Archive for August, 2010

USB Connectors Wasting 4 Million man-hours per year

Friday, August 20th, 2010

The lack of symmetry for USB connectors is wasting 4 Million man-hours per year.
And that is using conservative numbers.

The problem with asymmetric connectors

To the engineers and designers in charge of specifications for those connectors:
- Why do you need connectors to be asymmetric?
- Whatever your reason is, can’t you come up with a symmetric connector with some logic that would solve the problem?

1/ The computation

How do we get to 4 Million man-hours?

Jeff Ravencraft of Intel Corporation, Chairman and President of the USB Implementers Forum said “Over 6 Billion products are in the market, and over 4 Billion ship a year now.”
There’s even a commercial for USB claiming out loud those 6 Billion devices and it was back in June 2009. With 4 Billion new devices every year, we should actually be around 10 Billion now.

But let’s start with 6 Billions devices to be conservative, even though by now we should be around 10 Billion.

6,000,000,000 USB devices out there.
Let’s divide by 10, assuming only one device out of 10 is in use (the rest being obsolete devices rotting in boxes in your attic)
Let’s divide by 2, assuming we insert the wrong way only half the time (50% chance of doing so, not taking Murphy’s law into account)
Let’s multiply by 52, assuming we plug them only once a week on average
Let’s multiply by 1, assuming we waste one second plugging it back correctly
Let’s divide by 3600 seconds to have the result in hours

6B / 10 / 2 /3600 * 52 = 4.3 Million

What does 4 Million man-hours mean?

Let’s compare this number to numbers we can grasp.

At 40 hours per week, people work around 2,000 hours per year.

Thus 4M man-hours translates to:
- 2,000 years of work for a single man
- 20 years of work for a 100 employee company
- 5 complete weeks of work from all the Google employees (Google has roughly 20,000 employees)

4M man-hours is also $32 Million dollars at the California minimum wage of $8.

4M man-hours is also $100 Million dollars at the 2008 US median household income of $50,000, or $25 per hour.

These amazing numbers don’t take into account the amount of frustration generated by having to struggle with mating two simple pieces of hardware.
These man hours wasted have pain and anger written all over them, unlike the 5 Million hours wasted playing Pac-Man on Google (unless those ghosts make you angry).

Companies worrying about their employees wasting time playing online games at work and taking radical measures like banning certain websites like Facebook better off step up and demand smarter features from their computer manufacturer, whether it’s a mouse you never have to clean (we finally got that) or simple symmetric connectors.

And this is just for USB (and yes, even the latest USB 3.0 has asymmetric connectors).

Now there’s still Firewire, VGA, DVI, HDMI, RJ-45, RJ-11 phone jack, PATA, SATA, Power connectors, SD cards and all other card formats like CompactFlash and XD, … even your batteries!

Although we start to finally see some much needed evolution for the batteries with the recently announced Microsoft GangstaLoad InstaLoad technology.

Have you ever been frustrated wasting time mating two connectors?
How many times a day do you plug USB connectors?

Let’s refine those numbers and see what we have for all those others poorly designed connectors.

Maybe finally we’ll start seeing symmetric connectors, like the good old Cinch connectors or even my earphone’s Jack!

UPDATE: The solution could be very simple as Engadget reports UltraTek provides a solution to that problem with a simple connector.