Mikey Wears New Suspenders

Hitachi is touting a new tech to protect hard drives that it calls ESP, short for Extra Sensory Protection, that it claims will be as essential for devices with hard drives as airbags are for cars.

ESP uses a 3-axis accelerometer, or drop sensor, to detect a fall in as short as 4 inches. The device causes the hard drive controller to suspend a read or write operation and park the head safely. By "unloading" the read/write head, the drive is placed into non-operational mode, avoiding potential head/disk contact, the most common cause of data loss, Hitachi says.

ESP will be especially useful for smart phones with built-in hard drives, which are likely to be used quite a bit and dropped more often. ESP is an option on Hitachi's Microdrive 3K8 or “Mikey,” which the company claims is the world's smallest one-inch hard drive. ESP will be available on Mikey in December of this year.

“We've been successfully studying and implementing shock-protection mechanisms on hard drives for many years, but the explosion of hard-drive-based consumer electronics has brought about renewed focus due to the more rigorous environments in which hard drives operate today," says John Best, chief technologist, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies. "We believe ESP technology opens up a broad range of applications and environments where the high capacity of miniature hard drives--like Mikey--can be leveraged with peace of mind."

The drop sensor used on Mikey is able to detect a fall from three axes (X, Y, Z) simultaneously. In addition, the company says, the sensor is small enough that it can be placed on the smallest drive's printed circuit board.