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Interoperability of Advanced WiFi Tech in Homes

Change is constant in the IoT space and can include many updates and technology advances that have sped up to keep up with the market due to consumer needs for faster and more reliable services. Will your smart devices work flawlessly with the various real-world combinations that can exist in many homes today?

Smart home

April 15, 2020

Do your smart devices “just work” out of the box?

You only have one chance to make a great first impression. 


Testing your product only for protocol compliance could check a box off your list, but it may leave customers rushing to their computer to write a bad product review. When consumers purchase a new Internet of Things (IoT) device such as a smart speaker, thermostat or lighting system, they fully expect it to “just work” right out of the box. They want to plug it in, follow the setup instructions and have the smart device work perfectly.


A wide range of Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Thread and Bluetooth routers and different mobile phones have been sold over the years. Combine this with a new advanced technology standard like Wi-Fi 6 (also known as 802.11AX) and newly released mobile phones with the latest operating systems like Android 10 or Apple iOS 13. Taken together, you need to ask yourself, “Are your smart devices ready for prime time? Will they work flawlessly with the various real-world combinations that can exist in many homes today?”


Staggering permutations

Change is constant in the IoT space and can include many updates and technology advances that have sped up to keep up with the market due to consumer needs for faster and more reliable services:

  • Wi-Fi 6, 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, dual band, tri-band, mesh networks
  • Dozens of router and gateway brands using different Wi-Fi chipsets
  • New mobile phones using the latest operating systems coupled with older phones using older versions
  • Different mobile app configurations on Android and Apple iOS operating systems


With all these factors in seemingly staggering permutations and combinations, ensuring the interoperability of your device seems daunting. But it has never been more important to deliver products that are simple to use, reliable and compatible with consumers’ existing high-functioning electronic devices.


UL provides rigorous interoperability and quality testing that will help manufacturers address the constant technology changes, while overcoming the three key fundamental challenges that plague today’s consumer user experience:

  1. Being able to easily get the smart product connected
  2. Ensuring devices continually stay connected
  3. Delivering on the device’s intended features


Why is interoperability important?

When a consumer buys a new smart device, their expectations are high. If the device doesn’t “just work” when they plug it in, they have several options that have potentially negative impacts on the brands of the device manufacturer and the retailer that sold it.


First, the consumer may return the device for a refund. And while that may sound like the worst possible outcome, consumers have other options available to them that might have longer lasting and deeper consequences for the manufacturer. For example, a dissatisfied consumer could write a bad review of the product online.


“With access to countless online reviews and commentary on social media networks, consumers are now more informed, connected and empowered than ever before,” said John Tran, UL interoperability expert. “In addition to bad product reviews, the consumer may call the manufacturer’s customer support line, imposing additional costs on the manufacturer, cutting into its already tight margins.”


“Consumers are armed with information and ready to be loyal to a brand,” he continued. “But most consumers are either too busy or don’t think they should be required to have the patience to figure out a connectivity issue if the device doesn’t connect or work optimally right out of the box. That is why it is so critical for IoT device manufacturers to work with us. We want your products to work in more homes — homes that may contain a variety of technologies and in combinations that many manufacturers are not equipped to test for themselves.”


How does UL do it?

The wide range of Wi-Fi routers and mobile phones sold over the years, combined with advanced technologies that are now starting to appear in the market, present a significant connectivity challenge to the IoT smart device industry. To help combat this, we use a reality-based approach to testing products.


“With an extensive library of mobile phones, and a diverse selection of Wi-Fi routers on hand, our experienced engineers take a consumer-centric approach to testing smart products,” Tran said. “We don’t just test one component or one element of a system. We test the entire ecosystem with real-world use cases. We evaluate how your product performs together with a lineup of common consumer products. In other words, we test in the same way most consumers typically use the product. It’s the only way we can test smart devices to ensure compatibility across a wide range of mobile phones, routers, operating systems and mobile apps for usability and provide quality testing at the same time.”


With our testing expertise to help identify problems early, you will be able to:

  • Improve customer out-of-box-experience
  • Minimize calls into customer support
  • Reduce product returns
  • Improve product and online app star reviews
  • Reinforce your brand’s reputation
  • Help drive increased sales


For more information for interoperability solutions for internet of things, visit our service page.