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article imageSamsung steps up battery safety with 'unprecedented' test suite

By James Walker     Aug 3, 2017 in Technology
Samsung has opened up about its failings with the Galaxy Note 7 and how it has responded to the crisis since the phone's global recall. Company executives spoke openly in a report, saying Samsung is committed to greater transparency around battery safety.
Samsung leaders met with a reporter from the MIT Technology Review to discuss the Galaxy Note 7 disaster and the improvements implemented as a response. In a MIT whitepaper, the company said it now wants its mistakes to go on the record as a lesson for the future. It's documenting its new testing procedures so the rest of the mobile industry can utilise them.
When the scale of the Galaxy Note 7's battery problems became clear, Samsung took the unprecedented step of globally recalling every shipped handset. It then commenced a detailed investigation to determine the root cause of the fires and explosions. This gave it the insight necessary to construct a new "state-of-the-art" quality assurance process for batteries.
In the MIT Technology Review's whitepaper, Samsung explained how its revised testing suite will avoid a future repeat of the Note 7's failings. It has expanded its testing processes so components face a broader and deeper range of trials.
Samsung announced a recall of 2.5 million units of the oversized Galaxy Note 7 smartphone in early S...
Samsung announced a recall of 2.5 million units of the oversized Galaxy Note 7 smartphone in early September after several devices exploded or caught fire
, Gwangju Bukbu Police Station/AFP/File
Many more batteries face quality control scrutiny with up to 100,000 tested in a single lot. Samsung has stepped up its use of intentionally destructive tests in which the battery is pushed to its limits to find out when it is destroyed. 3 percent of the company's monthly battery inventory is lost to intentionally destructive testing.
Samsung now follows an 8-point battery safety check for all its new devices. The company has widely promoted this new strategy, using it as part of a widespread marketing effort to regain consumer trust. Beneath the media materials, the safety check is also a highly innovative approach to battery testing that's believed to be unique in the industry.
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The procedure is controlled by software algorithms that pass batteries between operator-assisted testing stages. Lots of batteries typically contain 10,000 to 15,000 units. Each battery in the lot must pass six tests. A smaller subset is then selected for the destructive stations.
The standard tests include basic charging, discharging and organic volatility trials and sophisticated "accelerated usage" endurance runs. These replicate "intensive exaggerated use" scenarios where the battery is pushed far beyond the operating limits it would face in regular use. If just one of the batteries fails, the entire lot is returned to the supplier for further evaluation.
Samsung also addressed the root cause of the Note 7's recall. The company's executives acknowledged that the intensity of the smartphone industry's workflow has placed immense pressure on suppliers and engineers. In the race to get devices to market, critical errors can be made along the way.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7.
Samsung Galaxy Note 7.
Jung Yeon-Je, AFP/File
Media reports since the Note 7 recall have repeatedly cited Samsung's rivalry with Apple as a prime contributor to the disaster. In the article, Samsung appeared to admit it had hurried the Note 7's launch so it could be unveiled before Apple's iPhone 7s. The company cited the "endless race" to achieve competitiveness and the "constantly increasing demands" of consumers as factors that have added to the fast pace of the smartphone product cycle.
Samsung said it's now committed to promoting transparent safety-first product development processes. It said it wanted the Note 7 "incident" to serve as a reminder to the tech industry that fast paced gadget lifecycles cannot compromise consumer safety. It added that safety "informs everything we do."
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"Samsung is committed to opening up its process, and sharing what it has learned with the public. And as you’ll see, Samsung’s dedication to safety and quality informs everything we do," Samsung said. "We know that trust must be earned, and re-earned, with action—every single day. As we look ahead, we will strive to raise the bar for the industry, while we continue to deliver experiences that empower and inspire our consumers."
With the Galaxy Note 7 behind it, Samsung's now looking to turn its previous missteps into actionable insights for the future. The scale of its new testing efforts is creating an unprecedented amount of data. Samsung intends to turn this resource into a fully predictive fault management pipeline that the entire industry can utilise. It's still two to three years away from achieving this though, indicating just how large its Note 7 response has become.
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