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The future of our tech-driven world is going to be exciting. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), or Robotics shall bring conveniences and improve our quality of life greatly. Among these, the Internet of Things or IoT shall be instrumental in ushering the ‘age of machines’ in the true sense. If we go by Gartner’s prediction, then by 2020, the world is likely to see use of around 20.4 billion connected devices. In fact, the Internet of Things is expected to be a part of every industry segment and bring about a radical change in the way we live in the near future. Since the world would be virtually dependent on these devices, their performance, reliability, availability, and user experience should be top-notch. However, ensuring these at all times can be challenging and warrants the conduct of rigorous IoT testing.
What is IoT?
The Internet of Things is a network of devices, digital elements, vehicles, home appliances, and other gadgets that are connected to the internet to exchange data and information. The enablers for IoT include systems such as motion sensors, thermostats, smart switches, leak detectors, dimmers, doorbells, and smart outlets. Presently, only 0.06% of IoT-enabled devices are functioning globally and there is a great potential to expand the value chain. Today, around 60 technologies and Radio Frequency formats are in use to make IoT a reality. Among these, WiFi and cellular are the prominent ones. With the emergence of new wireless technology standards, enhancements to LTE (Long Term Evolution) and LTE-Advanced protocols, and the advent of 5G, the need for internet of things testing has assumed salience.
The future is going to be defined by smart technologies. These are needed to address the present-day challenges related to the lack of quality, availability, and speed. Thus, to manage the functioning of smart systems a la IoT and ensure they work to their highest levels of efficiency, IoT testing is the way forward. The following examples can emphasize the dire need for maintaining quality in IoT devices.
If there is a fire in a smart home (enabled through IoT devices), the smart systems (smoke sensors) should detect the smoke and send an alert to the authorities, apart from the owner(s). This can only be possible if various devices connected to the IoT grid function at their optimal level and communicate with each other effectively. In the absence of such coordinated functioning of devices, the smoke will remain undetected leading to a fire hazard.
Again, if an automatic vehicle fails to detect an obstruction (a pedestrian, vehicle, or any other object) due to the malfunctioning of its sensor(s), the vehicle will fail to stop in time leading to an accident.
The two examples have highlighted how various connected devices within the IoT ecosystem need to function in a coordinated manner.
Challenges for Testing of IoT Devices
The ways things are, it is predicted that the Internet of Things ecosystem is going to outweigh and outperform the combined numbers of smartphones, desktops, laptops, and wearables in the world. It will ultimately be businesses, more than governments or individuals, that are going to drive the adoption of IoT. This will increase the scope for IoT testing wherein developers and testers have to consider factors like the available bandwidth, the performance of device circuitry, or the battery level, among others.
Further, in IoT, there would be plenty of unusual device types. These include home appliances, which may or may not have robust interfaces with digital systems like sensors, thermostats, and others. Thus, with the presence of such a diverse set of devices, selecting the best IoT testing approach can be tricky. The other types of challenges in testing IoT applications are
- Lack of standardization of devices and associated systems
- Insufficient battery life of devices
- Network issues
- Threats to data security
- Need for omnichannel testing
Testing Requirements for IoT Enabled Components
To drive quality into the IoT ecosystem, the components forming the ecosystem should be validated in terms of performance, reliability, usability, security, and customer experiences. Let us understand the key testing requirements for IoT components.
- At the device level: The IoT testing framework at the device level should target areas like device properties, schedules, power modes, serial protocol, and connectivity.
- At the cloud level: The testers would look to automate and integrate the components into the ecosystem and check their effectiveness. The areas to look at would include security, performance, scalability, reliability, data governance, and data privacy.
- End-to-End testing: This comprehensive IoT testing approach would entail executing automated tests combining applications, devices, and the cloud. Importantly, the testers should test the IoT system in real-time involving multiple conditions.
Simulation of the Smart System Through Service Virtualization
Since the success of an IoT ecosystem depends on the seamless interoperability of embedded devices across platforms, networks, geographies, and device states, testing becomes a challenge. However, with test automation and simulation of the above-mentioned environments, testers can identify the issues such systems can face in the real world.
Security Testing of IoT systems
Arguably the biggest challenge to confront IoT devices is security. Since humongous sets of data are exchanged between appliances and embedded sensors, any vulnerability can be exploited. In fact, hackers can manipulate the devices to work according to their instructions. For example, a bank’s alarm and cameras may be deactivated by such people to commit a heist. Hence, any IoT device testing should focus on strengthening the security aspect by identifying and removing all bottlenecks and vulnerabilities. The focus should be on encrypting the data transfer mechanism.
The smart world of the future would be based to a large extent on the success of IoT devices. Also, any future challenges involving data security need to be tackled on a war footing through rigorous IoT testing. It is only when every sinew of the IoT ecosystem runs in harmony, the future of smart connectivity can be ensured.