General: Products categorized as “IoT” (Internet of Things) consist of two main elements

These products have additional considerations for safety and performance due to design features necessary to accomplish wireless communication and remote operation of devices.

Product Safety of IoT – the Appliance: It is already common if not expected that these types of products are certified to UL, CSA, and similar product safety standards when sold around the world. However, the compliance design process for some electronic products manufacturers can be greatly impacted by adding these new/popular product features. This includes:

  1. New Circuit Classifications: Adding intelligence to Home Appliances involves adding “secondary circuits” to a product. Something as simple as a USB port causes the need for creating a Safety Extra Low Voltage circuit (SELV). SELV circuits require isolation devices meeting double or reinforced insulation requirements. Additional electrical spacings, increased product cost, and more complicated manufacturing processes.
  2. Remote/Unattended Operation: Adding remote/automated operation to a product increases the risk that if something goes wrong with the appliance, it will not be detected by the user. That can increase the number and type of fault conditions applied to the product during the certification testing process. These tests are focused at looking for a fire hazard that could be magnified due to unattended operation and the inability for user intervention.
  3. EMC & Immunity Testing: For many basic appliances, EMC/Immunity does not apply. However, adding IoT capability to a product means adding microprocessor based circuits and switching power supplies to power them. These components operate in a manner that causes the IoT appliance to have to comply with EMC requirements in North America and EMC/Immunity requirement in the European Union. Suddenly the compliance process can be much more difficult and expensive. Radiated emissions compliance can be difficult, especially for products with a plastic enclosure. Immunity testing includes subjecting the appliance to a wide variety of electrical phenomenon including ESD to user interfaces (electro-static discharge) and Transients on all ports.
  4. Safety Standard Considerations: The development of IoT has been much faster than the typical timeline for a safety standard update. Consequently, another consideration is the specific safety standard(s) with which your product is evaluated – do the safety standards that you use contain the most up to date circuit requirements covering IoT type circuits? Electronic product standards harmonized to IEC standards have well written requirements for the types of circuits associated with adding “smart” features. However, there are several North American home appliance standards that are not “internationally harmonized”, which can make it more difficult to design a compliant IoT product.

Product Safety of IoT – the App: The primary objective of most IoT is the ability to monitor data and remotely control a device from a smartphone (or PC). In order to facilitate control, a product specific “App” (IoT software) is installed in the smartphone. As much as we count on the internet and access to the internet through wireless communication devices, several elements of the overall system lack the reliability necessary for safety control of products. Consequently, smart appliances must incorporate compliance design considerations to prevent hazards caused by problems with the App and in communicating with the App. This includes:

  1. Software Safety & Reliability: For products that have safety critical features that are provided by embedded software, a software safety review can be performed to verify reliability of the software. However, when the software is run on a remote device from which a communication link cannot be guaranteed, the App simply cannot be relied upon for safety. Performing a software safety review on an App cannot overcome the inherent problems with internet connectivity. The product must be designed to “fail safe” in the event of lost communication with the App.
  2. Fault Conditions: Additional App related fault conditions to consider include unexpected activation – if we can sit on our phone and accidentally make a call, the same process can happen with an App, turning “on” or “off” an IoT appliance without the awareness of the user. And of course, don’t let a hacker cause havoc with your product. A wide variety of problems could be caused by an unscrupulous hacker who invades your IoT appliance operating system. Serious safety hazards could be caused including turning on/off an unprepared appliance, or causing the appliance to speed up or slow down leading to overheating or mechanical failure. In a worst case scenario, your customer is sitting near your product when a hacker makes it to turn on unexpectedly, causing an injury to the user or damage to property.

YES, there is a lot to consider!

CertifiGroup can Test & Certify your IoT Products Compliance Assistance Services to help you get it right the 1st time Preliminary Design Reviews, Design Guidance, Training US, Canadian, CE, & International Certifications

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