How to Figure Out What Certifications Your Product Needs
It’s essential to get the right safety certifications when building a new tech product. Certifications show backers that you’ve worked hard to meet specific standards and signal to them that they can trust your brand.
There are a vast number of certifications out there, available from hundreds of organizations worldwide. Your needs will depend on your product type and where you’re trying to sell it. Parsing through certifications can get complicated because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. But failing to get the certifications you need could result in fines or legal action against your company.
To help you get a better understanding of how to think through what certifications you might need, we’ve illustrated three hypothetical products and the certifications they’d need to sell in the United States.
Product Example #1 – Consumer Industry
Product: A karaoke machine marketed to children
Certifications to consider:
- Underwriter Laboratories (UL). Getting third-party validation from this US power safety standard will go a long way towards giving your backers peace of mind. It ensures that your tech product has been tested to specific industry safety standards. Keep in mind that if this product were to be sold in a country outside of the US, there would be other certifications to consider. For example, Canadian Standards Association, or CSA, is a safety standard in Canada, and the European Commission, or CE, is a safety standard in Europe.
- Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (ROHS). This directive aims to reduce the harmful effects of electronics on the environment. It restricts the use of certain hazardous substances in electronic equipment. It’s often referred to as the “lead-free directive,” but it also restricts other dangerous materials, like mercury and cadmium.
- Additional Children’s Safety Standards. When a product is marketed to children, stricter rules can sometimes apply and depend a lot on where your product will be sold. In the US, you’ll need to look into Children’s Product Certificate, or CPC. It certifies that a children’s product complies with applicable children’s product safety rules and would require passing tests administered by a third party.
Product Example #2 – IoT Smart Home
Product: A connected bread maker
Certifications to consider:
- Bluetooth Regulatory Certification. There are three steps to getting certified: A radio qualification that confirms that the radio conforms to the Bluetooth specification, a software qualification that confirms that that the Bluetooth’s stack conforms to the Bluetooth specification, and an End Product Listing (EPL) that confirms that the end product represents a complete Bluetooth wireless solution.
- Federal Communication Commission (FCC). The FCC is a US government agency that regulates communications, and they check all frequencies and output power your device might emit. Your primary protocols in this use case would be Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which work on very narrow frequency. The FCC would check unintentional radiation as well to ensure that the device won’t accidentally interfere with other devices or emit unintended frequencies.
- NSF International (Formerly known as the National Sanitation Foundation). NSF certification is a must if your product will be used to create anything that will be consumed. The NSF performs product testing, analyzes materials and examines factory conditions to uphold public health safety standards and ensure that your product can safely produce food.
Product example #3 – Cellular/IoT
Product: An IoT greenhouse sensor for farming applications
- Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Just like the bread maker, this product would be subject to FCC testing and approval because it transmits signals. But unlike the bread maker, this product’s cellular capabilities mean that it would operate on at least a few frequency bands, depending on the strength of its signal. This could lead to significant interference with other devices — far more so than with just Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The FCC takes the guidelines for the range and scale of cellular networks very seriously, and you could receive fines for failing to follow them.
- Specific Carrier Certifications. Different cellular carriers have different certifications to ensure that they will work on their networks. Once you choose a cellular network for your device, you’ll need to obtain certification from the carrier in order to work with them. Another option to consider is including a certified cellular module in your design. Most carriers have already certified a few of these all-in-one chips to make the process simpler and more direct for people to use their network.
- Battery Pack Certifications. Battery pack certifications affect how your product can be shipped. Worldwide, lithium batteries need to pass UN regulation 38.3 before they are eligible for air freight. From there, the law will vary by nation. In America, the US Department of Transportation requires batteries to abide by Hazardous Materials Regulations known as Title 49 CFR, Sections 100-185. Beyond transportation concerns, lithium batteries also create higher potential danger for an end user, so UL, CE, and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) would require additional tests in order to get certification.