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Networking & Cables

Battle of the 4K Cable Certification Marks: UL, HDMI Licensing, DPL Labs

Both UL and HDMI Licensing, LLC are launching test and certification programs for 4K-capable HDMI cables. Jeff Boccaccio, the original HDMI certification guy, weighs in on the challenges.


Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and HDMI Licensing, LLC, will be pitted against long-timer DPL Labs in the HDMI testing and certification wars.
Jeff Boccaccio · October 6, 2015

Jeff Boccaccio is a CE Pro contributor and principal of DPL Labs, an organization that tests and certifies HDMI cables for member companies. This week, both Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and HDMI Licensing LLC announced plans to launch "similar" validation programs for HDMI cables. Here, with a reference only to UL, Boccaccio explains just how challenging such an endeavor can be. - Ed.

When Underwriters Laboratory (UL) announced a plan to launch a testing service program for HDMI cables, our response was Hallelujah!

We’re thrilled that anyone, let alone the leading “global independent safety science company”, has decided to stand alongside DPL to also provide independent HDMI testing. DPL Labs has long stood alone as the only independent HDMI testing service and certification provider for manufacturers of electronics and related peripherals.

Since DPL’s launch we’ve expanded to also support manufacturers of DVI and Display Port devices and interfaces. We were beginning to feel like a voice in the wilderness.

Thanks to UL’s entrance to the market we are happy to no longer be the sole banner carrier of independent media transport test and certification. We are thrilled to have a venerable global company agree with our position and support our (nearly) decade-long effort to illuminate the need for independent validation of digital media transport performance.

DPL began as an offshoot of our independent design-engineering firm InVisions Technology. InVisions creates and engineers audio and video circuitry, as well as complete product designs, for many of the most recognizable brands in our industry.

Leveraging InVisions resources, DPL was formed, and quickly evolved to become the world’s foremost authority on today’s digital audio and video interfaces. As digital media transports entered the market, residential and commercial integrators experienced issues with poor digital video interoperability. DPL determined to understand why.

With our broad and deep experience in engineering high-speed digital transports, we leveraged our collective knowledge and advanced test equipment to find the answers.

Our time working, both in the lab and the field (side by side with integrators and our manufacturing members) revealed the delicate balance required among all the elements in digital media transport chains.

We’ve examined numerous products from a multitude of clients to provide them guidance, and help the industry transcend the initial and continuing challenges created by continual advances in digital media transport technologies.

It became clear that many interactive components depended on one another for successful delivery of the high-density digital media signal and related electrical elements. With the knowledge gained from our deep immersion in the challenges of digital media transports we literally wrote the book on the topic.

Digital video systems such as HDMI, DVI and Display Port are a mixture of many technologies that require unique understanding, resources and talents, to create, test and know intimately.

To test, with authority, the assortment of signals found in these systems (or any other high speed digital interface) requires a deep understanding, gained only from extended immersive experience in high speed digital testing, direct current related attributes, serial communication, I2C, RF, Ethernet and USB.

Expertise in these technologies requires a complete understanding of the entire interface to be able to justify all of the interoperability issues that can (and typically do) arise.

Solving the myriad “mysterious” interoperability issues required DPL to muster the will power and make the commitment to go anywhere and do anything in order to form a comprehensive understanding of all the unknowns surrounding real world applications of digital media transports.

Using nearly ten years of lab and field experience with digital media transports we’ve amassed hundreds of case studies. Typically, in these studies, the system did not function correctly, or in many instances, not at all. In each and every case we “chased it down” for as long as it took until we discovered and fully understood every facet.

DPL Certification isn’t just based on standards, documents, spec sheets, or textbooks.

Such common industry knowledge has been combined with the results of our decade long, ongoing search for answers. The results of our relentless quest are foundational, and continually enhance DPL’s unique independent certification programs.

To develop our certification processes and protocols each of our discoveries had to be accurately compiled, analyzed, stored, and compared with every other function of the DUT (Device Under Test). Every possible combination of devices was modeled to validate each and every failure that we’ve analyzed.

The data resulting from our case studies are compiled as a massive database. The database supports an argumentative matrix designed to organize the tested and measured data for each attribute of the interface to yield a repeatable and accurate report for each product.

The output doesn’t just describe the performance of a specific device. We also get a picture of its overall interoperability with other devices it might interface with. The goal is to anticipate the myriad of potential (often disparate) hook-ups and set the bar at the level necessary to assure consistent reliability in a real world that presents almost endless system hook-up possibilities.

We say “Only the Best Pass the Test”. To back this up, we purchase random samples of DPL certified products from retailers and contractors and test to assure they match the test results of the certification samples.

DPL also champions the effort to establish an industry knowledgeable and well practiced in the field of digital media transports. We provide continuous education for our Certification members. We also support the industry at large through ongoing development of white papers and articles in the trade press. And, we regularly conduct educational and informative presentations at live events and via webcasts in conjunction with our DPL members and the press. (DPL averages over 50 domestic and international live events each year.)

We often hear that Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. We at DPL are truly flattered that UL sees value in the cause we’ve (pretty much single-handedly) championed for nearly a decade. Noting a high level of similarity to DPL’s programs and position in the description of the new UL service, we take it as a real compliment to our work.

Of course the question for all of us is: Does UL have the necessary experience and expertise to execute at the level to which DPL has set the bar?

They are, undeniably, the standard bearer for product safety compliance. So, we’ll see if they can make the leap.

But, we certainly welcome having them as a partner in making the case for independent testing and certification of digital media transports. It’s been a long hard road for us.

The field keeps changing. As bandwidth increases, we adapt. DPL implemented measurement, test and certification protocols and processes for 4K/HDR in 2014. Japan is already providing 8K, and we’re aggressively gearing up for it.

We say, “You have to wear it like a shirt” every day. It hasn’t been easy going it alone for the last ten years! We’re happy to have UL join the fray. We hope they can measure up ;-}

RELATED: CEDIA Scoop: UL to Launch 4K HDMI Cable Certification Program HDMI Stepping Up Product Certification with Premium Program



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  About the Author

Jeff Boccaccio is president of DPL Labs. Jeff can be reached at info@dpllabs.com. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jeff at jeff@dpllabs.com

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  Article Topics


Networking & Cables · HDMI · News · DPL Labs · HDMI · UL · All Topics
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