Lately, it seems like everything and everyone are connected to a larger network of electronic devices. These range from the obvious smartphones and laptops to the most surprising devices such as refrigerators and toothbrushes. Obviously, this can be tremendously convenient for almost all citizens of the world. However, it can also lead to some problems.
A vast network of wirelessly-linked devices provides quite a bit of radio static, electronic noise that can interfere with more essential radio communications. These include phone calls to emergency services or public broadcast systems in case of disasters such as wildfires and tsunamis. With this in mind, some form of regulation was inevitable.
In the Commonwealth of Australia, that regulation falls to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
Due to the Radio communications Act of 1992 , the ACMA was given the responsibility of regulating electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) on Australian soil. Compliance with the EMC standards can be tricky. But to maintain vital communications, the ACMA enforces all those standards on all devices within Australia. There are three levels of EMC compliance requirements. Each depends on the amount of electromagnetic emissions the device produces. Suppliers of these devices must reach certain mandatory standards before selling their devices in Australia.
Low-risk devices produce next to no electromagnetic emissions. These devices include:
• Battery-powered torches;
• Electronic timepieces;
• Pocket calculators; and
• Battery-operated toys
These devices, while they maintain Australian technical standards , present little to no threat to the nation’s radio communications systems. Thus, it needs very little evidence on the part of those who supply these devices. The ACMA does not require that suppliers of low-risk devices must label or maintain a Declaration of Conformity. However, suppliers who choose to do so much maintain that Declaration.
Medium-risk devices are trickier. These are defined as devices that are not high-risk, yet contain certain types of electronic parts. The list of parts is short but wide reaching. This includes the following:
• Switch mode power supply;
• Transistor switching circuit;
• Communicators; and
• Slip ring motors
It also includes an electronic device that operates in a switch or non-linear mode. Those who are building or importing medium-risk devices must supply documentary evidence. It must be in the form of a test report or technical construction file. This must prove the device meets Australian technical standards. It must also show a Declaration of Conformity and a description of the device. Devices classed as a medium-risk to national radio communications are:
• Computers (including laptops);
• Television sets;
• Audio equipment;
• DVD players;
• Video game consoles;
• Mobile phone chargers;
• Fluorescent lamps; and
High-risk equipment or devices must maintain the highest standards for safety. These devices are those which are considered “Group 2 ISM equipment”. They are essentially being any device in which radio frequency energy is intentionally generated. They are used in the form of electromagnetic radiation, with the intent to treat the material in a certain way.
While this sounds complex, what it boils down to is that the device must use electromagnetic radiation to affect other materials. This includes induction heating equipment such as cookers, all kinds of microwave ovens, and a few types of welding equipment. These specific pieces of welding equipment are RF welding equipment, spot welders and arc welding equipment. The requirements to build or ship high-risk devices are the same as with medium-risk devices. However, there is one exception. The test report in high-risk devices must be an accredited test report from an accredited testing organisation.
EMC compliance is the responsibility of all Australian businesses. While it can seem to be a hassle task, one must remember that even the smallest device has a great impact on electronic communications during an emergency. However, large or small they all need to comply with the EMC standard. With this in mind, following a few simple rules becomes well worth the effort to protect Australian citizens and the environment.