Do Faster Development Cycles Mean More Recalls?

Carl Weinschenk
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Why Enterprise Software Must Evolve In the Age of Apps

Up until a few years ago, the consumer electronics and IT industries featured long periods between when a device was developed or a service dreamed up and when they actually were released for general use. The idea was to explore every nook and cranny and ensure that it functioned perfectly from day one.

A funny thing has happened since: Competition has replaced prudence, at least to an extent. The introduction of services, devices and device elements is done much more quickly. The desire to be the first to inhabit a market niche is all important. Vendors and service providers know that early adopters and, increasingly, the more general public, “get it” and understand that things might not be worked out to perfection. It is part of life in the Internet age.

There is no way to definitively say that a couple of recalls announced during the past two weeks would have been avoided if the old, glacial pace of introductions still was used. Indeed, one involves a product that was introduced three years ago, which is eons in Internet time.

It is fair to remember that recalls occurred during the earlier times as well. Regardless, it is worthwhile to see the recalls in the context of today’s far speedier times to market.

One of the recalls was by Google. In April, 440,000 of its Nest Protect smoke detectors were recalled and sales halted because of what a Reuters report called “a defect that could cause users to turn it off unintentionally.” The problem is that a feature that allows the device to be turned off with the wave of a hand could accidentally be activated by somebody swatting a fly or waving hello. This week, The Guardian reported that the flaw is being corrected and that Google expects Nest Protect to be back on the market in a few weeks.

The other recall was by Panasonic, which is asking consumers to return the battery pack from CF-H2 Toughbook tablets manufactured between June 2011 and May 2012. Some of the units also were sold separately and utilized as replacements during servicing, the company said. The ZDNet story on the recall offers more details on how to identify precisely which units are included in the recall.

Despite the expedited schedules, work continues on ensuring safety. Energy Harvesting Journal reported this week that a paper in the Journal of American Chemical Society points the way toward safer lithium-ion batteries. Battery dangers generally come from the flammable electrolytes the batteries use to operate. To date, efforts to create more stable and less flammable solid electrolytes have fallen short on performance. The work outlined in the paper claims to have solved this problem.

The difference between the old and new approaches simply is that course corrections, in performance and to some extent safety, are more likely to occur once products and services are in general use.

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