by Nisha Bhaskaran, Certification Program Director of SpireSpark International
Today’s consumer homes are filled with electronic devices of various brands and types. Recording moments of our lives as digital content and storing them has become a part of our life.
We capture our precious moments as audio, pictures and videos on our phones, laptops, cameras; store them on portable storage disks or NAS devices; and would love to play them on our digital displays at any location
As we have moved from CD/DVD libraries to tons of movies and songs on our digital storage devices- USBs, NAS devices, laptops, phones, and in the cloud; we can play our favourite shows, movies and songs anywhere, everywhere and at any time.
We have great devices being developed worldwide for all this but the KEY issue is Interoperability! We may have the best of the devices, but if they fail to work with the devices that consumers already have, or if they fail to connect in varied situations/locations, the purpose is defeated.
When should we work towards Interoperability in the Life cycle
The common mistake made is when the Interoperability tests for a device are conducted only at the end of the development life cycle. As we know, the later the issues are found in the product the more expensive it is to fix the issue. A late fix in the code, followed by testing every connecting feature, is much more expensive in terms of time, effort and money than performing these Interoperability tests as a regular practice as part of development.
Almost all successful connectivity standards have a full-fledged certification process. This includes a complete Certification Test Plan and Test Tools to test devices early in their product life cycle. It is highly recommended that companies make use of the Certification Tools, Content and Test Plans from these standards working groups to identify and fix Interoperability issues early in the life cycle.
As the top level requirements of any product are being written, companies must begin to formulate the high level use cases by which this device will work with other devices in the market.
Once the low level requirements stage is reached, the details on types of devices the product will need to work with; the means of network connectivity (for example: Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, USB, etc.); and the types of media content that the device needs to serve up or play needs to be thoroughly understood and documented.
As development of the device begins, each feature should be tested by the development team with the Certification Tools provided by each of the Standards Groups for the tests applicable for the features being developed. If there are no tools available, manual testing of each of the interoperability requirements must be performed.
Finally during the Testing stage, since most of the Compliance and Interoperability testing per feature is already performed, the chance of finding a critical issue with a particular feature is minimal. The testing can now focus on the interoperability of each operation of the device with other operations and also with every other device it will need to interoperate with. Real-life scenario interoperability tests need to be performed to understand how a device will perform for consumers. For such tests, a detailed study of the most probable devices that will be used needs to be performed and interoperable devices for the same need to be purchased and tested.
Why should we test at Interoperability Test Labs
There are several test labs worldwide specializing in certification testing and performing interoperability tests. They have an extensive inventory of products to use in interoperability testing. Companies without full interop labs of their own can avail themselves of these labs for testing and certifying. Even if the company has a full interop lab it can be very helpful to have a third party do some pre-testing as well as the certification tests.
Why is Certification needed
Certifying devices for the Technology Standards they support goes a long way in having fool proof interoperability testing performed and the logos placed on the device helps consumers identify those devices which are surely to work at their end.
When devices enter a consumer home, namely- televisions, home theatre systems, storage devices, laptops, music systems, mobile phones, cameras, etc., often before exploring anything else about the device, the consumer needs the new device to work with their existing devices. Failure or glitches during this process leads to consumer frustration, return of products, post-release defects and brand value damage. Having a strong set of Interoperability Planning, Tests and Execution would help companies build the consumer confidence and build robust Interoperable devices- irrespective of its device type, brand and features.