For someone who runs a testing and certification program for a global standards organization, 2021 began with all the hallmarks of a perfect storm. Global COVID implications meant fewer people were gathering together, and for a certification program that had traditionally relied on face-to-face testing “events”, that created a tremendous challenge. Couple that with an international silicon chip shortage and you’d think the results would be disastrous.
Like many organizations, the Connectivity Standards Alliance, had to reimagine this facet of doing business. We quickly set about creating new hardware and software tools that would allow our member companies to enter a virtual test scenario to schedule and track testing and results. This of course was a quick course correction from business as usual and the expectation might be that we would experience a significant decline in certifications. Especially since 2020 had been a record year for the organization.
But if 2021 could be characterized in a single word, it would be resilience - both for our organization and the hundreds of member companies and thousands of engineers who deliver solutions for IoT interoperability. We were able to complete a record number of test events - hosting more than 38 virtual events across all our standards and working groups. This included our seventh Matter test event, which was record-breaking with over 130 devices under test from over 50 different companies. Certifications also stood up in the face of change as well. As of the middle of December, we’re actually tracking to 95 percent of the certifications that were completed last year.
While our certifications held pace, we did experience a shift in the percentages of certifications by geography, with significant increase in the percentage of certifications, from 50% in 2020 to 65% in 2021, coming out of Europe. Perhaps this is tied to how geographies handled lock down and return to work.
Nonetheless, to maintain our high level of certifications, incredible test event participation and the quality of the program was a testament to the dedication and resilience of our members and organization.
So, what should we be expecting out of 2022 with regard to testing and certification for IoT interoperability?
Zigbee, the underlying technology that has ushered in the era of mesh networking for homes and business and utility network efficiency, put in place a brand-new unified testing harness (ZUTH) in 2021 that enables more efficient and effective pre-test of designs against requirements of our standards. Members have been downloading this tool since its release and we’re expecting this to make a big impact on the speed and quality of the certification process for Zigbee Base Device Behavior, Green Power and Zigbee Cluster Library (ZCL) revision 8.
Matter, the latest standard under development, will allow disparate IoT devices from participating CSA member manufacturers to communicate with one another over IP based transports. Effectively eliminating many of the walls in the current IoT walled garden ecosystem. We’re already planning for additional test events in 2022 for Matter. By the middle of the year, we’ll have in place certification and testing tools as the specification and SDK are formally released. This will include certification across our all program types – product, platform, and certification by similarity, as well as some new testing programs for Matter applications. This of course has huge implications for speed-to-market for new hardware and innovations.
As someone who has led certification and testing programs of technology standards for decades, I’d have to say 2021 was my most challenging professionally. While I wouldn’t necessarily want to repeat the challenge, I’d have to say it has also been the most rewarding. To see the resilience with which our member companies faced the headwinds of a global pandemic and its associated roadblocks, I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish in 2022.