With RFID technology coming on line for many different business sectors, I could not help but notice the impact for B2B applications with respect to the management of critical data to ensure they can survive the untimely demise of a product in the field. Why is this important? Instead of having to reconstruct the scene of a crime, if it were possible to view the moments during which the crime was being committed, wouldn’t that shorten the whole forensic process, possibly eliminating the tedium of specialized troubleshooting with all of the associated expenses?
In the electronic product world, using current methodologies, these forensic operations would be characterized by retrieving the damaged or dead product, bringing the remains back to life if possible, or performing an electronic autopsy by examining dead pieces and opening connections, faulty software/firmware, or physically damaged input/output ports. The detective work could be extensive in both time, manpower, and cost.
Intel Corp.’s designs using the Impinj Monza X UHF RFID technology, capturing and recording the last few moments of a product’s life is just as critical for failure analysis as the examination of a black box on an aircraft involved in an accident. From customer returns that do not state the reason for the return other than “Dead-On-Arrival”, or “It just stopped working,” the RFID last-minute capture is indispensable for pinpointing trouble areas. It can also help designers know how to make products more robust and less prone to failures. I am not just referring to consumer products but also military and medical equipment that may have life or death ramifications.
Imagine the dead gear coming into a scanning station where a passive RFID tag reveals that just before the product died, it sent an error code message to the tag. The code may be a number sequence or text message that can be referenced against a look-up table to quickly ascertain the genesis of the failure mechanism. When I see “404” on my web browser, all I can determine is that I am not going to reach the page. It is after the fact; I only see the message after the operation had failed. This does not give provide any direction on what I can do next.
It can be different with RFID. If an RFID error code message like #348794 came up on a scan and the look-up table listed that number with the associated problem such as, “Power supply failure, excessive voltage at pin 1,” then the technician could go to the precise point on the schematic or printed circuit card and analyze why the product failed in that particular way. Depending upon the product and the test vectors that could be sensed and recorded to the RFID, a company could build a product that would eventually eliminate thousands of hours of troubleshooting while improving the quality to design out the weak points in the product’s reliability. When reliability goes up, a company’s reputation for quality also rises. This could have implications for justifying sales.
If I was a manufacturer that wanted to use my product’s field feedback data to build better products from version to version, I would begin exploring both the nature and quantity of the data I would need to capture from field failures using the RFID write-capture capabilities. At a bare minimum, I would look at my local fault alert or alarm indications now appearing on front panels and port that data to RFID. When the product dies, the lights go out and if the operator was not there to see the lights just before the failure, the key alarm data is lost.
With the RFID black box implementation, that data is preserved even if the product has fried to a crisp. Moving up the capture content ladder from the bare minimum, the sky is the limit. Using an I2C buss, write what you will. I heard a snappy description of one of the drawbacks about using a popular social networking site. “If you said it, then forget it … If you write it, then regret it.” The RFID technology would be more like: “if you can record it, then you can afford it.”
This RFID technology will pay for itself after capturing enough failure data to provide the critical design corrections in subsequent runs to reduce direct labor cost internally and to help build a very satisfied and loyal customer base.