The Internet of Things, or IoT, is not a buzzword anymore. Today, IoT applications are transforming organizations into digital businesses, facilitating new business models, improving efficiency, and increasing employee and customer engagement. IoT technologies have already given rise to a number of landmark applications in sectors as diverse as Industry 4.0, smart cities, smart homes, connected cars, and e-health. According to a McKinsey & Company prediction, investments in IoT technology will grow at 13.6 percent per year through 2022. The same report also predicts that IoT will have an economic impact of between $4 trillion and $11 trillion by 2025. IoT applications will deliver great value to organizations by creating new revenue streams from providing connected solutions and services and by reducing costs in operations.
The count of IoT devices has significantly proliferated over the last few years. And Statista believes that the number of IoT devices and appliances worldwide will skyrocket from around 9 billion in 2020 to more than 25 billion by 2030. The growing market demand for IoT applications necessitates rigorous IoT application testing. However, the way an IoT app functions demands distinct testing strategies and methods. Effective IoT testing can enable organizations to mitigate security risks proactively and benefit from improved analytics, new revenue streams, and reduction in human effort and manual intervention. With that thought let us dive into the world of IoT testing.
Layers of an IoT application
Most IoT applications are based on a component-based architecture. These components are the building blocks of an application and can be typically turned on or off on a need basis. The applications are also built on three basic layers:
- Presentation, Control, and Configuration layer
- Integration and Interface layer
- Storage or Database layer
Unique Characteristics of IoT applications
Compared to other mobile or web applications, the IoT apps are characterized by some unique factors, which includes:
- Combination of hardware, sensors, connectors, gateways, and application software in a single system.
- Real-time stream analytics and complex event processing.
- Support for data volume, velocity, variety, and veracity.
- Visualization of large-scale data.
Major Challenges in IoT App Testing
Consequently, such characteristics of IoT apps present the QA and testing teams with a unique set of challenges when it comes to sufficiently testing IoT apps. The major challenges include:
- Dynamic Environment: Unlike other applications, IoT testing cannot be performed within a defined environment. IoT has a very dynamic environment with millions of sensors and different devices working in conjunction with intelligent software.
- Real-time Complexities: IoT apps can have multiple real-time functionality scenarios and their use cases are very complex too.
- Scalability of System: Creating an ideal test environment to assess functionality along with reliability and scalability can be a very challenging task.
- Device Interaction Module: The architecture of an IoT app is meant to interact with different hardware and software in real-time or near real-time. However, this integration poses serious challenges for the testing team in aspects such as security, backward compatibility, and upgrade issues.
- UI Diversity: An IoT app can be spread across multiple devices belonging to every platform possible (such as Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, etc.). QA teams may be able to test an IoT app on various devices but testing it on all possible devices is almost impossible.
- Complexities of Test Cases: The dynamic environment, real-time complexities, scalability, and UI aspects make the job of a tester strenuous.
- Security Testing: An HP study found that more than 70% of IoT devices and apps are currently vulnerable to security issues. In a world where cyber threats are at their all-time high, rigorous testing is essential to identifying security holes and tackling those before any damage is done. However, suboptimal IoT security testing exposes manufacturers and users to security breaches and loss of data.
How Test Automation Thwarts IoT Testing Challenges
Gartner predicts that more than 20 billion IoT devices will be in use by 2026, while a MarketsandMarkets report forecasted that the total size of the IoT testing market will be a whopping $1.3 billion by 2021.
As the demand for connected devices and applications undergoes a huge upsurge, the need of the hour is to build effective, robust apps quickly. Test automation enables organizations to meet such goals. It is one of the most effective and flexible approaches to testing the quality and performance of an IoT application. Test automation allows QA and testing teams to face the abovementioned challenges of IoT testing confidently. It supports the agile methodologies, thereby promoting the key principles of communication, teamwork, integrity, and thinking to constantly modify and enhance the process.
Unlike the traditional testing methodologies, test automation breaks down a task into specific and very small phases of work which are checked separately per feature. Leading test automation solutions allow users to test an app across various devices and platforms, thereby helping testers get over the device and platform diversity challenges of IoT testing. There are many more reasons which make testing automation an inseparable part of IoT development:
- Enables rigorous testing of apps across all devices and platforms without hours of manual effort.
- Delivers significant time savings while ensuring optimum app quality and performance.
- Allows testers to test everything (including sensors and thermostats) at an incredible scale.
- Permits the prioritization of connectivity and security issues. Testers can easily uncover various connectivity scenarios while focusing on ways to deal with cybercrime threats.
- Reduces the need for coding and test maintenance, thereby accelerating the time-to-market.
- Delivers top-notch end-user experience across multiple channels (device, web, mobile).
- Decreases IoT testing costs significantly, while ensuring app quality and security.
- Ensures good app response time and real-time data accuracy.
- Identifies security, functional, and performance issues early in the testing cycle to reduce the complexities.
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