Testing Considerations for a Reliable, More Secure IoT

11 June 2020

The number of IoT devices reached 26.6 billion in 2019. This number is projected to grow even further (and faster) in the next decade. According to Security Today, as many as 31 billion devices will be connected in 2020, and, by 2021, the IoT world could comprise up to 35 billion devices. Robust testing is needed to ensure that all these devices work effectively alone and harmoniously with each other.

Close-up Of Man's Hand Holding Mobile With Smart Home Control Icon Feature With Kitchen Background

Take an example of a medical healthcare system that monitors patient health, heart rate, fluid intake details, etc., and sends the information to a physician for reporting. Such a system would be connected to multiple other systems. For instance, the doctor should be able to trigger the system remotely from various devices (phone, tablet, PC, etc.).

It doesn’t end there. At the communication layer, you’ll also find multiple possibilities. The doctor can connect to the healthcare system via Wi-Fi, Near Field Communication (NFC), Bluetooth, or Radio Frequency ID (RFID), among others. Below the communication layer, you’d then have servers or core systems used for data analysis and storage.

The Internet of Things has to be designed in such a way that devices can communicate effectively; however, complex the eventual IoT architecture.

Robust Testing is what Makes this Possible

Through extensive testing, IoT designers and developers ensure that devices aren’t leaking data, draining charge too fast, or so challenging to the point of being useless.

The following tests are recommended;

  • Usability Testing 

We need to make sure that the devices we build have meaningful use. Otherwise, it becomes a waste of time on the part of the developer and space within the IoT architecture. IoT usability testing evaluates the usefulness of each IoT device.

A usable device, for instance, is portable enough to be moved into different segments of the IoT system. It must also be smart enough to push not only notifications but also warnings and error messages. The best devices also support data synchronization, presented to the end-user in the simplest terms. These are just some of the areas of focus during usability testing.

  • Security Testing 

IoT is data-centric i.e.; all the connected devices operate based on available data. This creates a huge problem, especially considering that hackers and other cybercriminals have developed advanced technologies to intercept or read data in transit. If a hacker were to penetrate an IoT network, a lot of people would be affected.

Security tests attempt to uncover potential weak links in the IoT chain. Whether in Cloud APIs, network communication, or hardware, the tests allow developers to check for and fix things like weak authentication to ensure that devices are safe to operate. Developers can also ensure the safe storage of data and impose password restrictions where necessary.

  • Performance testing 

Efficiency is paramount in the Internet of Things. Devices, and even networks, must be able to perform to very high standards while using very few resources. Millions of people, for instance, are using Alexa at any one time. Each device, therefore, must take up very little processing power and memory if everyone is to be accommodated.

Performance testing ensures that an IoT device firmware isn’t using too much resources. As such, performance testing focuses on areas such as speed, responsiveness, and quality of the underlying code. A bloated firmware uses up too much resources. So anything that can be eliminated it better taken out.

  • Interoperability testing 

One of the foundational concepts in IoT computing is interoperability. The idea is to connect as many devices as possible. But, these devices must be compatible in the first place. If we’re going to use Alexa to switch lights ON and OFF in our homes, then Alexa must be compatible with the rest of the smart home system.

Interoperability testing for IoT determines whether (and how well) various devices within the IoT system interconnect. Can the devices communicate efficiently? Can you transfer data between them? Does the communication process affect performance? These are just some of the questions an interoperability tester asks.

  • Connectivity Testing

Connectivity testing is about how devices connect to various networks. As we mentioned earlier, the Internet of Things connects devices in multiple ways. Some are connected via Wi-Fi, others through Bluetooth, and then there are also options such as RFID, Ethernet, and NFC.

Connectivity testing involves two main things. First, developers need to ensure that devices can connect via as many channels as possible. Additionally, connectivity metrics, such as speed and security, are also tested.

  • Quality Assurance (QA) Testing

QA testing evaluates the quality of a product before it goes into use. However, it must not be confused with usability testing. While usability testing seeks to find out whether the product is useful at all, quality assurance tests go one step further to determine whether it’s fit for purpose. Are you providing the best possible product? That’s the question you must ask here.

One factor that becomes crucial in QA testing in the IoT era, therefore, is updates/upgrades. To ensure that your product is consistently in great shape, you’ll need to update/upgrade it regularly. Updates/upgrades can be for the firmware or software. QA tests help to find out if all necessary upgrades/updates can be executed without any trouble.

  • Pilot Testing 

Finally, all the tests we’ve discussed so far happen in the lab. And, they’re incredibly useful in making sure that the system works fine. But, it’s completely possible for a product to work in the lab and fail when exposed to real-life conditions. Pilot tests involve exposing the product to real-life.

During pilot testing, the product is handed to a limited number of users in the field. The product is then monitored, and, at the end of the period, the users asked to provide feedback. Pilot tests are usually the last before the product goes into mass deployment.

Ready to Join the IoT Bandwagon?

NIX Solutions specializes in emerging business technologies, making IoT a key focus area for us at the moment. Get in touch with us to learn how you can leverage IoT solutions to accelerate your growth.