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Without a proper certification , your IoT product won’t make its route to market. However, passing through the whole certification process may look overcomplicated. No wonder that 80% of new cellular-enabled IoT device designs fail certification the first time.
We have collected some key obstacles which IoT companies are facing in the certification process to make this route as smooth as possible for you.
Where does the problem hide?
Getting an IoT product certified is often disregarded by companies, especially startups dealing with their first project. Having dedicated years to software development for startups, R-Style Lab team has already warned its clients about time and financial costs associated with the necessary regulatory tests. But certification testing hurdles still stand in the way and come as a surprise for smart product owners.
Here are top 5 testing & certification problems you will encounter once launching an IoT product.
#1 Following the Certification Rules
Basically certification proves compliance to an industry-defined set of requirements. Unfortunately, in the IoT world there is no predefined universal set of actions which applies to any smart product.
We will only try to distinguish the main layers of the product testing, which are more or less universal for all states.
General, or governmental layer
Here specialists check the level of radiating the energy and radio frequency spectrum. In the US, this testing is accomplished by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In fact, all connected products emit radio frequency radiation, and are therefore subject to FCC Part 15 rules, be it a smart curtain, a digital coffeemaker, another smart home software based product or a healthcare device.
In their turn, they can be divided into the following categories:
- Incidental radiators, such as AC and DC motors, mechanical light switches, basic electrical power tools. They are not designed to emit or use radio frequency energy above 9 kHz; however, they can generate byproducts of radio emissions above 9 kHz and consequently cause radio interference.
- Unintentional radiators, i.e. products which are not intended to emit RF energy wirelessly by radiation or induction, but which by design use digital logic, or electrical signals operating at radio frequencies for use within the product, or send radio frequency signals by conduction to associated equipment via connecting wiring. A majority of IoT products belong to this group, as today’s connected devices use digital logic and operate above 9 kHz (smart home gadget receivers, wireless temperature probe receiver, RF universal remote control, etc.)
- Intentional radiators. These products intentionally generate and emit radio frequency energy by radiation or induction: WiFi routers, wireless alarm system, wireless garage door openers, to name just a few.
Operating level on mobile networks
In the North American region, the primary certification authority is PTCRB, which sets cellular network standards that device manufacturers must comply with. These include Rogers Telecommunication, Bell and Telus in Canada, and T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint in the USA (with the notable exception being Verizon).
Being PTCRB-compliant means to demonstrate a device’s proven capability of interoperability with the given mobile network.
Cellular carrier certification
Separate cellular carriers have created their own testing process of connected products before they are deployed on their infrastructure, to ensure they connect effortlessly and securely.
Key examples include Wi-Fi Alliance certification for Wi-Fi devices, SigFox Ready Certification for SigFox devices; and Bluetooth SIG for the Bluetooth technologies.
#2 Different Standards in Different Regions
Unfortunately, there are no universal certification standards, against which an IoT product can be tested by a globally recognized regulation body.
- In the US, the certifying body is the FCC.
- In Canada, it is Industry Canada (IC).
- In the EU, certification is accomplished by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) issuing the CE approval.
Both requirements and procedures can vary significantly, from “self-declaration” to “classical type approval” to more complicated rules, and one has to be ready for this.
As the certification process is both costly and time consuming, it is essential to identify and prioritize right from the start target geographic markets.
This would help to better estimate the time and effort required to get all the necessary approvals.
Securing testing in a strict and well-regarded testing regime (like FCC in the USA, or CE in the EU) can help to accelerate application certification process in another regulatory scheme. Typically, the latter is prepared to accept the test reports from the approved regime and avoid retesting under the new jurisdiction. In this case, the device type approval process is simply a filing process (which can still take weeks to be accomplished!).
#3 Coping with Different Sets of Rules for Different Industries
Certain industries set additional standards for IoT certification.
The healthcare industry has increased requirements for a device to be certified, namely its ESD, RF / Magnetic Immunity levels, and electrical burst / surge / dip testing.
Most medical devices have issues with the simulated ESD testing from the IEC-61000-4-2 international standard.
This standard determines the immunity of systems to external ESD events outside the system during its operation—for example, if a system input/output comes in contact with a charged human, cable, or tool. IEC 61000-4-2 specifies testing using two coupling methods: contact discharge and air gap discharge.
The reason why many products fail this test is the fact that it can be very difficult to shunt ESD away from microcontrollers and other sensitive integrated circuits.
Companies which have concluded military contracts under which they must supply connected devices, have a specific set of requirements to meet.
The main United States Military Standard is the MIL-STD-461 emissions test. Its limits are much lower than consumer products testing, which makes compliance with them more tricky for a manufacturer.
Apart from radiated and conducted emissions, this test includes susceptibility testing and the impact of a tested device on the environment – all in all about 20 different tests.
For IoT devices intended for use near to the human body such as wearables, you will also need Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) testing, a requirement of IEEE/FCC. It refers to the amount of radio frequency electromagnetic field absorbed by the body while using a device.
In the US, SAR limit for FCC/IC is 1.6 W/Kg over a 1g sample. In Europe, this number is 2.0 W/Kg for a 10g sample.
At R-Style Lab, our specialists know how time consuming the certification process can be. For example, EMC testing is considered the quickest one, but even this one takes around 3 weeks. Add to this the testing facility’s queue – and the picture will be full.
We would advise, in order to save time and financial resources, to submit a more or less final version of the product, which has already been checked for bugs.
Another tip: using pre-certified components within a device results in quicker testing and certification approvals and reduce overall time to market.
…And last but not least
The certification costs may have a significant impact on the device cost price.
For instance, the RED certification (for Europe) for a basic SigFox device will cost around 10K€.
So you’d better do some research and calculate the costs associated with testing and cetification, right from the beginning of your project.