Controlling appliances from anywhere – Is it Sci-Fi?
May be in the past. But not anymore!!
The never-ending advancement in connectivity technology is making this commonplace.
A whole new world of exciting features are available on SMART appliances. Consumers can now sit & relax and let the appliance & their mobile device (tablet or phone) do the chores. SMART appliances provide consumers freedom and flexibility at their fingertips.
Challenges for SMART Appliance Manufacturers
Though there are many advantages of SMART Appliances, there are also many challenges that OEMs should overcome to reach its full potential. This blog is written for the benefit of appliance manufacturers focused on developing markets such as India. The challenges faced in these markets are unique while the expectations are very high.
Consumer expectations present an interesting challenge to the manufacturers and retailers of smart home appliances, pushing them to innovate new capabilities and services. All major appliance makers like Bosch, LG, Samsung, Lloyd and more are gearing up to embrace the challenge and bring next-generation digital appliances to the market. Connectivity is no longer just an add-on, but it is at the core of product positioning and branding.
- Home appliance connectivity should work in the real world with 10s of connected devices around
- Refrigerators or Air Conditioners will run all the day continuously most of the times. WiFi should work as expected for a long duration
- If the AP is in the living room or bedroom and your appliances are in the kitchen, WiFi should work with a high attenuation due to a number of walls in between
- Basic WiFI functionality – change frequency with AP, security, connect / disconnect cycles etc, should work flawlessly
5 Must Do Tests Prior To Release In The Market
We know you do fantastic things on the appliance part and want to do an equally good job on the connectivity part. So here are some tips and leanings from our prior engagements in this area. These scenarios are derived from extensive testing of appliances before they were released in the market. Running these tests will help you avoid a lot of debugging in the field.
1. Range tests
When your appliance is in a house, there is no guarantee that the nearest access point (or device) is at a known distance. Whatever be the condition, smart features are expected to work. Given the usual situation in Indian homes and apartments, there will be multiple concrete walls in between. Tests have to take into account all these factors.
Test the connection status of the wifi enabled appliance at various distances and with a different number of concrete walls in between and measure the performance. This ensures stability in the field irrespective of the actual deployment configuration.
2. Interference tests
In a regular home, WiFi is used for many other operations like voice calls, browsing and video streaming. This creates two types of challenges for an appliance. First is interference. With heavy traffic like video in the air, would the appliance work properly – especially given the distance to the AP. The second challenge faced is traffic priority. For example, voice calls have the highest priority on WiFi. It will be critical to understand how the device will perform under such situations
In addition interference could also be caused by large numbers of additional devices, Access Points in the vicinity.
Interference tests shall ensure that appliance works properly under different interference conditions.
3. Long duration tests
Connected devices may face issues related to sending connection and disconnection requests when operated for a long duration.The challenge for the manufacturers will be making sure that the Appliance is connected with the AP & able to transmit/receive data all the time. It is almost mandatory that a stable and reliable network connection should be maintained between the AP & the appliance for tens to hundreds of hours.
Long duration connection and data transmission tests ensure that the appliance is able to maintain connection, receive commands and send out status messages for extended periods of time under varying radio conditions. These tests could involve the stability of the connection under low to severe interference.
4. Negative tests
Radio and environmental operating conditions are not always Ideal. This is particularly true in the case of developing (and potentially large) markets such as India. It is important to test for negative scenarios as well to account for such scenarios. Negative tests cover scenarios such as
a) Frequent Power recycles,
b) Channel is busy for a long time
c) Co-channel / adjacent channel interference
d) Channel switches from AP
5. AP compatibility tests
There is a whole range of APs in the market – from super expensive enterprise-grade powerhouses to cheap, barely alive boxes. With varying power profiles, standards adherence (a/b/g/n/ac/ax), chipsets etc., none of these Access Points behave alike. Is your appliance capable of talking to every one of these APs all the time? It is not enough that the appliance connects and works well with one Access Point you have in your lab or office. A planned interoperability test is necessary to ensure that your support team does not waste time firefighting every time the end user has a different type of access point.
It is important to check the Home Appliances compatibility with most common APs in a given market. Depending on the market you are going after, collect the most common Access Points and run extensive tests with each AP.
Alethea has an Independent Test Lab that offers a complete test solution. We can define test cases depending on your market / technology / product specification, execute the tests, analyze the results & debug the issues based on results & logs. We help manufacturers ensure that the connectivity experience of the appliances they develop meet or exceed expectations. Our dedicated team with extensive expertise in testing & benchmarking of WiFi devices is always ready to help you deliver on your promises to your customers.