Working with ICAP
There are several ways of engaging with ICAP, largely dependent on the “stage” of the specification. In many cases, founding companies deem their specification is hardened and ready for market deployment. If all agree that an Alliance is needed to formalize the conformance work, then ICAP begins the process of creating the group, establishing insurance, legal aspects and non-for-profit status. ICAP also supports other organizational duties, such as membership recruitment and developing a marketing plan.
Once the structure of the group is established, ICAP moves to the second phase – identifying the test lab and working with the test lab to identify necessary equipment to conduct the assessment. If a test lab has already engaged with the group, ICAP works with the lab and the founding members to establish the test plan. The test plan is a critical component. A weak plan ultimately will not meet the needs of all constituents, will impact market deployment, and may corrode the perceived quality of the specification.
On the other hand, if a test lab has not engaged with the group, ICAP will develop the request for proposal and will vet all submissions. ICAP encourages all test labs to submit proposals if the scope of the work is within their realm.
A test lab can also contact ICAP to create a conformance assessment program after a standard is well established in the market. ICAP would certify the lab for conformance work. This certification becomes a differentiator for the test lab, and hopefully a revenue generating tool.
Assessment and certification is the third phase where Alliance members, product manufacturers and the test lab execute the test plan. Whether in a group setting such as a plug fest, or a one-on-one session at the test lab facilities, this phase determines whether the specification is truly ready for market adoption. In some cases, the Alliance may choose to revise the specification based on assessment results. In other cases, product manufacturers may adjust their design to meet the conformance criteria. Whatever the end result, all entities can be rest assured that the process was free from bias.
Certification and Beyond
The conformance assessment has been completed and the test lab reports that all criteria have been met. ICAP executes the final phase – certification. Based on the structure of the Alliance, licensing fees for the certificates are established and the product manufacturer can go to market with a valuable asset.
A conformance assessment program delivers a return on investment for all constituents. Specification founding members have validated their efforts in a neutral yet structured manner, couched in the foundation of the IEEE. Product manufacturers have eliminated “testing runaround” – spending thousands of man hours and dollars conducting new tests for every potential customer. Purchasing departments also have easy “second source” criteria, putting all vendors on an even playing field. And test houses not only have built a body of work, but established new relationships with potential customers.
ICAP also delivers a financial return on investment to its constituents. Contracting with independent entities to accomplish conformance assessment’s many tasks is expensive, time consuming and potential redundant. Executing only a portion of an assessment program produces only a portion of the benefit, leaving money and questions on the table. And products built to an un-tested specification often fail to gain market share while wasting precious development time.
For more information on ICAP, its partners and current programs visit http://www.ieee-isto.org/ieee-conformity-assessment-program-icap