Understanding the Difference Between Consumer and Industrial SD Memory Cards

Industrial and OEM users have more unique options

By:Paul Norbury


SD memory cards as a technology have a proven track record as the most successful removable storage form factor of all time. They are a simple, trusted and low-cost solution. They are also supported by a very large percentage of the consumer electronics industry, and SD slots can be found on many everyday devices, including smartphones, tablets, DVRs and in-car video recorders.


After 16 years, the removable storage market is still growing, and many market research companies agree that SD memory cards will continue to be adopted outside the traditional and mature imaging market as the preferred form factor for removable storage. In recent years, there has been a mini explosion in the variety of uses for SD memory cards – most notably for IoT, mobile, automotive, drones and industrial applications (plus many more), all of which have significant growth prospects in the coming years. These are exciting times for the industry, proving that the simplicity of using a robust technology, such as the SD memory card, as a removable and expandable storage solution has value to both OEMs and consumers.


But with new opportunities come challenges: OEMs and industrial customers new to using SD memory cards need to understand that not all cards are created alike.


What SD Standardisation Means to OEM Users


Standardisation is sometimes not fully appreciated by the average consumer, but the benefits are everywhere. The consumer is guaranteed interoperability because of collaboration between the device and SD memory card manufacturers, which both design to the same specification. Therefore, simply knowing that the card you bought at a local shop will work in any device is extremely reassuring. Plug and play is not just convenient; it is a must-have requirement – but this wasn’t always the case.


Some of us remember the early days of removable memory cards, when there were so many competing form factors that cards were labelled by a veritable alphabet soup of letters that had little meaning to the average user. The success of SD cards in the early 2000s proved that interoperability was the way to go, and as the form factor became more established, lesser form factors struggled for design-wins and just couldn’t compete anymore.


The utility of consumer SD memory cards is often mistakenly extended to the OEM and industrial space. People have positive experiences using the cards in their home devices and therefore recommend the same type and brand of cards for work projects, assuming the card will work and behave the same way. However, this creates an inadvertent issue because industrial applications require features not found on conventional consumer cards. Not everybody understands the differences in types of cards; the added features that certain industries and sectors require; and the type of support services available. When used in applications and devices that benchmark minimum levels of performance or endurance, a focus on function is critical, and having the right card for industrial applications is essential.


Despite having worked with OEMs all over the world, rarely have we seen engineers at the centre of the entire decision-making process from concept to delivery. An OEM can make better decisions by taking some simple steps, asking the right questions and involving engineers at the start of a project. The result can save money in the long term and ultimately improve their customers’ experience.



Read the full thought leadership article here