IoT presents many exciting and transformational opportunities in dozens of vertical markets, but the design and test challenges are formidable. End-to-end testing brings a wide range of opportunities. Following the comprehensive 5 C's + 1 approach -- connectivity, continuity, compliance, coexistence, cybersecurity and customer experience -- can maximize your IoT device performance.
Design and validation engineers should optimize IoT products and ensure comprehensive test coverage of the entire range of potential user journeys. Using a modern, AI-assisted approach to model-based testing that emulates user behavior enables testing any technology at every layer. Design and validation engineers can predict the quantified effects of new product versions and create high-quality products that meet and exceed users' needs.
5 C's + 1 test approach ensures your devices thrive
Rapid wireless device growth on the industrial, scientific and medical bands increases complexity in device design, test, performance, security and use. Device testing is one of the biggest challenges for design engineers and device manufacturers. They must address the following challenges across the IoT device lifecycle:
- Connectivity ensures IoT devices connect to other IoT devices, the cloud and necessary software.
- Continuity requires IoT devices have an extended battery life to function.
- Compliance helps IoT devices adhere to and meet global regulations.
- Coexistence ensures that IoT devices work harmoniously in crowded IoT networks.
- Cybersecurity safeguards IoT data from cybersecurity threats.
To set devices apart from competitors, manufacturers should incorporate users' needs and behavior into product design and test early in the lifecycle. Therefore, the following challenge should also be addressed:
- Customer experience ensures quality products that delight and retain your users.
There are five distinctive C's plus 1 to include in device testing and specific ways to tackle challenges in the process.
In IoT, wireless connectivity enables seamless flow of information to and from the device, infrastructure, cloud and software. Connectivity among complex systems and dense device deployments is a top challenge for device designers. Devices must work reliably, without failure, even in the harshest settings. Fast-evolving wireless standards add complexity to device development and tests.
An effective response to connectivity concerns requires engineers to select a design and test offering that is highly flexible, configurable and scalable.
Battery life is an essential parameter for IoT devices. Smart meter or industrial wireless sensors must work for long periods between charges -- often 10 years or more. Wireless communication standards groups have defined new low power consumption operating modes, such as Narrowband IoT, LTE for Machines, Long Range and Sigfox, that limit active operation time.
To gain insights and estimate the device's battery life, designers and test engineers must visualize the current power consumption and correlate them with subsystem events. With these capabilities, engineers can detect design weaknesses early, speed up the product development cycle and maximize battery life performance.
Compliance ensures IoT devices adhere to radio standards and global regulatory requirements before market access. With time-to-market pressure and high capital investment for an extensive regulatory test system, regulatory testing becomes more complex.
Pre-compliance tests in early product development help IoT device manufacturers reduce the risk of failure and keep product release schedules. A scalable, reconfigurable and automated test system saves time in compliance and pre-compliance testing.
The increased number of connected devices makes wireless networks dense and congested. This made standards bodies develop methodologies and collision avoidance techniques to improve device operation performance among other signals. Collisions and data loss occur in a mixed-signal deployment, where radio formats do not detect other signals.
Coexistence testing is important but lacks cohesive compliance or a certification administration. In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission regulates radio frequency wireless device emissions, and the Food and Drug Administration regulates medical device safety. It is up to manufacturers to take responsibility and conduct the appropriate coexistence testing.
IEEE has guidance in American National Standards Institute's (ANSI) Evaluation of Wireless Coexistence standard C63.27 to provide key coexistence testing considerations. With ANSI guidance, manufacturers can assess the potential risk and the device's ability to successfully maintain its functional wireless performance among unintended signals.
Cyber attacks happen in many layers -- from devices and communication networks to the cloud and applications. Any connected device has the potential to act as a gateway to systems that offer more value. To minimize the risk of a cyber attack, enterprises now realize they must take extreme measures to build IoT infrastructure; the right approach is to build security in layers.
Most security breaches originate from endpoints. Device designers must consider security during early development stages and perform continuous validation throughout the product lifecycle to ensure security and quality of service.
Adopt an information security framework, which is a series of policies and procedures that guide businesses to lower their risk and vulnerabilities. An effective security program can identify any necessary data to conduct a proper risk assessment, detect and respond to network threats, and recover any lost assets.
Education for everyone on data security -- arguably, the lowest-cost security measure -- provides the highest ROI. C-level executives and the board of directors, not just the IT department, must be aware of the risk to the organization of a cyber attack.
Though the network can be compromised after manufacturers incorporate all the recommended steps. The true test is how long it takes to recover. A resilient network defends itself against threats and minimizes financial loss to the organization.
Test beyond the 5 C's of IoT: Customer experience
The first five C's -- connectivity, continuity, compliance, coexistence and cybersecurity -- are all critical. However, another C -- customer experience -- puts any device ahead of the competition. Complex products that include end-to-end customer experience testing ensure devices optimizes their performance, satisfy customer needs and withstand real-world use cases.
Design and validation engineers can struggle to test IoT devices for the following reasons:
- Software often includes many features that users customize. The number of possible paths and permutations of various settings are extensive to test manually.
- IoT applications often run on multiple hardware types: PCs, tablets, kiosks, smartphones and smartwatches. To further complicate testing, an IoT application may involve several different platforms. End-to-end customer experience testing must incorporate all platforms and include various hardware revisions and supported OSes.
- Pressure to quickly release each IoT device and software to the market means they must test with an automated approach.
The market's integrated offerings can tackle these testing challenges. The best approach to test the end-to-end customer experience is an intelligent, model-based test software that optimizes the product. Any option that includes these four components provides comprehensive test coverage:
- device physical modeling with instrument measurement control interface, including test instrument digital twin creation;
- equipment that uses advanced automation to replace manual human interactions and enables quicker and more precise development;
- software or application models that simulate real user scenarios to test the complete customer journey to provide quick and effective design validation of the entire system; and
- cloud-based software modeling with machine learning data analysis algorithms to profile user behavior that improves the end-user experience.
End-to-end customer experience testing provides seamless UX to ensure that the digital ecosystem works as intended for the user and deep insights into the user journey that let IoT device manufacturers continuously optimize and enhance their products.
About the author
Janet Ooi is a lead in Keysight IoT Industry and Solutions Marketing. She graduated from Multimedia University in 2003 in business engineering electronics with honors majoring in telecommunications. She worked at Intel as a process and equipment engineer for five years before joining Agilent Technologies -- now known as Keysight Technologies -- in 2008 as a product marketing engineer. Since then, Ooi has also taken on product management, business development and market analyst roles.