…and What You Can Do Embedded and Application OEMs both face issues with their customers when product life cycles are longer than originally anticipated. Thinking critically about servicing systems past component EOL notices is vital for effective forecasting and maintenance, not only for end users but for manufacturers as well. Paying attention to the following […]
Obsolescence can pose a grave threat to individuals, economies, and nations. Security and defense receive a great deal of attention in our Critical Thoughts section, partly because they are domains in which obsolescence is highly visible and easily conceived. In fact, the defense industry has its own acronym, that specifically outlines the necessary steps to avoid problems caused by counterfeit and obsolescence.
The medical industry can be a loaded topic for a variety of reasons and, unsurprisingly, obsolescence within the health tech field can be equally touchy. Obsolescence in medical technology forces us to take a critical look at some of the equipment we use every day to help millions of people around the globe—equipment we’d much rather assume was cutting edge and in tip-top shape. Like defense systems, the embedded electronic systems in the health field save lives, keep people healthy and able to work, and ultimately contribute to the stability of loved ones and nations around the world.
How End-of-Life sometimes feels…
Is there a downside to new technology innovation? We all love and encourage innovation, but what is the hidden cost?
Critical embedded applications in the Defense and Medical industry are a great example of where this question comes into play. Both these applications have people’s lives relying on them, and both require extended life cycles due to critical verification and certification requirements.
If an OEM experiences sharp drop in demand for a particular embedded board, it doesn’t make any business sense to continue building more, and the board will likely become obsolete. Everyone understands that an OEM can’t remain competitive if they have to support every product they’ve ever developed… forever. But if that board is still being used in the defense or medical industry, suddenly the systems engineer is faced with diminishing manufacturing sources and material shortages (DMSMS) and higher risk of exposure to counterfeits if obsolete components must now be sourced.
2011 wasn’t an easy year for DRAM manufacturers. The move from notebooks towards tablets and technology using NAND flash did nothing to bolster a struggling semiconductor industry. In this type of scenario it becomes common for manufacturers to shift their focus from older technology to newer ones. This process often leads to End-of-Life (EOL) decisions and component manufacturers sending out Last-Time-Buy (LTB) notices.
In addition to the immediate challenge of feasibly supporting products with obsolete components, embedded OEMs must focus on latest-and-greatest solutions, developing new solutions to satisfy their customers’ evolving demands. As the embedded industry shifts from older technology like DRAM to newer and more popular applications like NAND, customers can find themselves faced with a choice between over-stocking of so-called “obsolete” components, and phasing out older and less popular systems.
I must admit, I’m looking forward to the upcoming Embedded World 2012 presentation on Model Based Design and Testing of Embedded Systems for the Train & Transportation Industry by Franck Corbier, with Dassault Systèmes.
Why? Because I have an old-fashioned side of me that loves nothing more than hours on a train, traveling across country.
The first successful locomotives were built by Richard Trevithick, in 1804. Since then the train and railway systems has been an invaluable resource when it comes to transporting passengers and heavy commercial loads across towns, cities and even nations. And with the emergence of embedding computing technology, everything from train operation, to signaling, to track switching relies on ever growing embedded systems that few of us ever think about.
In countries like France and Britain, it isn’t unusual to see 30-50 year old legacy systems that need to be maintained, being integrated with increasingly more sensitive and sophisticated systems with significantly shorter life-cycles.
As any business owner knows, you are always going to find new conferences, events, or trade shows you didn’t know about, and are really glad you discovered.
Medical Design & Manufacturing West 2012 (affectionately known as MD&M West, or #MDMwest in twitter parlance) took place this past week in Southern California’s Anaheim Convention Center. The conference brought together an extensive variety of speakers, exhibitors, and manufacturers of medical diagnostic equipment, and medical devices. Subjects being discussed included everything from the latest in technology, to how to extend the life-cycle of life-saving equipment, without having to re-certify every single piece of the puzzle.
Whether you’re checking out his illuminating talks on the nature of the universe, theoretical cosmology and quantum gravity; watching him play himself on Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Simpsons and Futurama; or geeking out to MC Frontalot’s rap, science, and quotations; chances are you’ve heard Stephen Hawking’s iconic voice.
What most people don’t realize is that while Stephen Hawking is very much alive, his voice could risk going end-of-life (EOL). Until recently, the computer responsible for helping Stephen Hawking communicate with the world is made up of three parts: a Lenovo X220 tablet PC, a custom black box containing various peripherals, and the hardware voice itself.
According to Sam Blackburn, the technician, who for five years kept Stephen Hawking’s communication systems running, the card inside Stephen’s hardware voice synthesizer dates back to the 1980s, “this particular one contains Stephen’s voice. There’s a processor on it which has a unique program that turns text into speech that sounds like Stephen’s, and we have only two of these cards. The company that made them went bankrupt and nobody knows how it works any more.”