IoT Testing: Complexities With Assessing Internet of Things Networks and Devices

Posted by on May 16, 2016 8:00:00 AM Dean Chang  
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IoT testing and NeoThe Internet of Things can simplify our lives from the outside by making mechanics easier to control, eliminating redundancies, and streamlining processes. These changes have the capability to alter the way we do business across various sectors, including retail, automotive, and urban development.

Yet in spite of these improvements, new technologies carry their own independent complexities, particularly when it comes to testing the system itself. As Francis Adanza at DZone put it, IoT is “a complex realm of crisscrossing wireless connections and long device idle times. This requires very specific testing needs.” Such inherent complexity leads to major challenges for IoT testing.

Here are a few of those challenges.

The Uncertainty of Wi-Fi Environments and Other Potential Connections

Wi-Fi and other connectivity formats such as Bluetooth, ZigBee, and LTE cellular are both a blessing and a curse for IoT testers. On one hand, these technologies allow for broadly available remote control previously unable to be used in broad, public spaces that were unavailable to the masses. On the other hand, channel bandwidths may vary, complicating general compatibility and connection to IoT. Wi-Fi alone can come on different channel bandwidths and in different flavors; devices must be capable of connecting for not only frequencies such as 802.11b (used for beacons or for traffic with older Wi-Fi devices) but also OFDM for the more recent flavors of Wi-Fi.

Further barriers to clean, easily managed devices and signals come from already existing devices used for completely separate purposes, such as interference from microwave ovens. Managing remote channels and connections means managing the set-up of those channels themselves.

More Moving Parts Means More Problems

IoT’s most immediate complications arise from its essential complexity. IoT’s capabilities allow for those establishing networks to create connections between hundreds of devices, services, and hardware. These devices and services are made by different manufacturers and offered by different companies for a wide variety of purposes.

For example, a “simple” IoT home automation system could include…

  • Mobile devices, PCs, laptops, and tablets
  • Smart home appliances for security including alarms, electronic locks, surveillance, sound systems, and lights
  • Video streaming applications such as Netflix, HBOGo, and Starz Play, plus music services like Pandora, Google Play, and Accuradio
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or LTE cellular connectivity

In addition to the aforementioned issues surrounding Wi-Fi and other remote connections, getting the settings right for all of these components may prove difficult; if two devices are set up to interact but their setup interferes with a third device, new solutions may be needed to continue to complete the IoT vision for that network. Adjusting these connections and determining the best path forward may mean connecting and disconnecting different devices and testing the new composite set of connected devices until an optimal arrangement has been established.

IoT Security Isn't Simple

Setting security priorities may be the most complex job for IoT setup and testing specialists. The size of IoT networks is one of their greatest strengths – it allows for as little as one device to control up to hundreds of processes in many different facilities. However, the other side of this equation presents significant security concerns, for breach of a single device can yield the same level of control to nefarious hackers as it did for those originally intended to control and operate devices within the network.

Teams must dedicate ongoing resources to ensuring these networks are secure, which includes continuing to search for potential weaknesses in networks and testing each of these areas on a regular basis. This starts with examining network-related concerns such as web interfaces and user authentication processes. Testers must prioritize these problem areas to make the most of their resources.

These areas of concern just scratch the surface for IoT testing. Continually searching for new ways of testing IoT devices and the connections between those devices will continue to expand as a challenge and a field of study as the IoT becomes more prevalent.

As you work on a game plan for testing your IoT deployment, you’ll want to consider the crucial touchpoints for debugging during the product’s lifecycle. Our whitepaper on designing for successful troubleshooting can help.

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Topics: LTE, Wi-Fi, IoT testing