An industrial PC, IPC, or industrial computer is a rugged solution designed to meet demanding environmental requirements, such as protection from liquids and dust, extreme temperatures, and high shock and vibration. Compared with client systems, IPCs offer greater customization, reliability, and scalability, plus a longer product life cycle.
New IPCs offer connectivity, intelligence, and optimized performance that older legacy systems cannot deliver. They can also interact with other platforms, like high-resolution vision systems. Low-power and fanless designs make it possible to embed IPCs in smaller, more-compact form factors, ideal for space-constrained environments. In a rapidly evolving business environment, this can be the competitive advantage over other industrial enterprises.
Only industrial computers, also referred to as industrial PCs, can be used in industrial settings because they include certain characteristics and features that help keep them protected and functioning in harsh or remote environments. Some of the most common characteristics and features include a ruggedized design, the ability to operate under a wider temperature range, expansion options, being dust/water/immersion proof, enhanced EMI filtering, and industrial-grade technology components with longer technology life cycles that can range from seven to 10 years.
An industrial control system (ICS) can be described and defined in many ways. Each definition will vary slightly based on the sector within which it is being used. However, there are global professional associations and government agencies that set industry standards and definitions to create a common language to be used by all professionals. One example is the International Society of Automation (ISA), which provides a definition of an ICS in the ISA/IEC 62443 glossary as: “A collection of personnel, hardware, software, and policies involved in the operation of the industrial process and that can affect or influence its safe, secure, and reliable operation."4 Another example is one provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which defines an ICS as, “An information system used to control industrial processes such as manufacturing, product handling, production, and distribution. Industrial control systems include supervisory control and data acquisition systems used to control geographically dispersed assets, as well as distributed control systems and smaller control systems using programmable logic controllers to control localized processes."5