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Smart Devices and IoT Testing [Common Challenges]

Gartner says that by 2020, more than half of major new business processes and systems will incorporate some element of the Internet of Things.

With the rise in the number of connected devices, comes challenges that are faced by the product development teams who build these devices.

When it comes to the development of the IoT systems, teams constantly face some common challenges that occur anywhere from start to the end of the development process.

These challenges have to be foreseen or anticipated beforehand and possible solutions should be sought in order to solve them.

IoT testing is key to ensuring that these IoT devices work accurately for the intended environment. However, IoT testing has its own set of challenges. Let’s take a look at some of the key challenges a team would face in testing IoT devices.

1. Testing Across Various Cloud IoT Platforms

Some of the most commonly used cloud IoT platforms that help in connecting different components of the IoT value chain are Azure IoT, IBM Watson, and AWS among others. IoT devices have to be tested across these Cloud IoT platforms to ensure their effective usability.

In an IoT environment, the devices generate data with high velocity, variety, and veracity. In a real IoT environment, the devices generate structured or unstructured data which is sent to Cloud.

We may see a lot of different devices with different capabilities, which have to be tested across platforms and ensure that their effective usage is determined across various IoT platforms.

Apart from this, in a functioning IoT environment, when more devices are deployed, it may be difficult to replicate a real-time environment for testing as there may be lots of devices that have to be tested on the platform.

Also, there will be new version upgrades for the device, along with the software and firmware updates. This is why it becomes critical to test them across all the IoT platforms to make sure that all the components in the value chain are working efficiently. Though this may sound simple, it is not always possible to cross test IoT devices for all the versions on different platforms, especially during upgrade testing.

2. IoT Data Protocol Testing

IoT systems use various communication protocols to establish interaction between devices (D2D) as well as between devices and server. Many protocols such as MQTT, XMPP, CoAP, and AMPQ among others, are the ones that are gaining popularity.

Any connected device that is being developed, needs to be tested across various protocols. However, each of them has its own advantages and disadvantages.

MQTT, which functions well under high latency and low bandwidth situations, is the most popular among these protocols. MQTT may have many vulnerabilities and can be open to attacks as it does not provide ample security beyond the TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) layer. Therefore, it is important to test them to make them more reliable and secure for communication between controllers and disparate devices.

When there are multiple components in an IoT system, they will use different protocols to communicate with each other. In such a scenario, they have to be tested across various protocols and modules to ensure that the devices work seamlessly.

Sensors use low energy and can run out of memory when they are loaded with many requests in the system. Instead of directly exchanging information, they use the IoT gateway to forward those messages to the device, which can help in balancing the load of requests received by the component. Tests have to be performed in order to sustain the device and enabling balance at the same time.

3. Security Threats to Data

The amount of data collected and communicated by connected devices is often huge. When such a high volume of data is generated, it also raises concerns related to data leaks or unauthorized access to the system from outside entities. Since IoT devices are vulnerable to security threats, it is very critical to test and identify security loopholes and address them immediately.

In IoT testing, it is critical to test passwords and credentials, as well as the data interface and constantly update the devices to ensure there are no security breaches.

Many IoT engineers are implementing layered security, where multiple security layers protect the system, helping in the prevention of any data leaks or potential attacks on the system.

4. Lack of Standardization

As the use of connected devices is rising, there are challenges in standardizing an IoT system at four levels: platforms, connectivity, standard business models, and application.

Lack of uniform standardization makes it difficult to test each IoT device as most companies build devices as they want and this creates more problems for the users as different devices may have conflicting and competing standards.

Most of the current connected device testing that is conducted, is done based on the use case or the intended use of the system. There is a lack of standard testing procedures at all levels.

Uniform standardization at all four levels will make the tester’s life easy by helping to test devices easily, at the same time providing end-users with quality IoT products.

5. Inefficient Battery Life

Many IoT devices are battery powered. Energy-efficient functioning of these devices is very critical in an IoT environment. In order to create energy-efficient devices, low power components have to be used along with efficient techniques that will de-energize these components when they are not in use.

For optimized battery life, these components have to be tested under various scenarios or conditions and the right battery has to be chosen in order to maximize the life of the IoT devices.

Apart from this, how the device will report the status to the cloud platform when the battery is critically low is also important. Let’s take the example of a door sensor. If the battery is low, it has to report the status to Cloud beforehand so that the status can be reported. Any further actions can be stopped so that the door doesn’t stay locked if the battery dies. So the battery needs to be tested under various scenarios and all the responses need to be noted to analyze the performance.

6. Issues with Network

Connected devices may face issues related to network configurations, and this may thwart faster communication and affect the performance of the device.

So, it becomes critical to test devices in different network conditions with the help of network virtualization. Metrics such as battery consumption, CPU, and memory consumption needs to be recorded to know the response of the devices.

Apart from the aforementioned challenges, there are various other challenges that test engineers might face in smart devices and IoT testing. Overcoming these challenges will help in building stable and quality IoT products.

A well-structured requirement, a proper test plan, unit testing, and integration testing can help in thoroughly testing the IoT devices, and allowing them to thrive in a connected environment.

Most testing is done based on the device perspective, but in the future, we can see changes in testing as more human-centric testing procedures may be included in the testing cycle.

eInfochips provides Snapbricks IoT test automation framework to address all the above challenges of testing IoT systems and devices. It is a unified test automation framework that offers end-to-end testing of devices, connectivity, backend, cloud, analytics, and applications. Know more about Snapbricks IoT Test Automation Framework.

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