Tracking some wild uses of standards

It’s easy to expect the predictable, even in as diverse a group as IPC. Given that IPC Midwest is a regional show, it seemed likely that Midwest attendees would fit into fairly predictable groups: member companies or people from facilities somewhat close to the Chicago area.

Making that assumption brought me a clear reminder of the popular definition of the word assume. That came when I chatted with a guy during a break. My quick glance at his badge led me to think he was with one of the many wireless companies around the Midwest, located in St. Louis.

But when he mentioned Canada, I looked closer and found he was from St. John’s, Newfoundland. Lotek Wireless was equally distant from my initial assumption.

“We put our wireless products into a pretty low tech environment, tracking devices for fish and wild animals,” said Junaid Shufat.

The scientists who attach Lotek’s trackers to animals prepare their studies for years, and the actual field studies often span a few years. It’s not easy to attach those trackers, so a single failure can cause a real problem that can hamper the quality of the results.

“We specify a lot of IPC standards to insure that our vendors are producing assemblies that will hold up on an animal that might be fighting for its life during a torrential downpour,” said Shufat, who’s worked at Lotek for more than a decade. “It’s very useful for us to come to these conferences and hear what other companies are doing in packaging.”

Our chat was brief, but it reminded me of how this industry is not just interesting because so many printed circuit boards go into cool products like satellites and cars. These boards also go into areas that unusual and unexpected. Next time I watch a National Geographic special, I’ll probably be the only TV viewer who’s wondering whether IPC standards helped make the study possible.

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