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6 most common IoT testing challenges

June 16, 2022
Why testing devices can be difficult

The Internet of Things (IoT) is taking the market by storm. The ability to embed sensors and software into physical objects to collect data and transmit it over a wireless network creates new possibilities for monitoring manufacturing, remotely controlling devices and automation. The technology also presents problems for developers. It has more complexities and security issues that need to be tested, which takes more time.

A growing plethora of IoT devices

IoT-enabled devices have been evolving to look like any other cloud application. The code runs on the device and the dependencies that interact with external data sources, such as measuring temperature or humidity.

It’s these dependencies that make IoT devices challenging to test. Testing is complex and expensive because it requires collaboration and real-time data sharing. What adds to testing complexity is the variety and volume of IoT data, the diversity of data sources and the complexity of the components.

Also read: Ubiquitous Industrial Internet of Things

Factors that complicate IoT testing

When it comes to IoT development, testing continues to be one of the biggest hurdles manufacturers and integrators face. Here are some of the specific issues associated with IoT device testing.

Communications protocols: IoT devices use more than one communications protocol, including message queuing telemetry transport (MQTT), extensible messaging and presence protocol (XMPP), constrained application protocol (CoAP), and advanced message queuing protocol (AMQP). These protocols connect devices and servers and facilitate the exchange of data. Testing tools should be able to use these communication protocols to test the application programming interfaces (APIs) and make sure they work with devices.

Multiple IoT cloud platforms: IoT connectivity applications are hosted in cloud service provider (CSP) environments such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure IoT. IoT devices need to be tested for each cloud platform to ensure usability. IoT devices with different capabilities generate different types of data, such as structured and unstructured data, sent to the cloud. As more devices are added to the cloud platform, real-time testing becomes challenging since multiple devices must be tested across different cloud environments.

Security and privacy threats: IoT devices are highly vulnerable to outside attacks, and IoT cyberattacks are widespread. Most users do nothing to protect their IoT devices since they assume the manufacturer has incorporated security measures. There should be a strong security policy in place. Also, the functionality and performance of the device must be checked. Device password protection, data protection, data encryption, software updates and firmware upgrades must all be checked.

Diverse devices: Since there are so many different operating systems and devices, it’s impossible to test applications for all the possible combinations for compatibility and functionality. Each IoT device has different capabilities and will perform differently depending on the environment and platform. Ideally, devices should be tested using different devices, and good test coverage will include the most popular platforms. Upgrades are another challenge. Following an upgrade, both software and firmware updates should be tested on the target devices across all platforms to make sure they work.

Network availability: The benefit of IoT is reliable and rapid data communications. That requires always-on network performance, but IoT devices are sure to experience issues with network outages and configurations. The testing challenge is to test IoT reliability and performance adequately under every possible network condition.

Real-time data testing: Data volume, variety and velocity present a challenge for real-time testing. IoT sensors generate a massive quantity of data, and that data is unstructured and complex, so it needs to be cleaned for end processing. IoT testing will ensure they can handle different types of data in volume. What makes testing even more difficult is getting, organizing and evaluating this data before it breaks down in a world where the amount of data can change at any time.

These are just a few of the challenges associated with IoT testing. There are many others, such as hardware quality and safety testing and a lack of standardization.

Building and testing stable, high-quality IoT applications may seem impossible, but it can be achieved with appropriate preparation. IoT testing can be easier if you plan your tests, break them into smaller tasks and make sure your test environment can handle cloud and virtualization strategies.

About the author

Chakri Devarakonda is head of quality engineering business at Tavant. Contact him at [email protected].

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