IoT Product Compliance
All You Need to Know About IoT Product Compliance: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieve Conformity with Required Standards
Many IoT businesses delay addressing compliance until the R&D phase’s end, thinking it’s a last-minute formality. However, you must consider compliance from the beginning because ensuring quality and safety isn’t an overnight task.
Understanding and meeting required standards can be challenging for newcomers, but it’s simpler than it seems. Product compliance ensures your IoT project aligns with specific rules and standards, aiding your design process. The guide below helps you grasp the entire self-assessment procedure.
Understanding IoT Product Compliance
Let’s assume you never heard of product compliance, but your company designed and manufactured a smart home device. It works with a smartphone, collects some temperature data and controls, let’s say, a heating system in your house. It’s doing great and sells like a hotcake.
Imagine your company designed a smart home device that’s selling well. The worst-case scenario? Months later, an inspector informs you that your device interferes with firefighter radio communication. Now you must withdraw the entire batch from the market. To avoid this, understand the Declaration of Conformity and the compliance assessment procedure.
Compliance ensures your electronic design meets rules and standards, like EMC. Others, such as Product Safety, RoHS, and Radio Spectrum efficiency, might apply to your design.
Declaration of Conformity is like a stamp of approval for your product! It means your device passed the Compliance assessment process. And you can put it by yourself (sometimes you will need a third party involved). With it, you can explore new markets, gain the trust of customers and be sure your projct is safe for the end user.
In this guide, we focus on EMC for the EU market and the self-assessment procedure.
Identifying Relevant Standards and Regulations
Figuring out which standards you need to apply to your product is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Countless hours can be wasted without knowing that you are reading the right documents. But even if you find one, there is another headache – how to interpret what is written there?
But even before you start reading you must answer several questions regarding your design.
First, you need to determine a target environment for your product. Just to name a few of them: household, industrial, medical, automotive, military, aerospace.
Secondly: Identify if there is a standard developed for the products just like yours. Some of the electronic devices are commodities: cell phones, TV set, welders, washing machines, electric tools. They have their own standards you just need to follow. But more often your product is innovative or consists of a combination of several different functions.
Bad news, there is no standard for everything and you must apply a generic standard.
Thirdly: Do you have a radio module? If yes, apply additional standards for efficient radio spectrum usage.
Then you must determine which requirements from the norms are applicable to your situation. Some can be skipped; for instance, if your product is battery-powered, wire tests (conducted tests) don’t apply.
Staying current with evolving technologies and standards is essential, but managing numerous designs can be challenging.
Once you identify which test you must conduct you must find a lab that can execute them.
In most cases, without an on-site lab, you rely on external facilities, which can be costly.
In most cases, you need to visit them several times. To make this journey less expensive it’s better to start pre-compliance testing on your own. You don’t need to have expensive equipment.
Basic stuff like a digital oscilloscope and spectrum analyzer will do the job. You will also need a set of near-field probes and current clamps. You can make them by yourself or buy them cheaply.
This approach speeds up non-compliance detection and enables self-verification without a certified lab. Overall it will reduce the cost of the external lab and deliver your product to the market faster.
Now, a few tasks need to run simultaneously.
You must start preparing a test plan. Each device is unique, and you must provide test instructions including operation, required tests, and performance assessment.
You need to also prepare the product itself for testing. You will need cables, interconnectors, and debug interfaces to monitor performance. For radio spectrum testing you must put wireless modules into special mode. Also, function monitoring should be provided.
Begin searching for a lab that can conduct the defined measurements in your test plan. The best is to establish contact early and check what are the requirements of the lab and book a slot upfront.
Conducting The Testing
Once you’re confident in the product’s performance and have addressed initial bugs, proceed to external lab testing.
Most probably your design still has some flaws that you will need to fix before the final measurements.
Most of the laboratories offer “engineering” sessions. It’s a cost-effective, simplified alternative that offers accurate device performance data.
Preparing Documentation for Declaration of Conformity
In our simplified example (European market, only EMC, self-declaration) there is no gatekeeper checking your product before launch.
However, each country has inspection authorities that can perform random market checks.
If they knock on your door to check your product you must provide them proof that your device is compliant. You need to have all documents archived to show them you did your job to meet the standards:
- General device description
- Design concepts with supporting drawings and schematics
- Official reports from accredited laboratories
- List of norms and harmonized standards
- Declarations of conformity from sub-modules
- Declaration of Conformity
Securing Declaration of Conformity
With all the necessary documentation, your product is ready for launch. However, your responsibilities don’t end there. As a manufacturer, you must maintain quality throughout the production. This entails re-evaluating design changes for compliance impact and re-testing your design when necessary.
In summary, to achieve compliance:
- Identify your device’s operating environment to determine applicable standards.
- Check for product-specific requirements; if none, follow a generic standard.
- For designs with radio frequency communication, adhere to radio standards.
- If possible, perform pre-compliance measurements and resolve issues.
- Find a laboratory, create a test plan, prepare your design for testing, and participate in the measurements.
- Collect all necessary documents and store them securely.
- Launch your product to the market.
The author of the above article is Mr. Wojciech Uzdrzychowski, who has extensive experience in introducing electronic products to global markets.
If you need help with the conformity assessment process, please contact Wojciech on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/wojciech-uzdrzychowski
Thank you, Wojciech, for the great dose of knowledge!