As consumer demand for “smart” devices increases, manufacturers are responding by integrating wireless connectivity into their products more than ever before. From refrigerators and thermostats, to heart monitoring implants, cars, and even light bulbs, the Internet of Things is creating great new opportunities for companies to provide innovative products. However, at the same time these innovations are also having a huge impact on the demands placed on regulatory teams as they face the challenges of growing complexity.
Who Is Affected By The Internet Of Things?
In most cases, these manufacturers are adding radios to their products to allow for the new era of connectivity. Whether they are using a wireless module that has already been approved for the target market, developing their own wireless device, or using a module that has not yet been certified, there are strict and complex regulations in place that apply to every industry and market, from lighting to IT to appliances, from North America to New Zealand – and these regulations are typically not so familiar to the regulatory team at traditional manufacturers of appliances, lighting controls, etc., that have not previously looked at connectivity as a feature of design.
Just take for example Jarden’s “Connected Home” line of products, which includes products from the Crock-Pot®, Holmes®, and Mr. Coffee® brands, and may each be accessed, engaged, and controlled by consumers remotely, even from across town, via wireless app using a smart phone or tablet. Integrating the new WeMo SMART platform presented all new regulatory challenges for the Jarden regulatory team. ACS completed the testing for Jarden to ensure that they could launch their new line on time and free from regulatory concerns.
Are The Regulations New?
Though the Internet of Things is fairly new, the regulations manufacturers need to follow already exist; however, they are constantly evolving, meaning that some devices will need to be redesigned and retested to meet the new standards. Why do the guidelines change? They simply have to keep up with the rapid rate of improvement in technology.
The fact that more devices now need to be wirelessly enabled hasn’t changed the pre-existing compliance regulations – but it has significantly increased the number of manufacturers who are now subject to those rules.
How Can You Declare Compliance?
Manufacturers and design engineers need to learn quickly how to meet the new compliance challenges. Assistance from an experienced and certified lab can help them navigate the regulations for the specific markets they hope to enter.
For example, if a manufacturer integrates a wireless module into a product destined for Europe, the product now falls under the R&TTE directive (soon to be the RED Directive – see future posts on this topic), an additional set of requirements. Though this does not necessarily change the mandatory testing, it does change his declaration: he now must list this additional directive when declaring compliance for Europe.
How Can You Avoid Costly Fees?
In the scheme of things, governments are less concerned with unintentional emitters . However, manufacturers’ whose products intentionally transmit on regulated public frequencies without proper certification in Canada, USA, Europe, and Asia face fines as high as tens of thousands of dollars per unit per day. The challenge facing today’s manufacturers is two-fold; not only must they successfully integrate wireless modules into their products, but they must also meet regulatory requirements that compound, no matter where the product is being sold worldwide.
Management teams need to understand that their regulatory group may not have any experience in the regulations that they will find themselves dealing with in a connected world. They may need to bring in new members to regulatory group who have experience with wireless devices.