Delkin Blog

Customer Success Stories: SMART Cards for Embedded Memory

 

A fact of life with embedded flash memory is that it will eventually need to be replaced. The structure of flash memory is such that it has a limited lifespan. However, there are many things you can do to extend the life of the embedded memory you have and to manage the end of life process strategically to minimize disruption. SMART card commands found in industrial embedded memory cards play an important role in this process.

 

At Delkin, a core tenet of our business is maximizing the lifespan of industrial embedded memory cards. We rely on SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) features to assist in this process. All of our memory products come with life cycle management support. This ensures that we’re on call to help customers navigate the process of transitioning to new memory when necessary. In addition to helping our clients avoid lengthy disruptions while converting their device storage, we also help them prevent the loss of critical data that can occur when memory fails unexpectedly.

 

SMART commands are critical to helping with this process. They make it easier to predict when memory cards are reaching the end of their usefulness and when maintenance is necessary. You’ll find SMART in industrial SD, CF, and CFast cards, among other form factors. SMART cards, which can be embedded into the host application, significantly increase the ability of OEMs to efficiently manage their device storage needs. Here is a closer look at how Delkin helped one industrial embedded storage client prevent data loss through SMART triggers.

 

Customer Story

In the industrial storage industry, data loss and memory failures usually mean lost revenue—and sometimes, safety issues. When it comes to the digital signage industry, data failures also frequently have the added disadvantage of being publicly visible. If memory fails in a digital sign, the sign may appear completely blank or the messaging may be disrupted. Serious safety issues could follow, particularly when it comes to digital signs used for traffic control and direction.

 

For this reason, OEMs in the digital signage industry are typically very aggressive about lifecycle management. One of our clients approached us with an ongoing issue with predicting the end of life of their memory cards. They discussed the expenses associated with data loss for their digital signage business. The client also explained that they had switched to industrial memory cards with the expectation that they would last longer and be more secure. However, this client was still looking for a way to manage the lifespan of their embedded memory to prevent data loss and reduce the associated expenses.

 

Delkin Discovery

In recent years, CPU technology has evolved rapidly. Many clients are surprised to discover that even a five-year-old controller may lack a long list of features and tools that the most modern units have. As such, some CPUs don’t have the technology to maximize the potential of SMART card features and the extensive card health and data security information that is available.

 

To assist our digital signage client, Delkin’s Customer Applications team started out by getting a comprehensive understanding of the client’s system and what they needed. Using the memory cards the client was currently utilizing, the team focused on learning the signs which indicated that the cards were starting to wear down. With that information identified, it was easy to give the client a list of indicators of card usage to estimate the endurance.

 

Because of the nature of the digital signage industry and past experiences with data loss and memory failures, this client opted to replace memory cards as soon as they had an estimated 15% of their useful lives left. Fortunately, the rate at which this occurred lined up with other maintenance activities, so the replacement cycle was not too expensive for the client to manage.

 

SMART data retrieval gave the client access to helpful information, like P/E cycles, bad blocks, number of blocks remaining, and abnormal startups. All of this information was critical in helping the client make the appropriate decisions about managing their memory card lifespan.

 

Delkin Solution

With Delkin’s help, the client was able to program their application to run periodic SMART evaluations of their memory cards to obtain information about flash endurance through SMART commands. They then compared the data to an established threshold of performance to make a determination of the life left in the storage card. They used five specific, critical memory card usage statistics and compared those to their baseline threshold. This allowed the client to determine when their cards had reached that 85% usage mark, so that they could initiate timely replacements and avoid data loss.

 

There was also an added benefit. SMART tools made it possible for the client to identify whenever a host was not operating as efficiently as possible and causing an unexpected level of wear on the embedded memory. This allowed the client to fix the issue before it caused disruptive failures in the field. For this client, embracing SMART features to manage the lifespan of their memory cards translated to zero unexpected failures.

 

Of course, SMART can be used in many different ways, including as a diagnostic tool on PCs, with the Delkin Devices SMART dashboard software. Keep in mind that different CPUs and form factors use SMART in different ways. Our team is ready to help you find a customized solution for your needs.

 

Lean on Delkin’s Team

It’s essential to choose carefully when picking industrial storage for your device. You have to consider everything from physical size to operating conditions. Delkin’s Customer Applications team is here to help you make the right decisions. We are ready to be a trusted advisor for all of your embedded storage needs. We will start by learning the ins and outs of your application and your needs. Next, we will recommend solutions that are customized to work for you. We have solved countless host failures in the past, and we look forward to helping you find the best rugged controlled storage solution for your industrial application.

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