The Internet of Things—a newly realized vision of our world in which electronic devices interact with one another—is really not so new of a concept. In 1989, the first IoT device was engineered by John Romkey. In response to a dare, Romkey designed a smart toaster that connected to the internet using TC/IP networking, a toaster that could control the temperature of your toast and, in a later model, insert and extract your bread for you using a robotic crane. An impractical yet remarkable invention, the smart toaster was the first in a line of creations that would pave the way to the IoT ecosystem of the 21st century and beyond.
But designing IoT devices isn’t as easy as connecting previous products to the internet. The IoT ecosystem is delicate and vulnerable to cyberattacks. In addition, designing the products themselves comes with three key challenges.
Key Challenges to Designing IoT Products
The first challenge many designers face is deciding which module to use.
Many designers opt for buying and integrating pre-certified modules into their design rather than creating a custom RF design. There’s no problem with this method; in fact, if done correctly, it could save you a lot of time. Some designers, however, do not employ this method correctly. It is often assumed that because the module is pre-certified, it does not need to be tested for compliance. This is incorrect. Any host product manufacturer employing a pre-certified wireless transmitter module must comply with FCC guidance materials and perform transmitter module verification testing to ensure the final product complies with the FCC’s rules. The FCC recommends manufacturers employing pre-certified modules follow the below guidelines:
Review the modular transmitter test reports on the FCC’s website.
For licensed cellular transmitters, identify whether the modular emits anything other than harmonics.
If the product’s transmitter emissions are high and will likely exceed limits, communicate with the module manufacturer to contemplate better mitigation techniques.
If the end product exceeds spurious emissions or output power limits, do not market the product in the U.S. Instead, solve the product’s non-compliance issues.
Designers can purchase FCC pre-certified IoT RF modules without the need for further compliance testing unless modifications are made to the module. If modifications are made then further testing is required. While employing a pre-certified module can save you time in the design process, incorporating the wrong module could cause delays in the design schedule and cost you money. Before choosing a module, consider the following factors:
Will it cost more to buy a module than to build one?
How will the module affect the device’s security?
How much power will the module consume?
Will you need to make modifications to the module?
Is the module interchangeable?
Is the module robust?
What are the requirements and regulations for the product you’re designing and how will they affect this decision?
If you answer these questions and weigh your options beforehand, then you’ll be able to select the right choice for your product, saving your company time and money.
Another challenge designers face is design complexity.
Because IoT devices are so much more complex than their counterparts, designers often find it frustrating, costly, and time-consuming to debug such systems. EMC testing labs can help with this process, but if you’re looking to debug your device on your own, you’ll need EMC testing equipment. Spectrum Analyzers, Vector Signal Generators, and Oscilloscopes will help you test your device for any issues so you can debug your design.
While you’ll need to have your product tested for EMC compliance by an accredited testing lab, using this equipment during the design cycle will help minimize the costs of EMC testing by ensuring your product doesn’t fail.
And that brings us to our final challenge: passing EMC compliance testing.
Passing compliance testing with a regular device is difficult enough, but passing with an IoT device is even more difficult due to these devices’ complexity. Additional intentional radiator testing is needed due to wireless capabilities, and with so many different components working near one another, IoT devices face a plethora of EMI challenges.
Finding a testing laboratory that can work with your design team and around your unique schedule is key. At Rhein Tech, we provide last minute scheduling and scheduling flexibility, something that other testing labs simply do not offer. Our engineers are equipped to help you with your IoT product testing, and we even provide shielding effectiveness testing; RF site surveys; and on-site surveys for larger products.
If your designers aren’t equipped to debug or pre-test your devices for EMI, don’t worry. We provide this too, and if your device does happen to fail, we won’t send you back to the drawing board. Unlike other labs, we’ll offer design solutions so you pass the second time around.
Want to know more? Request a quote today!