Snag puts Raspberry Pi back on hold

Snag puts Raspberry Pi back on hold

Summary: Distributors have put sales of the $35 Linux computer on hold until they see a certification mark.

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The credit-card-sized $35 computer, which is intended to teach students about programming, saw such demand on its launch a month ago that it crashed the sales sites of distributors RS Components and element14/Premier Farnell. A component mix-up in production then caused a delay earlier this month.

Now the delivery of the Raspberry Pis has been further set back, as the distributors have refused to sell the device until it receives the Conformité Européenne (CE) mark, which consumer products sold in the European Economic Area need to bear.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation, which revealed the latest hitch in a blog post on Wednesday, said it did not believe the tiny, uncased computer should have to have the mark. It noted that a similar, albeit more expensive, product called the Beagleboard is allowed to be sold without CE certification.

"As we've said before, we believe that the uncased Raspberry Pi is not a 'finished end product', and may be distributed on the same terms as Beagleboard and other non-CE-marked platforms," Foundation spokeswoman Liz Upton wrote.

Electromagnetic emissions
The problem comes down to the issue of electromagnetic emissions. Products that are only intended for further development, where those using them will be able to test and monitor the emissions, can be sold without the CE mark — or, in the US, the FCC mark. Products sold to end users without those facilities must first be officially approved as being safe.

According to Upton, the Raspberry Pi should be able to gain approval. She said it just needs the results of further electromagnetic tests to do so, or the intervention of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to confirm that the device does not need the CE mark.

"On the basis of preliminary measurements, we expect emissions from the uncased product to meet category A requirements comfortably without modification, and possibly to meet the more stringent category B requirements which we had originally expected would require a metalized case," she wrote.

"We're also talking to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), to better understand the terms under which devices like Beagleboard are permitted to ship to domestic end users in the UK, and to obtain a definitive statement as to whether we can distribute on the same terms," Upton added.

However, BIS said on Thursday that the Raspberry Pi must undergo the certification process.

"We have advised the makers of Raspberry Pi that their product falls under the electromagnetic compatibility legislation and therefore needs to carry the CE marking," a BIS spokesman told ZDNet UK.

'Oversight'
In the lengthy comments thread attached to the post, Foundation trustee Eben Upton explained why this problem was not spotted before it arose. He said it was "basically an oversight" that the Foundation and its distributors did not cover the CE issue in the contractual stage.

Several commenters also suggested that the Beagleboard team may be wrong in marketing their product as a "development board", a tactic that allows it to bypass the certification issue.

In a separate post on Thursday, Upton also noted that a computer glitch with distributor element14 had resulted in some customers being told their delivery date was being pushed back to August.

"At present, as already communicated by Raspberry Pi, all deliveries are on hold awaiting the outcome of the compliance testing currently taking place. To avoid misleading people while the compliance testing takes place, our system auto-generated the August date, which has clearly caused confusion," a note from the distributor, quoted by Upton, read.

Topics: Enterprise Software, CXO, Hardware, IT Employment

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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Talkback

7 comments
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  • Forget Europe

    Forget Europe, ship 'em all here without the stupid "mark".
    wally_333
    • And when your neighbors get one...

      And when your neighbors get one (ore more), and the local school gets a few hundred, and all the electromagnetic interference starts affecting your TV reception, what then? The Raspberry Pi is more than just a component, it can also be considered as a consumer (end-user) product.
      simon@...
      • Max 5W per device

        They don't use more than 5W at max. I think that they'd use 0.5-2W at average. Most of that becomes heat. My Dovado Tiny use 5V and 2A at max, which corresponds to 10W (manual says 6W is max, though), of which probably 0.5 to 1W is pure radio signal power. I doubt that the Pi will generate much radio signals without any antennas. The noise will be very limited, and is unlikely to pass through walls.
        Natanael_L
      • TV Reception?

        Simon, what part of the country do you live in, that you need to be concerned about your TV reception? Anything other than cable TV, which is shielded, went away a few years ago.
        LadyGray
  • Here they need to pass FCC part 15 testing.

    should be a piece of cake if they pass CE.
    billth87@...
  • Oops!

    This product is not being sold a component or sub-assembly that another manufacturer will incorporate into their own product. It is being sold to the public as a fully functional general purpose computer which will run a desktop operating system. It is a device with an 'intrinsic function', is just as much a computer as the tower case beside me.

    This clearly puts it in the scope of the EU EMC Directive. It cannot be put on the market in the EU without a Certificate of Conformity to the relevant Standards and a CE mark affixed.

    It is a very bad idea to develop a product and start manufacture without doing EMC testing. Retro-fitted suppression can turn out to be very expensive or simply impossible. Apart from the legal requirements, a properly designed product turns out to be a better product.

    RS and Farnell would probably be considered to both be responsible for complying with the Directive as both are separately importing the product and placing it on the market within the EU. The law requires an 'ass' to kick and said item needs to be located in the EU as penalties include a prison sentence as well as a fine.
    Alan(UK)
  • Even longer delays for some

    According to my Element 14 rep with a couple of days they had 55,000 on backorder limited to one per customer. As I recall the initial production was only 10,000 so it's going to be a long time before some people get theirs regardless of the CE.
    non-biased