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Product Development -- Design for Evil

If your product involves electronics, communications or controls, designing for your customers’ safety and security is now a responsibility.

Thank goodness I drive an Audi.

A “hacking experiment” demonstrated that Audi was one of the more difficult cars to take control of remotely, while some Jeep, BMW and Infinity models were more vulnerable. This potential has been known for years, but is just now entering public awareness.

All car manufacturers are concerned, but few seemed to consider this a major design consideration until publicity forced the issue. Because FMEA (Failure Mode Effects Analysis) is routinely used in the automotive industry, it appears the threat of hacking wasn’t identified, or was minimized.

As much as none of us wants to consider the possibility, a car recently filled with fuel can become a remotely controlled bomb.

As Amazon continues to advance plans for drone delivery of packages, we have to expect hacked shipments. More significantly, the many drone near-misses with airplanes show the potential dangers of what can be a fun and affordable hobby.

The technology of 3-D printing has made gigantic strides in materials, capabilities and cost. Home desktop models are readily available. Printing an untraceable gun is as easy as any prototyped part.

Intentional and accidental misuse of products will never go away.

We ridicule the “Do not remove” mattress tags and the dry-cleaning bag that warns, “This is not a toy.” Intentional and accidental misuse of products will never go away. Laser pointers are handy in presentations and fun to entertain a cat, but also used to blind pilots.

Product design was initially focused on providing value to the market. In recent decades, Design for Manufacturing (DFM), Design for Service (DFS), Design for Postponement (DFP) and other Design for X concepts have become standard.

If your product involves electronics, communications or controls, designing for your customers’ safety and security is now a responsibility.

Sadly, design must include a focus on preventing what we do not want to happen to customers as much as how we want to add value and increase flexibility and profitability.

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