Industrial Computers are used primarily for process control and/or data acquisition. In some cases, an Industrial PC is simply used as a front-end to another control computer in a distributed processing environment. Software can be custom written for a particular application or an off-the-shelf package such as Wonder Ware, Labtech Notebook or LabView can be used to provide a base level of programming.
An application may simply require the I/O such as the serial port offered by the motherboard. In other cases, expansion cards are installed to provide analog and digital I/O, specific machine interface, expanded communications ports, and so forth, as required by the application.
Industrial PCs offer features different from consumer PCs in terms of reliability, compatibility, expansion options and long-term supply.
Industrial PCs are typically characterized by being manufactured in lower volumes than home or office PCs. A common category of industrial PC is the 19-inch rackmount form factor. Industrial PCs typically cost considerably more than comparable office style computers with similar performance. Single-board computers and backplanes are used primarily in Industrial PC systems. However, the majority of industrial PCs are manufactured with COTS motherboards.