Samsung this week released its findings on the exploding batteries of the Note 7, but is ready to move on, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
It was one of the best smartphones ever made. And it was one of the most disastrous products ever launched.
That is the maddening ambiguity behind the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which saw 3-million units recalled after batteries began malfunctioning. This week Samsung released its findings on what went wrong. Tellingly, however, the revelation was limited to the technical flaws, and did not delve into the strategic story. That, it appears, will remain an internal autopsy.
Koh Dong-jin, President of the Mobile Communications Business division of Samsung Electronics, announced the results of the investigation. He was joined on stage by executives from three independent industry groups that had conducted their own investigations into the malfunctions, namely Exponent, UL and TUV Rheinland. There was to be no cover-up.
They agreed that a design flaw had led to the first batch of phones catching alight: The battery’s external casing was too small for its components, leading to pinching of the top corner of the battery by the pouch that held it. This caused a short-circuit and, inevitably, ignition.
To make matters worse, according to UL, when things did go wrong, the high energy density of the battery design meant they went badly wrong.
The Note 7 could have survived the initial recall, but the batteries provided by a second supplier introduced a new flaw. Not only did it have defects in the welding, or what a Samsung YouTube video described as “an abnormal weld spot” that led to an internal short circuit, but some came without protective tape.
Guess which supplier won’t be invited back in a hurry?
Koh expressed his sincere apology and gratitude to customers, operators and partners, and unveiled new measures Samsung has taken to respond to the incidents.
“Based on what the company learned from the investigation, Samsung has implemented a broad range of internal quality and safety processes to further enhance product safety,” it said in a statement released on Monday. “These include additional protocols, such as multi-layer safety measures and an Eight-Point Battery Safety Check.”
Samsung also announced a Battery Advisory Group made up of external advisers “to ensure it maintains a clear and objective perspective on battery safety and innovation”. Members include a professor of chemistry from the University of Cambridge and professors of materials science and engineering from Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley.
Koh added: “The lessons of the past several months are now deeply reflected in our processes and culture. Samsung Electronics will be working hard to regain consumer trust.”
The announcement came as a relief to local executives, who had to keep the media in a holding pattern, not only to explain the Note 7, but also to build anticipation for the forthcoming Galaxy S8.
“We are pleased that the reasons for the Galaxy Note7 incident have finally been clarified,” said Craige Fleischer, director of Integrated Mobility at Samsung South Africa. “Samsung is a company that learns from our experiences and we are committed to incorporate the learnings to evolve. Samsung’s heritage and commitment to innovation will continue.
And that brings us back – or rather, forward – to the phone that Samung hopes will make all the monsters of poor public relations go away. The Galaxy S8 was due to be released at about the same time as Mobile World Congress opens in Barcelona at the end of February. Traditionally, that has been both the time and venue for the new Samsung flagship phone for the past few years. This time, Samsung will give the MWC launch a miss.
This is also a tacit admission that Samsung had been moving too fast.
The Note 7 would have been regarded as a technological marvel had everything held together. Waterproof devices despite earphone and charger sockets, iris recognition technology that heralded the next generation of biometric identification, and the fastest-charging battery on a flagship phone, put Samsung on a different planet from its rival-in-chief, Apple.
The latter would later struggle to convince the market that the new iPhone 7 was a signifcant step forward from the previous version. But when the Note 7 phone and image blew up, the wannabe Samsung converts flocked back to Apple.
Fortunately for Samsung, the S7 edge launched in Bacelona last February remained one of the most desirable phones in the world. It had been launched six months before the iPhone 7, but was probably still six months ahead of it in terms of innovation. Its camera remained in a different league, while its curved edge design made it one of the few standout handsets on the market from an aesthetic point of view.
Samsung was this week expected to report record profits for the fourth quarter of 2016, which would cement its reputation as a broad-based company that could innovate profitably acrosss all consumer electronics categories. It supplies many of the microchips and display screens not only for its own appliances and handsets, but also for those of some of its competitors.
This makes it all the more puzzling that Samsung pushed the technology edge of the Note 7 so hard. It suggests that it may have expected Apple to take the iPhone 7’s innovation much further than it did. It also suggests that Samsung may backpedal a little in attempting to cram too much of the future into its next handset.
It says it deployed 700 researchers, working with 200 000 devices and 30 000 batteries, to uncover the flaws in the Note 7. Their job done, that army of professional fault-finders must be swarming all over any new devices being brewed in the lab.
Chances are, the next devices from Samsung will combine serious innovation with serious safety.
Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults
An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.
Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.
These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.
Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.
The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:
- The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
- The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
- The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
- The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
- The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
- The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.
The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been.
“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured. The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.
“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’.
“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves. Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).
“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”
For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.
Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry
Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time.
Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable.
We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks.
So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility?
Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly.
The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.
Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.