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Here’s How to Make Your Smart Home Product Design More Reliable

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Mallory McGuinness | January 7, 2021

Global revenue in the smart home market is projected to reach $175,985 million by 2025, with an annual growth rate of 15.3%. While an array of ‘early adopter’ smart home products are being released, including intelligent smoke alarms, connected heating and hot water systems (radiators, boilers), and remote access garage door controls, revenue continues to be dominated by more mainstream smart home products including internet-connected TVs, doorbell cameras, and smart home assistants. Ultimately, this segment’s market growth will depend on prospective users perceiving clear benefits coupled with acceptable levels of risk of all products within the market.

Smart home technologies are built on the backs of sensors, interfaces, monitors, devices, and appliances networked together, enabling automation and localized remote control of the domestic environment.

Monitors and sensors collect and transmit data about this environment, including light, humidity, motion, and temperature. These different smart home technologies are networked, typically wirelessly, introducing enhanced control functionality and monitoring into homes. This priority of connectivity elevates network devices such as routers, switches, hubs, and modems to a level of criticality in smart home reliability.

As a product designer, engineer, or OEM, it’s your job to mitigate risk while delivering functionality and convenience benefits through your smart home product designs. This balance can be achieved by ensuring these critical connected components are protected from threats expected in the household, including humidity, splashes, cleaning fluids, spills, and more.

View our webinar on how to improve automotive electronic performance in harsh service environments.

Are Ingress Protection Standard Tests an Accurate Way to Gauge Reliability?

Traditionally, consumer electronics device protection is rated with an ingress protection (IP) standard (or IP rating). IP standards measure how well electronic protection keeps corrosives, contaminants, and other hazards out of consumer electronic products. The standards are denoted as IP, followed by a two-digit number (i.e., IP67). The first integer represents protection against dust or particle ingress, while the second number represents protection against moisture ingress. As a rule of thumb, the higher the number, the more “protected” the device is.

Download our IP Rating Checklist to learn if your product is as protected as it needs to be.  

IP Ratings Don’t Tell the Whole Story

Suppose a smart home appliance were to fail after exposure to something as standard in the domestic environment as humidity, steam from a shower, or a drop into tap water. This failure could cause irrevocable damage, putting a halt on smart home technology functionality.

This issue could then cascade, causing consumers to lose trust in brands and smart home technology products, increase the burden of repairs and warranty claims on OEMs, eventually even leading to a recall. Consumer electronics manufacturers seek to put consumers at ease, decreasing perceptible risk by designing to and emphasizing IP ratings, which frequently appear in marketing messaging.

However, due to their limitations, the IP testing protocol is an inadequate gauge to provide this type of confidence for the vast array of hazards found in the home. IP Standard testing requirements are not a reasonable proxy for actual household use.

Issues with IP Standards

Three issues present themselves with IP standard testing.

  • First, products are tested only based on exposure to “clean” water. This testing doesn’t apply to tap water.
  • Second, IP standard tests place significant limitations on crucial test parameters, such as the depth of water exposure or the duration of time underwater.
  • Third, IP ratings only evaluate brand new “out of the box” devices.   

As a product designer, engineer, or OEM, it’s your job to mitigate risk while delivering functionality and convenience benefits through your smart home product designs.

Trust HZO to Protect Your Consumer Electronic Products

Given the limitations mentioned above, IP Standards are not a great measuring stick for how well device protection works outside the lab and inside the home. HZO protects PCBAs and components with thin-film coatings that deposit uniformly – and directly – onto their surfaces, effectively making your product more resilient from the inside out.

With our nanocoatings and thin-film solutions, such as our unique take on Parylene conformal coating, we can meet or exceed any IP rating and go beyond these testing confines, protecting devices from salt, sweat, cleaning liquids, and other threats that the IP standard tests don’t address.

If you are looking for a tailored solution to meet your business and application needs, we encourage you to reach out to us today for a consultation. Don’t stay up at night, worrying about how reliable your products are in the face of circumstances beyond your control. Put your product in good hands – when it comes to coatings, we’ve got you covered.

IP Standards are not a great measuring stick for how well device protection works outside the lab and inside the home.

Mallory McGuinness

Mallory is an electronics protection evangelist who writes content for HZO. In her free time she is reading non-fiction, and hanging out with her beta fish, King Awesome.

Ryan MooreRyan Moore

Ryan is a 9-year veteran to the world of protecting electronics from harsh environments and a lover of all things technology.

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