Electronics System Introduction
Electronic engineering is often recognized as a subdivision of the electrical department. This is usually the assumption in forensic investigation and the entire forensic world. It makes sense the way that all the fundamental laws of science are the same. Both disciplines work with electricity, the flow of electrons. Yet electronics systems have distinctive characteristics.
ELECTRONIC systems focus on delivering information
Electronic systems are very much in use these days. You’ll hardly find anything without an electronic part in it. Anything with a power cord or battery would have some kinds of electronics system in it. Today, these things are very common.
Electrical systems deliver electricity at a quantity level. This is the total energy available for the end user. On the other hand, electronic systems deliver electricity at a quality level. The communication system delivers signals to the end users. This information also needs to be “readable” through the control system.
Think of this as sending a package. The electrical system would be the traditional post service. You have to deliver the package to the right post office. Then, to the right addresses mailbox. In the end; the electronics system would be like the courier delivery. The package needs to get to the right address. The integrity of the package also needs to be verified and signed off by the receiver. Feel the general idea?
When conducting an expert electronic forensic investigation or failure analysis, everything is checked. The energy and information flow, location delivery, and the quality of the data itself. They all need to be examined and traced within the electronic system. Yes, all the ‘0’s and ‘1’s lol.
Electronics system contains more than hardware
Electrical systems mainly work with the physical components, the hardware. The electronics system differs from this, and also integrates at least one piece of program or software. The term software has different meanings in different industries; here, it refers to all programs.
In an oversimplified version, the electronics system would pick a piece of information. Then either pack it into a package (such as an electrical signal or a WiFi signal etc.) and it would pass it on, like a communication system. Or it would do something about it, like a control system.
The hardware acts as an essential role to deliver the package. Then the software handles the packing and unpacks it. More importantly, it ensures the “package” goes to the right address. So it’s the main reason why software has become central to electronics engineering today.
With this rise of IoT’s and smart devices in our lives, code review for software is very crucial for an accurate forensic investigation and failure analysis. It is just as important as the hardware inspection.
Why Electronic systems require unique failure analysis methods
Electronic systems have unique characteristics. They continue to decrease in size and they are increasing in complexity. This has made it almost impossible to trace system failures with the naked eye. And one of the main challanges of electrical failure analysis and electronic forensic investigations.
Let’s take the Printed Circuit Board for example. The PCB is commonly found in consumer electronics. The board houses all kinds of electronic components. It contains multiple layers of conductive and non-conductive materials. These have an electrical track size of a few millimeters (mm) and are interconnected through the layers.
Everything is packed like a can of sardines. The failure analysis here is like finding one grain of sand inside a sardine without open the can. Long story short, it takes a lot of training and study just to know how to find the things you are looking for.
Many failures in the electronics system are latent and progressed. This means the failure time may be delayed. Additionally, the location of the failure may not be the origin. The control failure may be a victim of other electronic system failure(s). So, the failure analysis would often require a broader system diagnosis.
A full system diagnosis or a need to push the system to the limit is sometimes required. A stress test, for example, can suffice in finding the failure point. Forensic Investigation, in this case, is thus, a very delicate process.
Too little and the electronic failure may not show, and too much the control system may see permanent damage. In other words, the failure analysis for electronics system requires very specific knowledge.
The method needs to be precise and the deployment needs to be accurate. Electronics have much less tolerance toward error than any other system. You know, we are talking about electrons and photons, things so small most people have not even heard of them. -Thomas Li, P.Eng
Diverse Forensic Experience
At Orata, our Forensic Engineering team has over 20 years of combined experience. This diverse range within of Forensic Science department includes;
- Design and manufacture of electronics
- Electronic system integration & testing
- Real-world application of failure analysis for consumer and industrial electronics
- Electronics system failure analysis
- Information/dataflow analysis
- Hardware and software diagnosis
- Reliability test, etc
We help insurance and legal professionals with system failure analysis and more!
Including single device failures (smart device, consumer electronics, robotics, analysis equipment, etc.) to network failure (Ethernet, WiFi, IoT, Cloud, etc.).
We also launch forensic investigations into network infrastructure incidents. This includes (server rooms, data centers, etc.), and industrial and commercial safety systems (fire alarm, fire suppression, gas detection, etc.).
Our service also includes patent review and technical support for the Legal and Insurance industries.
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