EU Aims to Abolish Planned Obsolescence

Business, Technology
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Commentary By Doug Whyte, CEO Imagine Research and Technology Inc.


The European Parliament has recently accepted a resolution to increase the life of consumer goods and software, a counter to the alleged planned obsolescence process built into a lot of products.

This is great news. Our company, in conjunction with the University of Akron and Purdue University in the US has developed Quantum ShieldWall, a patented, active nanoelectronic coating technology targeting increased reliability, stability and longevity of electronics. We are in the process of commercializing the technology for use on the electronics production line, and are actively looking for an industry partner or consortium to work with us or to acquire the technology on an international basis.

In profound agreement with this important initiative of the European Union, we ourselves have encountered apparent resistance from consumer electronics companies who have as much as admitted to us that obsolescence is part of their business model. This despite the fact that as a society we throw away close to 50 million metric tonnes of failed, useless, waste electronics every year!! The planet cannot sustain this level of waste.

Electronics have become so embedded in society that it affects everyone’s lives. And failure of electronics can be profoundly annoying, frustrating and stressful. Everyone has experienced this. The computers at work crash on a regular basis (and estimates of the costs on a national scale can run into the billions), your big-screen TV just failed, you’re on your third cell phone and you still can’t get a good signal.. Is this level of performance acceptable?

In business environments, the costs of electronic system failures and crashes can be extreme. For example,

  • Downtime at a major computer data centre can cost as much as $11,000 per minute.
  • British Airways 2017 failure of its passenger management system cost that company over $120M in 1-1/2 days of downtime.

But when electronics fails in mission-critical environments, people’s lives are at stake. These are fields where electronics simply CANNOT fail – aviation, self-driving vehicles, aerospace, the military, medical electronics, etc.

  • Modern commercial and military aircraft are almost entirely electronically controlled. The Airbus A380 has over 90,000 KM of wiring and 48,000 electrical connections. When these sophisticated electronic systems go down, lives can be threatened.
  • The FAA recorded 209 aircraft crashes in 2017, a crash every 1.75 days. Over 300 lives were lost. The causes are many, but when electronics of these systems fails, the situation can become critical. 60% of electronic failures are random, intermittent failures.
  • Self-driving vehicles demand the same level of mission-critical reliability.
  • Medical electronics, emergency response and rescue, etc.; all these systems are required to be in a constant state of operational readiness.

We have thus shifted our focus to mission-critical electronics manufacturers. The operational model in these fields is the exact opposite of consumer electronics. Our target is saving lives, reducing costs to society, improving reliability of electronics, and reducing environmental impact. We are currently working with ACAMP, The Alberta Centre for Advanced Micro and Nano Products to perform extreme-environment field testing of the technology including aerospace testing.

We applaud the EU for this initiative. Perhaps electronics manufacturers will finally be forced to come to their senses. Yes, manufacturers have worked hard to make equipment reliable, but it’s not enough. Solutions are available. And for the manufacturer that acquires this technology, the potential market opportunity is huge.

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