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5 IoT device tests you should be running

Ensuring that IoT devices are in good working order is vital. That means testing them before, during and after deployment to ensure they're working properly and as intended.

Routine IoT device testing can reduce the time and costs of any IoT project, whether you're deploying the devices one at a time or as part of a larger initiative. It's common for IoT deployments to have a large volume of devices, which can complicate testing hardware -- and software -- to ensure they're reliable and secure.

Your IoT device testing strategy must address five key aspects across the device lifecycle: connectivity, continuity, compliance, coexistence and security. How you address each aspect depends on your infrastructure, available resources and industry. Each of these dictates how you formulate your IoT device testing workflow to cover every aspect of your organization's unique situation.

A thorough IoT device testing strategy should validate the devices' performance, functionality, compatibility and security. Testing approaches should cover each layer of IoT devices:

  • Physical. Sensors, controllers and connections of the device.
  • Network. Gateways, communication units and protocols that ensure device connectivity and data transmission.
  • Data management. Back-end systems -- local or cloud-based -- that store, aggregate and analyze data collected or transmitted by the device.
  • Application. Software that offers user interaction for reporting or control capabilities.

Types of IoT device testing

While many companies rely on automated testing at various levels, your IoT device testing strategy should include these types of testing:

  1. Functional testing. Validate the IoT software against functional requirements and specifications, test any APIs that the device uses or connects to, perform standard regression tests, check the UI, ensure that the device is connected to any databases it needs and make sure client-server communications are running smoothly. These functional tests should check each task within the IoT device to make sure they're working correctly and meeting requirements.
  2. Compatibility testing. Ensure that the IoT devices work properly with your infrastructure, deliver expected UX and meet your operational requirements. For example, does the IoT hardware work with your existing physical facilities? Are the devices compatible with all OSes and browser types? Is the device compatible with your communication protocols?
  3. Connectivity testing. IoT testing tools should be able to track the strength of communication among the device, users and the network. Many devices only connect to the network periodically, so it's vital to ensure they can always connect and, therefore, continue to perform when they're offline.
  4. Security testing. Penetration testing tools can verify that your IoT devices are protected from threats, vulnerabilities and security risks. To help identify and rectify weaknesses immediately, your IoT fleet should be included in any regular security testing. Verify that IoT data is always protected and encrypted in transit and that it meets corporate security guidelines.
  5. Performance testing. Conduct routine performance tests to determine what you can expect from your IoT devices under typical operating circumstances. The goal is to find and eliminate blocks that prevent the device from running at optimal levels or affecting other connected systems. Performance testing tools can gather information about the device's response time and the reliability of its features so you know whether it's meeting your specifications.

Who tests IoT devices?

With most QA analysts devoted to development teams, IoT device testing often falls to IT administrators and/or whoever is responsible for deploying the devices. QA analysts may only get involved in IoT testing if the devices are part of a larger initiative they're involved in. That could leave many devices outside a regular testing schedule; they might never be touched after being deployed.

If your company has a large IoT device fleet, it might be worth creating a dedicated IoT device testing team. This team would be responsible for deploying IoT devices as part of a larger project team, regularly testing the devices and coordinating device management. Ideal members would be QA experts in both functional testing (unit, integration and regression) and nonfunctional testing (performance, load and compatibility). A security expert would be a wise addition to the team as well since cybersecurity is paramount today. They could coordinate all security testing and collaborate with external teams to ensure IoT security is always considered.

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