When it comes to metal detectors, imagining a machine that beeps at every bottle cap or coin is a mistake in thinking. In fact, the technology keeps evolving by leaps and bounds, and it’s a technology industry with a crucial purpose that goes unnoticed.
While the technology certainly isn’t a recent discovery, the objective, purpose, and need are constantly improving and changing. Modern metal detectors are capable of finding trace quantities of specified substances, so some of the best metal detectors of today show impressive potential.
In fact, researchers are constantly finding new ways to implement new functionalities, increase the efficiency of detection and better tune our expectations of the machinery.
It’s a growing expectation that these machines will get better with time; so of course like any growing tech, relevant issues can impact innovation or stall new product launches. Here are a list of what these metal detector companies have to consider when they conceive new products:
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Ensuring Compliance With Regulations
Every country has a specific set of regulations determining where and how metal detectors may be used. That’s why it’s difficult to produce equipment that would be suitable for all markets. As the world works towards developing common standards, metal detector manufacturers are forced to adapt to local legislative frameworks, which can impact the release of new technology in these regions.
Companies that fail to recognize and respect key specifications might lead to huge losses if an entire series of products turn out to be illegal to use in these markets. Since regulations tend to change over time, following the latest developments in key target countries is an ongoing task that manufacturers need to add to their checklist, while also ensuring their target market is researched well in advance of the launch date.
Customizing Detectors for Particular Industries
We might recognize metal detectors used for security in airports and retail stores, but don’t let yourself believe these are the only popular uses. These machines have a very broad range of applications extending from pharmaceuticals, plastic manufacturing, and even military purposes. In addition to large-scale professional detectors, a range of products are also aimed at hobbyists. Some detectors place a premium on precision, while also considering practicality and portability.
Needless to say, depending on usage, these machines also need to be optimized for its conditions and environment; from the field, lab, and of course even airports. A one-size fits all solution can never be an option in this business. Metal detectors in the global market are extremely diverse, comprising of products that vary in size, price and power.
Simple and Intuitive Operation
Like any changes in technology, a focus on ease of use and intuitive design tends to drive redesign. An attempt to decrease human error with usage is also key. According to Fortress Technology, a leading global manufacturer of industrial metal detection systems, human operators are an essential part of using metal detection systems, so devices that are easy to pick-up, understand and use are essential in order to ensure top effectiveness.
Designing a good user interface is just as important as perfecting the technology used to scan for metals. While in certain cases, the detectors also need to be mobile and moisture-resistant to meet the requirements of some jobs. And again, like any product in development, user testing is highly recommended to ensure each new model works as expected. Keeping in mind what works, what doesn’t and what feature might just be plain confusing are all important aspects to know before a detector goes into mass production.
Producing Reliable Equipment and Software
Balancing the quality of hardware and software is a common challenge in any technology-related field although, with metal detectors, the stakes can be even higher. These devices are used for a wide variety of extremely sensitive functions ranging from food contamination control to security checks in high-risk areas; even an occasional malfunction can be extremely costly depending on the industry. Imagine, a soldier part of the U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), left without a malfunctioning detector, unable to detect the next hidden mine; the next hidden threat below him.
Without exception, top-tier manufacturers of metal detector equipment are investing a lot of resources into developing methodology that can guarantee a malfunction can never happen; that both hardware and software components never fail. An unreliability of the final product could be devastating, with fatal consequences on market success or worse, the user directly.
Inching Closer to Smart Detectors
Over the last couple of years, electronic devices have become equipped with ‘smart’ even AI features; and it’s clear this will also benefit and affect the mine detecting industry. In fact, some companies are already working on a smart detector and it is only a matter of time before we will have machines capable of recognizing the metallic content of tested items without a human operator at all.
Data extracted in this way could be analyzed by operators located anywhere in the world, changing the job of detectors from someone on the ground, close to the danger or action, to someone working remote; even right in the comfort of their homes. This is a very exciting area of research, changing the risk, usage and overall success of these detectors.
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While it might seem like a distant possibility, it’s closer than we can imagine, making the metal detector industry much like the way we look at smartphone and computing an industry we should continue to watch with excitement. A changed world caused by changing technology is closer than we think, with metal detectors being a facet we shouldn’t ignore. Like a blip on a detector's radar, signaling something of value to its user, these changing trends are also signaling something bigger is to be expected and it’s a sign we shouldn’t ignore.