If you've ever found yourself taking apart various electronics to build something of your own, this Instructable is for you.
Sometimes it might be handy to have more detail on the inner workings of the device. Wouldn't it be nice if you could get the full schematics, interior photos, and other technical detail before you even pick up a screwdriver? Well you may be able to!
The US Federal Communications Commission (or FCC) regulates interstate and international communications by radio and television, wire and cable, and satellite. They have very specific guidelines for "equipment authorization" which requires vendors to go through a certification process for any device that uses the radio spectrum and will be marketed or imported into the US.
One of the requirements is that these devices be labeled with a uniquely assigned "FCC Identifier, or commonly known as FCC ID".
Fortunate for us, this FCC ID number is the key to a wealth of information about the device that you probably didn't even know existed (as it rarely shows up in any search engine results).
1. Take the device you're interested in learning more about. Note that not all electronics are required to have FCC certification, but odds are if it transmits, receives, or potentially emits RF in any way, it will have an FCC ID.
2. Find the FCC ID on the device. Sometimes this is in plain view on the back. Other times you need to remove the battery cover to find it. The FCC requires that the label be readily accessible so you should never have to actually take the device apart in order to find the FCC ID.
3. Once you have the FCC ID, visit the following page: http://www.fcc.gov/oet/ea/fccid/
4. Now enter the "Grantee, or Applicant" code which is the first 3 letters of the FCC ID, followed by the remainder of the ID known of the Product Code. Note that the Grantee Code will always be three alphanumeric characters and the Product Code may consist of hyphens and/or dashes.
5. Click Search and see what comes up!
6. You should see a list of all applications submitted regarding this particular device. Note that you may see multiple submissions in the case where a vendor has updated or modified the electronics which may have required re-certification.
7. Click on Detail and you'll see information such as the original cover letter application for the device, external photos, internal photos, test reports, etc. all available as PDFs for download.
8. Note that in some cases, the vendor may specifically request that certain documents remain confidential and therefore not available on this site. I've found more often than not this is not the case and usually everything is available.
9. And that is all there is to it! You now have lots of extra data and schematics available for your hardware hacking pleasure!
Fellow author throbscottle has created a great Instructable on How to reverse engineer a schematic from a circuit board. I encourage you to check it out for some great tips on reverse engineering!
Visit the FDA Equipment Authorization page (http://www.fcc.gov/oet/ea/Welcome.html) for more information and FAQ's about what devices are required to have FCC certification, the rules required for such certification and loads of other information about what is required to get approval on devices that use the radio frequency spectrum.
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