The Benefits of a System-on-Module

Your product development can be dramatically simplified by starting with a system-on-module as the platform for your design. Here’s how.

Published on June 27, 2024

The Benefits of a System-on-Module

What is a system-on-module? 

In designing electronics, there are many decisions that lead to either greater or lesser complexity in the development roadmap. For some, a complete chip-down design is necessary to meet a product’s specific requirements. But for most, there is value in beginning with a base hardware platform that addresses most or all of the most common requirements required on a main board.   

A System-on-Module is that base platform, a module that incorporates all of the critical elements of a electronics design including microprocessor, RAM, Flash, and power supplies.  Optionally, many SOMs also include Ethernet PHY and wireless modules, such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth modules. 

By developing on a system-on-module, OEMs are freed up from complicated hardware and software design tasks, and can instead focus on the additional peripherals and application software that defines their products.

Benefits of a System-on-Module

The advantages of a system-on-module are not just in what they provide, but in the freedom they provide for OEMs to focus on their core differentiators. When specialized and unique hardware is not imperative, OEMs are able to dedicate their time to their unique competencies and focus on what matters most to their customers. 

Some benefits include: 

  • Enables focus on product differentiating features. With hardware design already done, OEMs can spend more time thinking about the features that set them apart in their market and how to integrate them into a SOM platform. 
  • Reduces basic platform software development. SOMs, such as those provided by Ezurio, come with board support packages that bundle operating systems and other supplementary software, pre-packaged for compatibility with the SOM hardware. 
  • Simplifies and shortens the design cycle. A system-on-module arrives already built and tested. Ezurio even provides pre-certification for onboard wireless components, eliminating the costly and time-intensive process of certifying a wireless design. Leveraging this cuts many months out of your development timeline. 
  • Reduces baseboard complexity. By integrating all of the common and critical electronics components into the mainboard, there are less components to bolt on later. OEMs can focus on the additional peripherals or hardware they need for their application without worrying about basics like power circuits, processing, and storage. 
  • Reduces component EOL/maintenance costs. Ezurio’s SOMs are built with 15+ year life cycles in mind. Therefore, we manage our BOMs and component materials to ensure we can deliver parts reliably over the course of that lifetime, and select components that help support that long term planning. Our customers inherit the value of that long term availability and component security when purchasing our SOMs.  

Choosing between a SMARC SOM, Proprietary SOM + Carrier, and a Modular SOM: What Matters to Your Product? 

System-on-modules come in many types. They vary categorically in physical size, form factor, and connector type. There are communized standards in system-on-modules, as well as fully proprietary designs. Manufacturers like Ezurio also produce customized single board computers (SBCs), which are a one-board solution that integrates a system-on-module with all the hardware interfaces needed to connect to external devices, such as HDMI, USB, DisplayPort, power connectors, ethernet, audio jacks, and more. 

Some standards that SOMs are designed to include the Smart Mobility Architecture (SMARC) standard, the Q7 standard, and the Open Standard Module (OSM) standard. The purpose of these standards is to provide hardware compatibility across multiple providers/manufacturers. Much like many other electronics components, the creation of a standard allows operators the ability to select and swap components due to a shared hardware interface or connector. 

There are advantages and disadvantages in choosing any form factor. That’s really the key point: OEMs must consider what truly matters to their application when considering whether to develop on a SOM and what type of SOM to choose. 

Consider the long view: what is needed for the end product today as well as into the future.  If a drop-in replacement module is needed in the future for emerging wireless or processor chipsets, a SMARC may provide the smoothest upgrade path.  But, the SMARC standard might mean that future electronics standards are not properly integrated via the SMARC predetermined board edge pinout.  In this case, a proprietary pinout SOM may be more appropriate.  If total access is needed across the entire chipset at the smallest footprint, an SMT SOM may provide the most design freedom, but features like the wireless chipset are pre-populated.

i.e. Nitrogen8M Plus SMARC
Proprietary SOM + Carrier
 i.e. Nitrogen93 SMARC + Universal Carrier Board
(i.e. CarbonAM67 SOM)
Surface-Mount SOM
(i.e. Summit SOM 8M Plus)
Summary Standardized and easy to upgrade, at expense of pin muxing and full MCU access Proprietary with good balance of feature access, wireless chipsets and configurability Smallest standardized SOM, surface-mount requires reflow for hardware upgrade Fully exposed features at small size, but chipsets are predetermined
Interface 314-pin standardized edge connector. High interoperability with other SMARCs Edge connector highly aligned with chipset pinout – exposes most features Based on OSM-M standard offers 476 pins, surface-mounted landing pad Surface-mount connector exposes all chipset pins, soldered onto main board
Size 82 x 50mm or 82 x 80mm (Ezurio’s are 82 x 50 mm) Mid-size (custom) Small (45 x 30) Small (40 x 47)
Upgrading Easy, but identical usage of SMARC pins not guaranteed across manufacturers Fully customizable – new chips with new features are easily exposed via customizable edge layout Easy to introduce new designs, identical pin usage not guaranteed across manufacturers. Harder to replace on existing main boards than pluggable modules Pin-compatible future replacements easy to introduce in new designs, but harder to replace on main board than pluggable modules

As you can see, each form factor has its own unique properties with long-term implications for the life cycle of your product. Establishing what’s important to your design, what you’re willing to do for future design refreshes, and even the particular features you’ll need access to are all critical considerations. Ezurio provides SOMs in each of these categories, as well as across many chipsets such as the NXP i.MX series, the MediaTek Genio line, the Texas Instruments AM62x and AM67x families, and more.

Our proprietary SOMs are designed carefully around what is best for the particular processor. They’re purpose-built in order to be lower in cost, typically smaller, and much more functional than competing designs. 

Our SMARC SOMs are designed around the principle of scalability, upgradeability, and longevity. They’re designed to give OEMs the absolute greatest design flexibility now and into the future, with interchangeability in the wireless component onboard as well as the underlying MPU. Customers can design on a SMARC SOM today and easily spin off an upgraded design or a more lightweight design in the future by swapping out components, leveraging all the design work they’ve already put into our SMARC SOMs. 

Our other SOMs have other benefits.  Our Carbon AM62 and AM67 SOMs leverage the OSM standard and feature the smallest footprint of our standards-based SOMs at 45 x 30 mm. And our surface-mount Summit SOM 8M Plus is designed to take the fullest advantage of our decades of experience in hardware and software security, our validated FIPS 140-2 cryptographic module, secure manufacturing and provisioning via our complete chain of trust architecture, and comprehensive software vulnerability and CVE monitoring. 

The bottom line? A system-on-module brings countless developments and offerings to your product that would take years to develop, and frees you up to do what you do best: deliver your core competency and core value to your customers in your uniquely differentiated way. The type of SOM you choose is highly dependent on your product’s needs and specifications, and Ezurio has a SOM for every need, pre-tested, certified, supported, and ready to deliver. 

To learn more about our system-on-modules, visit us online at: