M2M Device Certification



The concept of selecting a certified cellular M2M module, integrating the hardware and software to work with your device, and activating it on the attending mobile network seems simple enough.

M2M Device Certification
The concept of selecting a certified cellular M2M module, integrating and activating it on a mobile network sounds simple. Stoically, that’s what it takes to bring a product to market with cellular communication (See Figure 1). Yet as experienced developers know, they frequently run into roadblocks and unexpected expenses; lengthening time to market and weakening the overall return on investment. Understanding each phase in device certification processes is the first step toward a successful project.

Getting started with certifications
Of all the phases involved in bringing an M2M connected product to market, the one that is widely regarded as the most complicated and toughest to control is operator approval. In fact, the process of having a networked machine or M2M communications device certified for use on a cellular network is one of the highest and most-overlooked costs of embedding a radio module in a new product.

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Figure 1: Major phases in an M2M device integration project

The operator approval process can be complex and has been known to stall projects, entangle business plans, and cause countless headaches for engineers and developers. The best defense for reducing costs and to expedite the certification process is to have a clear understanding of what hurdles you can encounter and to anticipate what can go wrong. “It’s a laborious process the first time,” says Ken Bednasz, Sr. Director of Application Engineering in charge of Certifications and Compliance for Telit North America www.telit.com, with over ten years’ experience helping customers through M2M device certifications. “Once a customer goes through the process once, then it becomes a little more predictable for the following approvals.”

With so much money and time involved, developers and others familiar with the procedures strongly suggest assessing and formulating a device-certification plan early on in the development process in tandem with the selection of a network and cellular module. “The big issue is that when you choose a module, you have to look at market timing,” says Mike Ueland, senior vice president and general manager of Telit Wireless Solutions North America, “You have to look and assess reasonable certification timing, the impact of delays.”

Multiple layers of certification
Despite the enormous role certification plays in the machine-to-machine development process, it’s not at all unusual for developers to underestimate the expense involved in certifying a device. To help customers navigate through this complexity, top vendors like Telit offer formal services for the various stages of device certification (See Figure 2). As a partner in M2M development, the module provider can help avoid unnecessary costs and minimize time to market with regulatory and operator approvals, integration support and factory support.

Regulatory approvals
The first layer of cellular device certification is regulatory approval. For the U.S., the FCC (www.fcc.gov) establishes type approval parameters. The exact testing required is determined by factors such as electromagnetic discharge and SAR (specific absorption rate). Regulatory approvals are handled differently from country to country. European nations, however, share a common set of guidelines through the Radio and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Directive (http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/rtte), which is often abbreviated R&TTE or RTTE.

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Figure 2: Cellular certification steps

GSM/UMTS Industry approvals
After regulatory approval, the device needs to be certified by an industry review board, with the specific board determined by country or countries where the device will operate and if it will operate on a GSM/WCDMA 3GPP network.

If the product is going to operate on a GSM/WCDMA network in North America, it needs to be certified by an organization named PTCRB, (www.ptcrb.org). In Europe and other markets, 3GPP developers can expect to work with a test lab certified by the Global Certification Forum -GCF (www.globalcertificationforum.org).

CDMA Industry approvals
CDMA technology players joined to form the CDMA Certification Forum Inc. (CCF), www.globalccf.org, a board that authorizes test labs and determines whether a device qualifies for certification. The CCF and its authorized labs certify that a device meets the requirements defined by 3GPP2 specifications.

Operator certification
The final stage of device certification is with the cellular network operator. All of the major embedded modules in the M2M market are certified on at least one network. However, carriers require not only that the cellular module itself be certified, but also the finished product with the embedded module. This means the developer is required to undergo testing for its own products as well.

Value-added services that really add value
Certification help is available from a number of sources. The common source of help is the testing lab the developer retains for board certification. But as the M2M market matures, module providers like Telit tailor new service offerings to map the development project lifecycle. At each step in the project lifecycle, developers have the opportunity to enlist some level of support as needed. Doing so with a partner like Telit that knows its way through device certifications, can dramatically reduce time and cost of wireless product development.

In the case of regulatory or industry approvals, developers can improve their chance of success by having a test labs handle their application to gauge the likelihood of passing the first time. The process can be further simplified if that partner prepares the approval submission and manages the process on the developer’s behalf. The biggest benefits from using value-added-services (VAS) to help with certification can be seen with operator approvals. In particular, module providers with existing relationships with the carriers can help improve the chances of moving more quickly through the process.

Another major value-add from this help with operator certification is field testing and the logistics of managing it. For instance, devices require subscriber identification from the carriers in order to perform field tests, and VAS provider can help the developer obtain them. In these cases, developers can seek out services like software customization and new AT commands; hardware customization such as different connectors. “High value to an integrator is a product that achieves the project goals at a lower per-unit cost and reduced project risk,” says Telit’s Mike Ueland.

A good partner is key to reduce risks and costs
The best chance integrators have to avoid the potential pitfalls of device certification is to become educated on what is involved in the process and to do everything possible to make sure the product achieves certification the first time. By aligning with an established module provider and certification lab to guide them through the development and certification processes, companies can significantly improve their chances of reducing their time and costs, or at least keeping them to a minimum.

Contact Information

Telit Wireless Solutions Inc.

3131 RDU Center Drive
Suite 135
Morrisville, NC, 27560
USA

tele: +1 919 439 7977
toll-free: +1 888 846 9773
fax: +1 919 840 0337
NORTHAMERICA@telit.com
www.telit.com

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