One of the devices my company sells is a military product that clips onto a rifle’s Picatinny rail and provides - amongst other things - 3 high-power target illuminator lasers and several communication options including Bluetooth to talk to other target engagement weapon-mounted accessories. I can’t say much more than that obviously… Unlike most of our products, this one was built entirely on customer-supplied specs,
The lasers are powerful enough that they’re a real hazard to eye safety. So the device requires a special “wartime” control cable and explicit settings in the menu to enable the high-power mode. Kind of annoying, and kind of costly too since we need to supply two control cables (training and wartime) with each device, and the plugs for those cables are $50 apiece.
Earlier this afternoon, I was pouring over the firmware’s code to find an odd bug when I spotted an NFC folder in the repo. I looked inside it, and found what looked like a fully-functional ISO14443 stack in there. In the main code, I also found a disabled section of code with a comment that says “for future use” or something like that. Interesting.
I quizzed my boss, and he told me the customer wanted an NFC communication option when they released the specs a few years ago, but hasn’t really found a use for it since, since no other weapon-mounted accessory exists that has NFC yet. Classic case of over-design. Also, enabling it shortens the battery life considerably. Still, it has an antenna and a NFC chip built in.
I exposed a few NFC library calls in the main comm API, connected a serial cable, and sure enough, it spewed out UIDs when I brought a few cards next to the coil. And… it reads my flexM1 and my IAR M1k - albeit with some difficulty with the glassie
So that gave me an idea: why not turn on NFC when the user goes into the settings to enable the high-power lasers, and enable them if a suitable tag is presented, as a additional option to the wartime control cable? In other words, soldiers with implants would not have to be issued the wartime cable. Genius!
My boss liked the idea and said he would pass it along to the customer in the next engineering change proposal. Who knows, if the concept interests them enough, yours truly might be implementing an implant-related functionality in that particular product soon - and I might get to spend time at the range to qualify the new feature too, since I’m the only one in the company with implants and shooting skills. Shooting time is always fun