Building embedded systems: the crucial roles of SoMs and Carrier Boards

Embedded systems play an essential role in our daily lives, integrated into a multitude of devices and appliances, from smartphones to smart home appliances and autonomous vehicles. At the heart of these systems are system-on-chip modules (SoMs) and carrier boards, two crucial components that work in tandem to provide the necessary computing power, functionality and connectivity.

Understanding Embedded Systems

Understanding embedded systems is essential to appreciate their ubiquity and impact on our daily lives. Embedded systems are specialized computing systems designed to perform specific tasks within larger devices and appliances. Their design is characterized by tight integration of hardware and software, often in environments where reliability, real-time responsiveness and power consumption are paramount. Common examples of embedded systems include industrial, vehicle controllers, medical devices, environmental sensors and electronic warfare. Optimizing performance, size and power consumption is crucial in the design of these systems, as they often need to operate efficiently and reliably with limited resources, while maintaining a compact footprint to blend harmoniously into their environment.

What is a System-on-Module (SoM)?

A system-on-module (SoM, module) is a compact, self-contained component that integrates the main elements of a computer system, including processor, memory, storage and sometimes I/O interfaces, into a single package. Its main purpose is to provide a basic platform on which developers can build customized embedded systems by adding carrier boards and other peripherals. SoMs offer several advantages in embedded system development, including reduced development time, greater modularity, simplified hardware design and easier upgradability. They are available in different architectures, such as ARM-based and x86-based, giving developers the flexibility to choose the platform best suited to their specific needs. 

Designing embedded systems requires a seamless integration of software and hardware components. These systems operate on specialized processors, managing data flow and control mechanisms efficiently. The applications running on such systems demand optimized memory usage and support for various peripherals and devices. Engineers employ a range of tools and programming languages tailored for embedded programming to develop these small yet powerful machines.

What is a carrier board?

A carrier board is an essential component in the design of embedded systems, acting as a physical platform on which a system-on-chip (SoC) module is mounted. Its main function is to provide an interface between the SoM and other system components, such as input/output peripherals, network connections and storage interfaces. Carrier boards play a crucial role in the design of embedded systems, as they enable the SoM’s functionality to be customized and extended by providing the connections needed to interact with different sensors, actuators and peripherals. There are different types of carrier board, designed to be compatible with different SoMs, giving developers the flexibility to choose the hardware configuration best suited to their specific needs. When choosing a carrier board, it’s important to consider features such as connectivity, expansion options, size and form factor, as well as ease of development and maintenance.

What is the relation between SoMs and carrier boards?

The relationship between system-on-chip modules (SoMs) and carrier boards is symbiotic, forming a powerful combination in embedded system development. When designing with SoMs and carrier boards, several factors need to be taken into account, including power consumption, size constraints and I/O requirements. SoMs offer compact, integrated computing power, while carrier boards provide the interface needed to connect SoMs to other system components. For successful integration, it’s essential to choose compatible SoMs and carrier boards, take into account power and I/O specifications, and carefully plan component placement and layout to optimize system efficiency and reliability.
At reflex ces, we offer carrier boards developed specifically for our modules, and therefore intrinsically compatible.

When it comes to industrial or electronic warfare applications, additional considerations must be taken into account, such as robustness, shock and vibration resistance, as well as safety and protection against electromagnetic interference to ensure reliable performance in rigorous and demanding environments. By following best practices and taking into account the specifics of each application, developers can create robust, high-performance embedded systems by taking full advantage of the synergy between SoMs and carrier boards.

Challenges and Future Trends

The development of embedded systems with system-on-modules (SoMs) and carrier boards presents several challenges, including managing increasing system complexity, optimizing power consumption and ensuring compatibility between SoMs and carrier boards. However, emerging trends in SoM technology and carrier boards offer exciting prospects for the future. We’re seeing an increase in integration, with increasingly compact and versatile SoMs capable of handling a wider range of functions in a smaller space.
Looking ahead, advances in these areas are expected to continue improving the performance, reliability and versatility of embedded systems, paving the way for innovative new applications.


To conclude, in the realm of embedded systems, modules serve as the core components, handling data processing and operating functions. Carrier boards provide a platform for integrating these modules into finalized products, designed to meet specific processing requirements and operational needs.

The construction of embedded systems then relies on the close interaction between system-on-modules (SoMs) and carrier boards, which play essential roles in the design and development of these systems. SoMs offer compact, integrated computing power, while carrier boards provide the interface needed to connect SoMs to other system components, enabling maximum customization and scalability. Together, these components offer a flexible, scalable platform for creating a wide range of embedded solutions. 


At reflex ces, we offer a wide range of modules and their carrier boards, suitable for numerous applications (defence, industry, medical and bioscience, and more according to your needs) :

>Based on an altera® Agilex™ 7 F-Series SoC FPGA, most suitable for Bioscience & Instrumentation, Quantum Computing, Radar Systems, Electronic Warfare and Satellite Communication applications.

>Based on an altera® Arria® 10 SoC FPGA, most suitable for video broadcasting, machine and intelligent vision, industry, testing and measurements, and medical applications.

>Based on an AMD Zynq® Ultrascale+™ MPSoC, most suitable for software defined radio, radar systems, electronic warfare and high-precision measurement applications.

>Based on an altera® Stratix® 10 FPGA, most suitable for HPC and analytics, acceleration, and intelligent vision & video processing applications.

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