Underwriters Laboratories: Working for a Safer World

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Keith Williams, CEO & President, Underwriters LaboratoriesKeith Williams, CEO & President Underwriters Laboratories (UL) was founded in 1894 with an underlying mission of “working for a safer world.” For 125 years now, the company has dedicated itself to fostering safe living and working environments for people with the application of safety science and hazard-based safety engineering. UL helps companies demonstrate safety, confirm compliance, enhance sustainability, manage transparency, deliver quality and performance, strengthen security, protect brand reputation, build workplace excellence, as well as advance societal wellbeing.

UL’s story starts with the burgeoning use of electricity in the late 1800s and the fire risks associated with it. The company’s founder, William Henry Merrill, Jr., was an electrical engineer summoned to Chicago to evaluate the electrical systems being used at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. Until then, the US had not witnessed such extensive use of electricity for a single event while the planners were hardly assured of a positive outcome at the time. Merrill, however, succeeded in evaluating and mitigating the fire risks, and the event was deemed a smashing success by its estimated 27 million visitors. In 1894, months after Merrill’s duties at the fair ended, he founded the Underwriters’ Electrical Bureau—later renamed Underwriters Laboratories—in Chicago, Illinois, to test electrical devices before they were sold to consumers.

Merrill laid the foundation for UL’s safety-centered mission in the earliest days of the company. He envisioned a company that would serve the Americans and, eventually, the world by creating a culture of safety that prevented the death, injury, and property loss of untold millions by early identification of risks. Over the years, what began primarily as an electrical and fire safety testing, inspection, and certification company branched out into testing chemical hazards, building columns, gases and oils, burglary-resistive products, automobiles, airplanes, consumer products, and more. Today, UL is an accredited standards developer and has written 1600 standards defining safety, security, quality, and sustainability. The company shares these standards with other countries to help them ensure the safety of people all over the world. Merrill’s visionary mission has carried UL into the present and future as the company now tests, advises, and provides digital solutions to enhance sustainability, renewable energy, supply network transparency, medical technologies and transaction, and IoT security, in addition to its original mainstays.

UL’s safety-centered services range from inspection, auditing, testing, and certification, to analytics, training, advising, and market claim verification. In the case of testing, the company’s global network of dedicated testing facilities and laboratories allows it to deliver innovative, customized solutions that streamline testing for clients around the world.


With extensive experience in standards formulation and deep EMC and wireless industry expertise, UL offers full support and advice to clients from design concept to product completion


With an exacting testing process, driven by more than a century of technical proficiency and experience, UL’s technical experts help clients validate that their products and services meet proprietary specifications, government regulations, as well as consumer expectations. The company’s tools and testing processes continually evolve to keep pace with the rapid advancements in materials and innovation across categories such as electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), sensory experience, product performance, transaction security, and much more.

Telecom Infrastructure Testing

Among UL’s plethora of services encompassing multitudinous industries and verticals, the company offers numerous services dedicated to verifying the integrity of telecommunications infrastructure. UL helps organizations safeguard the proper working capabilities of their telecom equipment regardless of what the external conditions along with allowing them to take advantage of the time and cost savings associated with bundling services and eliminating redundant testing. The company delivers carefully crafted test plans that can streamline testing and evaluation across multiple markets, technologies, or carriers. Furthermore, the company works with telecom clients to meet their scheduling needs for EMC testing and enable them to remotely monitor using video equipment under EMC testing.

EMC testing analyzes the ability of electronic devices to operate as anticipated when in proximity to other devices or in the presence of electromagnetic emissions. UL helps telecom providers secure EMC certifications required to launch their products in the market. With extensive experience in standards formulation and deep EMC and wireless industry expertise, UL offers full support and advice to clients from design concept to product completion. Its full-service EMC laboratories are accredited or recognized by numerous regulatory agencies and governments in major markets, including the US, Europe, Japan, Canada, Taiwan, and Australia; the Telecommunication Certification Body (TCB) for the US Federal Communications Commission recognizes UL. The company develops tailored testing solutions, using software automation to enhance process efficiency, analyze results, and reduce testing cycles. Clients can bundle their EMC testing services with other UL offerings—including product safety certification services—as well as leverage the company’s global market access services to bring products to market quickly.

EMC testing is one of the components of a complete Network Equipment Building Systems (NEBS) evaluation of telecom equipment, which also includes tests for stability and durability when a device is exposed to extreme physical conditions.
In this regard, UL helps manufacturers test and certify telecommunications cables as well as other copper and fiber products to commonly accepted safety and performance standards. Each cable type, such as CMP, CMR, and CM, is tested depending on its anticipated installation and use. Additionally, UL’s proprietary structured cabling performance verification service offers two options to address cable manufacturer’s needs: certification service to ensure compliance with the applicable performance standards under the National Electric Code (NEC) and letter report service for merely one-time verification of cables with no certification.

Comprehensive Cellular Testing and Compliance Services

UL also has decades of experience in assisting manufacturers in bringing wireless products to the market, which enables the company to guide clients through every aspect of cellular regulatory conformance. UL helps them ensure that their products fulfill compliance demands, secure carrier acceptance, and seamlessly achieve unrestricted access to the global marketplace. The company offers pre-certification testing and debugging services to spot potential compliance and performance problems as early as possible, thus helping manufacturers reduce expensive late-stage remediation as well as avoid recalls. UL also leverages automated processes and parallel testing to accelerate turnaround times and has established expertise in certifying converged wireless devices to both industry compatibility standards and regulatory requirements.

"UL’s global network of dedicated testing facilities and laboratories allows it to deliver innovative, customized solutions that streamline testing for clients around the world"

UL tests each of the major cellular technologies—GSM, GPRS, UMTS, HSPA, and LTE—at its advanced cellular conformance facilities. These laboratories are approved by CTIA-The Wireless Association and are capable of testing 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies. Owing to its corporate commitment to remain at the forefront of cellular approval testing, UL continues to invest in testing and conformance equipment for emerging technologies. UL has also recently launched new marking claim verification programs for the wire and cable manufactures. These programs independently confirm client marketing claims related to product performance, functionality, and features, as well as their facilities, processes, and systems to promote confidence in those claims. Also, last year, UL expanded the footprint of its facility in Fremont, California to address the increasing demand for testing and certification services across telecom as well as various other industries. The Fremont laboratory is now one of the largest EMC and wireless testing facilities in North America.

As part of UL’s constant quest to help clients tackle the most pressing business issues by delivering trust in the testing, inspection, and certification processes, the company has launched an online client portal—myUL. It is a secure source for UL project files, product information, documents, and services, which provides clients with increased visibility into their collaborations with the company. UL will always strive to advance its capabilities to keep pace with rapid societal changes driven by digital transformation. While everyone at UL shares a passion to make the world a safer place, the company engenders trust enabling the safe adoption of innovative products and technologies.
- Catalina Joseph
    May 31, 2019