Here’s a word of warning before you bargain-hunt your next phone accessory: A 2016 UL technical investigation of 400 fake Apple chargers found that 99 percent failed a basic safety test. All but three of the 400 off-brand chargers were potentially hazardous and 12 “were so poorly designed and constructed that they posed a risk of lethal electrocution to the user.”

There are product standards, testing and certification procedures meant to keep these unsafe products out of our hands.

“Product testing and certifications do not create quality, but they ensure a product is designed and manufactured with quality as a primary objective,” writes Bill Dehner, technical marketing engineer for AutomationDirect, and Tim Dunn, design engineer for Host Engineering, in Design News.

RIoT’s most recent Lunch & Learn about Product Safety discussed these processes and the overall product certification process.

The session’s speaker, Amber Cobb, is an Account Executive with TÜV SÜD, a 150-year-old company founded in the 1800s to inspect steam boilers. While their mission “to protect people and the environment from technology-related risks” has not changed, the products they test certainly have—TÜV SÜD now offers a comprehensive portfolio of testing, certification, auditing and advisory services for the technology in Industry 4.0.

The certification process is as varied and custom as your neighborhood Starbucks menu. First, there are different standards that apply to different products. There are also lots of different kinds of tests you have to do in order to achieve certification. And since different countries require different types of certifications, your process will vary depending on where you’re going to market.

Not to mention, no matter what your blend of standards and certification, the process isn’t easy. For example, EMC testing, which measures the strength of electromagnetic fields that your product generates to ensure it falls within FCC limits, is a common test for consumer products – and 50% of consumer electronics products fail EMC testing during their first pass.

But through the Lunch & Learn, Amber made the overall certification and testing world feel more accessible – she reviewed the overall process for different kinds of certifications and even shared estimated timelines, documentation requirements, and cost tables.

Here’s a summary of Amber’s advice for product developers:

  • It’s never too early to talk to the test lab! Don’t wait until certification time to make that connection.
  • Buy a copy of whatever standard applies to your device. There are product safety standards for every kind of product, from playground equipment to candles. Find the standard that applies to your device, and design to meet that standard.
  • Use pre-approved components. And don’t trust a claim that a component is “designed to meet standards”—that’s not a certifiable statement, it’s a marketing statement. Confirm the validation number so you know that what you’re using is truly a pre-certified module.
  • Don’t design your own power supply. Speaking of pre-certified modules, don’t design your own power supply (or adjust a pre-approved power supply, since that invalidates it). Use a pre-approved power module.
  • Gather your documentation ahead of time. Prepare your technical file, which includes all documentation requested by the lab. Have a draft of your manual ready for review, and prepare all the other needed information (i.e. contact information, address for manufacturing). You’ll save time and money by investing in your documentation.

And a final piece of advice:

  • Ensure that your product is functional before sending to the lab. Amber clarified that yes, she has to say this, because it’s actually pretty common for organizations to want to start the certification process before their device is fully functional. While it’s never too early to begin talking to the testing lab, Amber strongly recommends that organizations only send fully functional products through the expensive and time-consuming certification process.

RIoT’s next Lunch & Learn event, An Introduction to the Internet of Things, will be hosted by Arrow Electronics on January 24th in Raleigh.

The next official RIoT event is Smart and Connected Gigabit Cities with US Ignite on January 22nd in Durham.

RIoT is also partnering with the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) to host a pitch night on Feb. 12th and a half-day conference about Building Intelligent Infrastructures on Feb. 15th.

Follow RIoT at for news, updates about partners like TÜV SÜD, and more upcoming Lunch & Learn events.


TÜV SÜD is an independent testing company, offering impartiality in all audit, test, inspection and certification activities for regulatory compliance.

RIoT is a non-profit economic development organization capturing and creating IoT opportunities locally, regionally, and globally.