The Fragility of Metal (you can hear the kids screaming)

Steve Venuti, VP Marketing, Keyssa

This week saw ominous words for Switch gamers coming out of Nintendo:

‘We are aware of recent reports that some Joy-Con controllers are not responding correctly’

As focused as Nintendo is with an unparalleled user experience, everything can fall apart at that potential single point of failure….the mechanical connector.

Reports are vague as to the exact cause of the failure, but as reported by Verge, the symptoms are clear: “controllers randomly move around and input commands to the console, even when they’re not being physically moved.” (see “The Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con drift problem, explained:” https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/22/20706144/nintendo-switch-joy-con-drift-problem-explained

Anecdotal reports point to dust and debris making its way into the controller underneath a rubber cap that is designed to keep the interior clean, or worn-down contacts, which might be causing the issue due to repetitive use. In either case, the root cause demonstrates something that we at Keyssa have known for a long time: metal-to-metal contacts are prone to failure when exposed to….well…the physical world. Dust, dirt, moisture, wear and tear – these are all common root causes of connectivity issues with mechanical connectors.

 

 

We’ve always known that metal is being challenged as data rates keep on increasing. And the point of contact becomes so much more critical at higher data rates (see “Pogo Pins: A 40-Year-Old Technology:” http://www.keyssa.com/pogo-pins-a-40-year-old-technology/). But in this case, it’s not high-speed signals that are impacted; it’s low speed control signals. In this case, metal isn’t challenged by the increasing demands of data rates; rather, it’s challenged by the myriad of more mundane factors that are found in every room that houses a Nintendo Switch product.

We take low-speed connectivity for granted, but it’s not just screaming kids (and adults) who are frustrated playing video games; it’s also everyday tasks that can be interrupted by faulty low-speed mechanical connections. Take the millions of POS barcode readers we see every day in retail, transportation and many other businesses. Or the docking tablets used in restaurants, education, banking, insurance…

 

 

All rely on metal to do their job when the devices dock to sync. And all are exposed to different environmental factors that can lead to unreliable connections: dirt, dust, grime, crayons found in an elementary classroom, grease coating the contacts in a restaurant, or just the ordinary pounding of POS terminals to their docks at the end of a work day.

Keyssa is in the business of addressing a fundamental part of every computing product: the mechanical connector. Processors moved to solid-sate technology years ago. So too has memory. But that last key part of any computing product, moving data from one place to another, the connector, remains based on decades old technology.

The stringent requirements of today’s products require advanced connector technology. It’s time to move to more robust models of device connectivity and stop relying on the delicate, easily disrupted contact of metal on metal.

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