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Creating a successful prototype is a lengthy process, 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. Backers might use your product with different kinds and strengths of connections, miles away from a cell tower, or in a hot room. Will your product 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 and, ultimately, when it is in your backers’ hands.
Basic connectivity test
A basic connectivity test will confirm whether your prototype can function as an IoT product. This test sounds obvious, but it’s still important to explore the many connectivity scenarios your backers might face.
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 backers’ specific configurations. (Tip: Indiegogo + Arrow’s partnership with AT&T offers resources that can help you conduct these tests.)
You should test your product’s connectivity as early as possible. Ideally, connectivity will be proven during the proof of concept phase, before your entire prototype (complete with a polished exterior) is up and running.
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 of a connection your transmitter can make.
For example, can your device connect wirelessly through walls made from different materials, or in a room that is 300 square feet (the size of a large living room)? Can your device pick up a cellular tower located miles away? Can your device respond to Bluetooth from across the room?
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. Otherwise, backers might be forced to sit next to their routers when using their brand-new product.
FCC regulation test
Any communications device has very specific frequency ranges at which it is legally allowed to transmit. If your device doesn’t fit this range 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 as much as $15,000—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 certify your entire product. 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, about adherence.
Electromagnetic interference test
Electromagnetic interference (EMI) occurs when one electromagnetic field comes in contact with another. Electronic circuits are particularly prone to EMI from outside conductors– a frequent occurrence with IoT products. EMI may interfere with other people’s signals, but it’s more likely to cause transmitting problems within your own product.
If you don’t have access to a professional lab, you can use computer software to conduct relevant simulations. 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 around transmitting components and leaving other parts outside. The cage allows the components to transmit their signal outward but prohibits EMI from seeping in.
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 electrical circuit components, and might even lead to fire, explosion, and injury.
Without access to a professional lab, you can test for overheating with simple thermal camera attachment for your iPhone. Record the temperatures of electrical board parts, then adjust the environment to see how the product’s electrical board reacts with each temperature change.
Address any overheating problems within your board by replacing fragile materials with more heat resistant alternatives or installing overheating prevention tools, such as additional 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 backers to incorporate it into their daily lives.
Looking for help with prototyping? The Arrow Certification Program offers access to a free engineering consultation, among other benefits.