5 Essential Prototyping Tests for IoT Products

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Creating a successful prototype can be hard work, especially for IoT products. Because they consist of two to three integrated interfaces—physical hardware, a mobile application, and a web application—IoT products require a special degree of planning and testing.

IoT prototypes also need careful refinement to ensure they function seamlessly in a variety of situations and mobile platforms. Your product might be used in numerous environmental settings with different signal conditions - will it be up to the challenge?

Read on to discover the five tests your prototype should pass to ensure it will work once manufactured on a large scale.

1. Basic Connectivity Test

You should test your product’s connectivity as early as possible. Ideally, connectivity will be shown during the proof of concept phase. A basic connectivity test will confirm whether your prototype can function as an IoT product.
By testing to see if your product can connect to its endpoint, (whether it be Wi-Fi, cellular, Bluetooth, etc.)  you increase the likelihood that your product will work for different configurations. 

2. Output Power Test

Any product that relies on a wireless, Bluetooth, or cellular connection features a transmitter with a specific power level and threshold. You need to know how powerful a connection your transmitter can make to the corresponding mobile device. For example, can your device connect wirelessly through walls, or across a room that is 30 feet away? Can your device pick up a cellular tower located miles away? Consider all the types of physical obstacles your product might encounter and refine your design and component selection until the product is up to the task. 

3. FCC Regulation Test

Any communications device has very specific frequency and power ranges at which it is legally allowed to transmit. If your device doesn’t fit these ranges precisely enough, it might interfere with other devices. The Federal Communications Commission regulates IoT products for this very reason. FCC equipment certification application fees can cost several thousand dollars—and you can’t push your product to market without this certification. If you purchase a Wi-Fi module that is already FCC-certified, it’s more likely that the FCC will be able to certify your project in a more timely manner. Be sure to include one in your Bill of Materials (BOM). Because FCC regulations are so complex, it’s a good idea to consult with professionals, like those available to you through the Arrow Certification Program.

4. Electromagnetic Interference Test

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) occurs when one electromagnetic field comes in contact with another. Electronic IoT products are particularly prone to EMI from outside sources; EMI may interfere with other people’s signals, but it’s more likely to cause problems within your own product. If you don’t have access to a professional lab, you can use computer software to conduct relevant simulations, although it may still be necessary to seek professional help to predict EMI interference accurately. One common solution for eliminating EMI is placing an EMI suppressor over the transmitting components while leaving other components outside. The cage allows the components to transmit their signal outward but prohibits EMI from seeping back into the circuit.

5. Thermal Test

If your product will remain indoors, its climate might still change significantly. Overheating—a common problem in poorly ventilated rooms or hot climates—can irrevocably ruin delicate electronic components and might lead to fire, explosion, or injury. Without access to a professional lab, you can test for overheating with simple thermal camera attachment for your iPhone. Record the temperatures of major board components or hot spots, then adjust the environment to see how the product reacts with each temperature change. Address any overheating problems within your board by replacing materials with more heat resistant alternatives or installing overheating prevention tools, such as fans or heat sinks.
 
After your IoT prototype passes each of these five tests your product will be much closer to being ready for manufacturing. It will also be easier for your end users to incorporate it into their daily lives.

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Looking for help with prototyping? Join the Arrow Certification Program today for access to engineering support, design tools, funding opportunities and more. 
 

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