Testing hidden tech for use in North America

Author : Jason Wei | Senior Technical Manager, Electrical & Electronics | SGS

01 July 2020

SGS hidden technology_580x280
SGS hidden technology_580x280

Hidden technology encompasses everything from wireless chargers to watches that track steps & monitor heart rate, interactive mirrors that aid work outs, smart utility meters, NFC (near field communication) contactless payment systems and vehicles that unlock by proximity to the key. The common characteristic is that the true functionality of the technology remains hidden.

This article was originally featured in the July 2020 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

Powered by electronics, such hidden tech typically requires testing and certification to access specific geographic markets. Inspection, verification, testing & certification company, SGS has considerable experience in helping manufacturers successfully access E&E (electrical & electronic) markets around the world. With its worldwide network of laboratories, SGS can assist with EMC & RF testing, alongside comprehensive quality, safety and performance testing solutions. Here, Jason Wei, Senior Technical Manager, Electrical & Electronics at SGS explains how it can help manufacturers of hidden technology understand and access markets in North America.

This is a growing global market. Wireless charging, for example, is expected to grow annually by 60% between 2017 and 2025 – estimated at $3,347 million in 2017, it is expected to reach $145,338 million by 2025. And this trend is predicted across the whole hidden technology market.

Part of the appeal of hidden technology is its utility. For example, modern automobiles are full of driving aids that use vehicle-to-every-thing (v2x) devices. This includes forward collision warning, blind spot warning, intersection movement assist and roadworks warning. The technology employed to create these features is either wireless local area network (WLAN) based or cellular based.

The technology incorporated into hidden tech is not without weak spots. For example, radio frequency identification (RFID) used in credit card chips can be used by criminals to steal money. There are also plenty of examples of technology failing to synchronise with other devices and, more worryingly, children becoming trapped in vehicles when keys fail.

To ensure hidden tech conforms to relevant standards for the North American market, manufacturers are advised to work with a service provider that covers multiple sectors. For example, a table with wireless charging capabilities would need to conform to both furniture and electrical & electronic (E&E) standards. The manufacturer should also be aware that regulations will differ between markets, so regulatory compliance requires a robust understanding of the requirements demanded in each target market.

For many hidden tech products, a good starting point is IEC 62368-1:2018 (Audio/video, information & communication technology equipment – Part 1: Safety requirements). This safety standard for devices is recognised across many markets.

Since many hidden tech articles rely on wireless systems, the manufacturer also needs to consider the requirements governing the RF spectrum. In the US, this is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 15, is the primary regulatory requirement covering most products. It covers ‘unlicensed’ devices, meaning products that don’t require the end user to hold a license.

v2x technology is different. It comes under ‘licensed’ devices, although the license is often held by the carrier, as in the case of cell phones. These products are also regulated under Title 47, but certification is performed using different parts. Typically, cellphones come under Parts 22, 24, and 27, and v2x devices operate under Part 90 for on-board units and Part 95 for road-side units. Stakeholders should be aware some parts of cell phones, for example Bluetooth and WLAN, remain ‘unlicensed’.

In Canada, ‘license exempt’ operates in roughly the same way as the FCC’s ‘unlicensed’. The radio standards specifications (RSS) that apply to this kind of device range from RSS-210 to RSS-288. The primary standard covering technologies such as Bluetooth and WLAN is RSS-247. One difference between Canada and the US is that v2x are ‘license exempt’ in Canada and are covered by RSS-252.

Other licensed products are covered by RSS-111 to RSS-199. Specifically, cellular devices (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G) are typically covered by RSS-130, RSS-132, RSS-137 and RSS-139. And Bluetooth and WLAN are not the only IoT technologies available to manufacturers. Around the globe, they may also utilise ANT+, LoRa or Z-Wave.

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