Smart Redundancy

Look up the word redundancy and you’ll find a bunch of negative-sounding synonyms like repetition, duplication, excessive, superfluous, no longer necessary… but also a few positive phrases like ‘alternatives in case of failure’, ‘circumvent transmission errors’, etc.

True to the definition, redundancy is often perceived as something negative and wasteful. And it can be. But sometimes it saves your ass! I like to call those instances where redundancy is helpful and necessary cases of “smart redundancy”.

Electronics is definitely one of those saving places. I’m finding this a lot lately as I grope my way around putting LEDs on clothes. I’m a relative noob at this, having made only 2 LEDs-on-clothes projects so far. One thing I’m realizing is that to really make this work I need repetition and back-up-plans, because failure is just too likely in a number of ways.

For one, what you use to connect the LEDs to each other and to your power source and microcontroller could stump you. For both of my first projects I’ve used phone wire – already insulated, light-weight, and free because I already had a bunch on hand. But another good thing about phone wire is there are multiple strands of copper wire. A friend of mine tried a project with only single-stranded wire and found it flaked out on her all too often, plus the LEDs were not as bright.

The circuit itself is something else where I have yet to figure out how to work in the right type of redundancy. One LED shorting out can sometimes bring the whole thing down. Finding the problem LED(s) can prove difficult too.

My biggest dilemma is finding solutions to these sorts of problems. What’s the point of putting lights on clothes if the lights don’t work?!

Backside of an RGB with phone wire

Backside of an RGB with phone wire

Of course redundancy can have its dark side – such as supporting duplicative databases at a large corporation anxious to please its shareholders. But even then you’d better have a backup plan and sometimes you find hidden misconceptions and learn things you wouldn’t have known if you weren’t consolidating. You also need to decide how much redundancy is enough based on your situation. Being locked out of my garage because my backup opener failed tells me either I didn’t have enough redundancy and/or I shouldn’t have blown off fixing the first one!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *