IoT testing is a large a topic of interest and a constant debate among the software engineering community. This is because IoT software engineering and testing are not just about testing a software application code, but also about interdevice connections.
There are endless possibilities of how IoT products react, behave and perform with specific devices, and it seems like the process is still in beta mode.
Before we get ahead with the types of testing and its challenges, we need to understand that IoT usually consists of four components: sensor, application, network and back-end data center.
Therefore, quality assurance (QA) testers don't only check application code, but also the network connectivity and its operations with different devices. The undying demand for more connectivity, speed and delivery is forcing the software engineering community to push its boundaries and come up with an IoT testing framework that enables engineers to set up a standard for testing different types of devices, connections and applications.
Types of testing
If we had a singular test to run for IoT devices, it would solve a lot of issues, and there might be IoT technology as advanced as it is in Wakanda. But the current status quo is to test multiple systems individually.
Before engineers conduct any kind of test, it helps to revisit IoT device basics: These devices transfer or share data from one device to another through the internet.
Some might think that the devices that send and receive data are thoroughly tested, highly performant and secured, but the problem starts when the data is shared over the internet. This data must be encrypted to ensure that there is no breach during transfer.
QA testers that test IoT devices address concerns around security, connectivity, analytics, network, processors, platform, OSes and performance-related issues. There are five common types of testing QA testers perform.
1. Usability testing
IoT devices might seem easy to build and manage, but usability differs on each device. It is complex, diverse and unpredictable. Usability testing helps QA testers verify how easy the device is to use and overall UX. After all, easy accessibility is a main product design goal with these devices.
These accessibility features can range from quick device connection, push notifications for success or errors, transparency, clarity of all logged events and data processing.
2. Security testing
Security is a primary concern for IoT devices, and it should not be taken lightly, as multiple users simultaneously access large amounts of data. QA testers must confirm that any shared information is encrypted. Some of the crucial tasks testers complete during this part of the process include authentication method validation and checking data privacy controls.
3. Compatibility testing
Compatibility testing is a tricky job due to the different software and hardware configurations that IoT devices use. A gap or inefficient authentication might lead to severe data breaches or other connectivity issues. Compatibility testing ensures that the connection is strong and secure across all devices, regardless of the hardware or software used.
4. Performance testing
IoT device performance determines its success in the long run. These tests check consistent data processing and performance across all the devices, irrespective of the high data loads the device might process. QA testers check and monitor system usage, power consumption, user requests, UI, database and client-server communication during these tests.
5. Connectivity testing
IoT devices require high network connectivity to the internet and other devices; this requirement is what makes IoT unique. QA developers ensure that the connectivity and networking strength are strong and the system is constantly online and available. This part is pivotal because IoT data is constantly transferred between devices, and without good connectivity, the devices fail to interact with one another.
Challenges and looking ahead
The complexity of IoT devices and their interactions make it difficult for QA testers to conduct tests as they would do with a web application or software. While it's not entirely impossible to perform the necessary tests, there are challenges to expect before such an arduous task:
- Test both internal and network communication.
- Complete dependency and constant operations over the internet can cause security issues.
- Realize bugs might go undetected because of complex software or hardware configurations.
- Understand there are always certain limitations with memory, processing power, bandwidth and battery.
- Network availability is a large factor that determines IoT device performance.
Digital transformation changes the way we use and interact with technology around us. IoT software engineering has a long way to go before efficiently deploying and interacting with every device or resource that we use. However, with the best testing practices and standardized rules, IoT technology can change how we interact with technology in our lives.
About the author
Hardik Shah is director of mobility and IoT at Simform. Working the last eight years in consumer and enterprise mobility, Shah leads large-scale mobility programs covering platforms, solutions, governance, standardization and best practices.