New Standards for a Digital Age

8/7/2012

Today’s society expects information to be available digitally. So why do manufacturers still rely on printed labels to identify wireless devices? Because it’s the law of the land—at least for now. And this is just one potential change headed our way as a result of the influx of M2M (machine-to-machine)-connected devices.

This week, the TIA (Telecommunications Industry Assn.), www.tiaonline.org, petitioned the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), www.fcc.gov, to consider permitting manufacturers to label wireless devices electronically. As it stands today, TIA says the FCC requires permanently affixed labels for most wireless devices. The labels provide identifying information such as a device-specific FCC number.

In the TIA’s petition, it says the purpose of the label requirement is to make it clear the device has been properly certified by the FCC. However, the current labeling rules were first standardized several decades ago. Since that time, many changes have occurred in the consumer-electronics market. Mobile-device manufacturers are looking to create new and innovative designs that in some cases may be held back by the current labeling requirements.


Perhaps more importantly, consumer expectations for information delivery have changed. Whereas in the past, a physical label was the best option to present consumers with device-identification information, electronic labels make more sense today. The TIA suggests electronics labels could be prominently displayed within a device’s user interface upon start up and/or shut down. If made electronic, labels could even contain additional information about device care or warranty.

The benefits for manufacturers could be immense. Electronic labeling could help manufacturers cut back on expenses and avoid printing/etching mistakes—savings that may trickle down to the consumer. The TIA says there is even a framework already in place for electronic labeling because it is allowed for certain types of radio devices.

In its petition, the TIA says the electronic-labeling option should remain optional, but the association believes the change would encourage wireless-device manufacturers to innovate, while helping them streamline operations and offer connected devices to end users at a lower pricepoint.

For the end users themselves, electronic labeling will most likely not affect how we use wireless devices. However, the option to have not only device-identification information, but warranty and customer-service information available digitally is more in line with today’s trend toward digital data.

This is just one example of how device data is creating a need for new standards, rules, and regulations by governing bodies in the wireless-communications industry. Earlier this summer, two wireless carriers, T-Mobile, www.t-mobile.com, and Verizon Wireless, www.verizonwireless.com, joined cellular-booster manufacturer Wilson Electronics, www.wilsonelectronics.com, to encourage new technical standards for signal boosters.

As more businesses and consumers look to M2M-enabled connected devices and systems, there is more need to access reliable cellular signals than ever before. As society has entered a new territory with its wireless-device use, new issues have also surfaced—in this case, creating booster standards that avoid network interference. For petitioning bodies—whether they are associations, service providers, or device manufacturers—it all comes down to delivering the best-possible product or service to the customer.

The FCC seems to have its hands full dealing with the various implications of the M2M revolution. From spectrum issues to network interference, all the way down to the way wireless devices are labeled, M2M is changing the game, and we must change the rules to keep up.




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