Certification Strategy for Electronic Product Design

Certification Strategy for Electronic Product Design


“Inspect what you expect.” – Anonymous


Imagine coming to the end of a marathon, only to realize the finish line has suddenly been moved twice as far away. A similar scenario happens when electronic product developers ignore certification until the last moment. For example, a company developed a wireless handheld device and was on the verge of entering mass production when they discovered they needed certification. The testing failed, knocking the project off schedule and budget. After taking the board to a consulting engineering firm, it was discovered that board level changes needed to be made and an entire board spin needed to be done. Ignoring certification caused the project to go $100,000 over budget and 4 months behind schedule.

Great inventions seem to come out of nowhere, but behind every great electronic product is a mountain of details and precise specifications. While juggling software, hardware, and project management, hidden challenges will almost always manifest themselves near the completion of a product. For unseasoned developers, one aspect of electronics development that goes unnoticed until far too late is certification(s). Selling electronic products in an open market requires certifications of various types – waiting too long to address certification related issues usually results in delays, setbacks, and costs that could have been avoided if certifications had been taken into account during the initial concept, feasibility and design phases.

Upon the inception of a product, some basic questions need to be considered. Will my device connect to an outlet or use a battery? Will I need a radio transmitter? What radio frequencies will be generated? Will it be used in/on/near a human or animal? If it is a telecom product, which carriers will I likely want to use? Which countries do I want to sell in? Will the product make use of any encryption technologies? Questions like these help to inform a plan that directs prototype designs and project timelines and budgets.

Determining requirements for mandatory certifications is drawn from the function of your device, but obtaining voluntary certifications may be helpful instilling your users with trust in your product. A familiar Wi-Fi logo lets consumers know the device will work with their setup at home, but would require voluntary certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance. By planning for the appropriate product features, test functionality and documentation, early design decisions can assure your customers recognize the validity and quality of your device.

Certification of electronic devices requires incorporating specific design elements throughout the hardware, software, mechanics, RF and other systems. Appropriate connectors need to be laid out on printed circuit boards, specific testing modes need to be built into the software, and cables must be routed according to appropriate regulations. Incorporating these design features on the first iteration of the device can reduce setbacks, and can also allow for in-house testing to get an early assessment of performance and a high level of confidence in the product before the certification process.

You may have considered just the FCC requirements, but for an incremental cost you can also obtain an IC certification, allowing you to sell in Canada. Did you know that you can’t legally sell a device without FCC certification if FCC certification is required? Did you know that having a radio in your device requires the new RED certification, in addition to the already established Declaration of Conformity for sale of products in Europe? Obtaining certification from the PTCRB or Bluetooth Special Interest group, for example, can also let professionals in your industry know your device protects specific intellectual property and that your product is professionally constructed. The amount of work required to determine what certifications are needed can be daunting, and the large number of agencies and interest groups can make the whole process appear insurmountable. However, leaving the certification process as an afterthought only compounds the complexity and the challenge.

Addressing certification from the outset helps to avoid re-designs, overtime, over-runs, missed deadlines, and missed market opportunities. Since 2003, Device Solutions has provided professional support for electronics product development from proof-of-concept to full product launch. We have the experience preparing for and obtaining certifications and approvals. Our familiarity with the certification process is a direct result of our experiences and successes. Combined with world-class quality and a consistent passion for engineering, Device Solutions can help you integrate certification into your product lifecycle no matter where you currently are in the process.


-Marc Celestini