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  1. #1
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    Hardware Component Tracking options

    I wasnt sure where to post this question so I figure the people here coming from all different backgrounds etc. might have some insight.

    Does anyone have any solutions for tracking hardware components (such as serial number, model number, manufacturer, firmware versions etc.)? My company creates software for hardware also designed in house, mostly forensics stuff that contains different cameras, filters, lights etc. and that is all that needs tracked. Sometimes not all of the same components are available at build time, sometimes a different wire is used, or different firmware version is installed. This is also a smaller scale operation, would not need to track hundreds of units, our largest line of units has 30 in the field at the moment, so under 100 units per products is realistic and likely.

    I want to track all of this information to be able to have a variance list (how is this unit different from the base unit?) to help in diagnosing issues. However this information is currently tracked very sporatically in word documents which is not helpful.

    I have thought about using an SQL database and displaying that information in Confluence (wiki) via a plugin, but we dont normally deal in databases so there is no one in house to create the schema, maintain the DB and no programming resources available currently to create any kind of front end for data entry.

    Another option considered is Microsoft Access, but then it is hard to pull that information out and display it in an easy way (such as on a wiki) for the rest of the company to access as needed, and our manufacturer is off site (across country) so the access files would have to be available to them and versioned etc. which while not impossible doesnt seem ideal.

    So with that in mind, are there any off the shelf solutions anyone can suggest that would gather this information and sort it in a meaningful way?

    Some things I have tried searching are component traceability software, inventory tracking, inventory management, component management, etc. but cant seem to find anything worthwhile.

  2. #2
    SQA Knight
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    This sounds like a hackish way, but why not use your bug tracker?

    You basically have tickets that represent states "checked out" vs "checked in", which can be the same as a open or closed bug.

    On the bug ticket, you can write down all the information you need about the hardware unit in the bug description.

    You can even tag/label them with the hardware type like, so you can easily correlate them with other tickets.

    And you can go 1 step further and print out QR codes representing the URL to the bug ticket, and stick it on to the equipment. So when someone scans it with their smart phone, it automatically opens the bug tracker ticket for that piece of hardware.
    Last edited by dlai; 12-10-2014 at 07:05 PM.
    David Lai
    SDET / Consultant
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by dlai View Post
    This sounds like a hackish way, but why not use your bug tracker?

    You basically have tickets that represent states "checked out" vs "checked in", which can be the same as a open or closed bug.

    On the bug ticket, you can write down all the information you need about the hardware unit in the bug description.

    You can even tag/label them with the hardware type like, so you can easily correlate them with other tickets.

    And you can go 1 step further and print out QR codes representing the URL to the bug ticket, and stick it on to the equipment. So when someone scans it with their smart phone, it automatically opens the bug tracker ticket for that piece of hardware.
    Hello David, thank you for the input.

    That is something that I have considered (JIRA is our bug tracking system by the way if anyone cares for that tidbit). My concerns though would be comparison of units for changed or different components (say a new camera gets installed that is a different model number, or has newer firmware installed, or something wasnt available so changed etc.). Then there is the question of do we let every field be a free-form text field or enter all model/serial numbers in to drop down lists for conformity (someone may enter '2F34G-J', another person as '2f34g-j' and still another as '2F34g J' and so on that may mess with results or reports depending on how Jira handles that).

    There is an add-on for confluence though that allows you to pull JIRA searches in to confluence and display in a table, one option I suppose is to list all components on confluence (allowing easy links to documentation for said component) then provide a list of JIRA issues for the associated hardware that component is installed in. We do not have this add-on installed at the moment to test how well this might work but I may start setting up a JIRA project just to see how that goes.

    I do really like your idea of QR codes though printed and placed on hardware to link back. This would also allow us to link all issues or bugs for specific hardware back to the hardware itself.

    Definitely an option I will explore some more, thanks David.

 

 

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