full industrial temperature range of -40° to +85°C.
infographic describing the differences in industrial, wide/extended, and commercial temperature ranges

Manufacturers may also use other definitions of operational temperature range such as wide/extended or commercial. To be sure of the operating temperature range, it’s best to reference the temperature values rather than the description. It’s also important to establish that the supplier has actually tested the SBC at temperature extremes. Thermal simulation is an important tool during the design phase; however, testing in an environmental chamber is the critical last step to ensure that the SBC operates reliably over the stated temperature range. A previous blog provides more information on this topic.

Contending with Mechanical Stress

Vehicles, particularly military vehicles, subject systems to harsh mechanical stress. This means that SBCs used in mobile security and surveillance systems must withstand high levels of shock and vibration. VersaLogic’s SBCs are designed from the outset to meet MIL-STD-202 levels and then tested to verify that they do.

If there’s a weak spot, extensive physical testing to MIL-STD-202 will find it during development so that you don’t have to deal with it in the field. VersaLogic’s OEM Guide to Rugged Industrial Computers provides more details on this aspect of SBC design.

Sabertooth VL-EPMe-51 embedded computerThe Sabertooth, designed for harsh environments, features a 9th generation Intel® Xeon® processor for high performance applications

Long-Term Reliability

Security and surveillance systems must be able to operate 24/7 or be able to be deployed on a mission at a moment’s notice. Meeting either of these use cases requires the systems and the SBC inside them to be reliable and to have a lengthy mean time between failures (MTBF). Long service life requirements further stress the need for a high MTBF.

This is where it is important to select SBCs from suppliers that employ rigorous quality systems and have a track record of designing in reliability to ensure a lengthy MTBF from the beginning.

ISO 9001:2015, AS9100D certified company logoISO9001 is familiar to many people. However, some suppliers, such as VersaLogic, go beyond and have been certified to AS9100. AS9100’s risk-tolerance is more stringent than the requirements within ISO 9001 with much more focus on prevention rather than corrective action.

EPMe-42 LionThe Lion, used in border security applications, has a demonstrated MTBF of >2 million hours (228 years)

The Bottom Line

The best SBC for security and surveillance applications is not just the one with the required features and performance. It must be supplied by a company with a history and understanding of:

  • Operation over the full industrial temperature range of -40° to +85°C
  • Withstanding the shock and vibration rigors of MIL-STD-202
  • Proven MTBF performance to meet demanding 24/7 operation by designing-in quality from the beginning and a quality system certified to AS9100

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