Three Strategies for Testing IoT Devices

Apr 28, 2021 | Best Practices, Test Automation Insights

Internet of Things

We are in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT), and our digital and physical worlds have become quite intertwined. The complexity of our technologies and devices has increased exponentially.

Let’s take an example of a smart fitness tracker. When we wear the device on our wrist, we expect to see the data on the little screen. The data gets updated as we work out. When using the phone or desktop app, we expect the data to sync across devices and platforms so we can see the latest information at all times.

To add to this complexity, our data needs to be secure and encrypted as the information is communicated across these different devices and platforms. Some trackers have additional functionalities to let a user check their email, receive text messages and calls, get physical vibrations on the device when a step goal is hit, and activate light sensors based on the type of notification. To a certain extent, the device has to be water-resistant, have a durable battery life, charge quickly, and have good usability.

A fitness tracker is a relatively simple device, yet it has so many different functionalities that have to work together properly. Imagine how complex the systems can be for larger devices that also integrate sensors, web apps, mobile apps, browsers, and much more. This is the challenge teams have while testing IoT devices.

According to the Global System for Mobile Communications, the number of IoT devices is expected to grow to 25.1 billion by 2025. So, how do we ensure these systems work correctly?

Here are three effective strategies to test IoT devices and ensure your customers have a seamless experience.

1. Get clarity on different system components

Teams have to be aware of the different IoT system components to understand their vulnerabilities and risks, what should be tested, and how to test them. In general, an IoT ecosystem consists of the following components:

Smart sensors: These are hardware components that constantly collect data and transmit it to various applications. This includes motion sensors, temperature sensors, heartbeat sensors, light sensors and more.

Protocols: IoT devices use various protocols to transmit information and interact with each other. This enables secure communication between different devices. The choice of protocol depends on data speed, bandwidth and overall efficiency. Some of the commonly used protocols are Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT), Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP), Zigbee, Bluetooth, Lightweight M2M (LwM2M), and Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP).

Gateways: Gateways help to transmit information from the sensors to different devices connected to the cloud. They provide an added layer of security to protect the system from unauthorized access and malicious attacks.

The cloud: The IoT cloud collects large amounts of data, stores it, processes the data, and makes decisions in a matter of milliseconds. This processed information is readily available to consumers.

Analytics: Analytics help us obtain key performance metrics, get insights and find irregularities from large amounts of data. This could include the use of AI or machine learning in predictive analysis.

User interface: This is the interface used by consumers to control different components and set preferences.

2. Incorporate the right testing approaches

Teams should develop a test strategy to test IoT devices, just like they would if they were testing other applications. But as part of this strategy, they have to be aware of the different testing approaches to test an IoT system effectively. Having this prior knowledge helps to prioritize the testing effort.

Here are some testing approaches to use for IoT testing.

  • Compatibility testing: Checking whether we can connect different device configurations through the IoT system
  • Usability testing: Checking how usable the system is as an end-user
  • Protocol and API testing: Checking the protocols and APIs used for communication
  • Data consistency testing: Checking whether data is consistent across all platforms
  • Security testing: Checking the device password policy, testing resilience under different malicious attacks like denial-of-service attacks, and looking for other security vulnerabilities that could give unauthorized users access to data
  • Performance testing: Using network virtualization and other techniques to determine the speed and performance of the system with many devices connected
  • Upgrade testing: Checking to see if an upgrade of a device in the IoT system causes unexpected outcomes
  • Connectivity testing: Testing the IoT system under various network bandwidths, Wi-Fi connections, and 4G or 5G networks
  • Integration testing: Making sure the various devices in the IoT system can communicate efficiently and work well together

3. Remove obstacles to known challenges

Having a plan to mitigate some of the challenges the team will face during testing of the IoT system helps to save a lot of time, cost and effort for the organization. There are several well-known challenges associated with these kinds of systems.

For instance, there are many configurations of IoT devices, and coming up with an optimum number of combinations to test is a huge challenge. This is where combinatorial testing and pairwise testing approaches can help to reduce the number of test parameters.

Various network conditions also have to be simulated to test the resilience of the IoT network. Techniques such as network virtualization help to programmatically emulate different conditions and responses.

One of the biggest challenges with IoT systems is the security threats due to attacks. The team must come up with a list of failure scenarios and possible attacks that could compromise user data, privacy, and security.

Finally, the availability of sufficient resources to manage large amounts of data, processing speed and network bandwidth are critical for effective testing of these systems.

According to a report by Mordor Intelligence, the IoT device market is anticipated to top $1.3 trillion by 2026. New IoT devices come online every second, so consumers are more connected to the internet than ever before. We have to proactively prepare ourselves to effectively test these IoT systems and ensure their safety and appropriateness for human use.

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