The increasing complexity of IoT environments calls for more advanced tools and techniques for IoT test automation. The demand for more sophisticated and effective software QA and testing tools and models will grow further in an increasingly connected world. At the same time, IoT automation testing cannot be an afterthought if you want to launch a perfect product, and there are three reasons why testing matters:

  1. Reduce development costs – having your product tested throughout the development process allows you to avoid major errors and efficiency bottlenecks. That way, you can cut overheads.
  2. Avoid reputation damage – nobody wants to be associated with a poorly produced product, so you’ve got to test it and make sure the product is perfect.
  3. Cut time to market – the ability to quickly find and eliminate the problem allows you to develop the product and launch it to the market much faster.

IoT test automation is associated with some challenges and requires profound expertise to run smoothly. Let us discuss the complexity and challenges of IoT test automation as well as the approach and tools used by IoT QA experts to make testing simpler and more efficient.

The challenges of IoT QA Testing for the business 

Developing any kind of product is associated with certain challenges, be it custom software development or building hardware for IoT and embedded systems. You need to understand the scope of the endeavor and all the possible bumps on the road. When it comes to IoT QA testing, there are three major challenges that you will need to overcome.

System complexity

The first and the most challenging aspect of IoT testing is the sheer complexity of the system. A large IoT infrastructure contains hundreds of devices and connectivity protocols, all of which send and transmit uncountable numbers of signals each day. With such complexity, there always is a chance of an error that could send the system off the rails for a number of reasons: 

  • Too many platforms. Large IoT systems combine a substantial number of hardware and software components that work together to produce intended outcomes. So, it takes flawless cooperation between the software applications and the hardware elements of the system for the infrastructure to function smoothly. There always is a chance that an error might occur because of the peculiarities of the environment, during data transfer, or at any other stage of interaction between software and hardware.
  • Too many communication protocols. IoT networks rely on a wide variety of communication protocols to interact with each other and the controllers. It is mandatory that the elements of the system communicate with one another in real-time or near-real-time. But, as hardware and software integrate with one another, such issues as compatibility, security, scalability, and upgradation can become a tough challenge.
  • Too much attack surface. Business owners understand how vulnerable their infrastructures become as they expand them further. Again, it is nearly impossible to run all the necessary penetration tests manually, and that is where secure IoT automation testing becomes even more vital. 

Read our earlier article to learn how to ensure IoT security across system layers.

The complexity of the systems creates challenges to the adoption of IoT on a meaningful scale. That is why the global economic value of IoT in 2022 (1,6 USD trillion) is lower than projected back in 2015. A meaningful adoption of the technology can generate a total economic value of up to 3,3 USD trillion by 2030.

No test frameworks 

Each IoT ecosystem is unique. Your enterprise IoT would be different from that of your competitors, and regardless of how complex or simple it is, it requires an IoT test automation framework. Engaging in IoT development, you will find out that there is no out-of-the-box framework that matches all of its unique features and requirements. That is where you will need an expert who can develop a test framework that is going to fit the unique requirements of your ecosystem.

The complexity of the system adds to the problem. Each layer of the system - device, gateway, cloud, data - also need to be tested both separately and in relation to one another

Hard to automate and integrate into CI/CD

Another challenge of IoT QA is that it is hard to automate the testing process and integrate it into the CI/CD process. The problem here is that IoT automation testing must be an inherent part of the development process. Most companies, however, do not have the capacity to automate and integrate testing into CI/CD, which causes unnecessary overheads.

How to address the challenges of IoT test automation: The three-stage approach by N-iX

However, testing the entire IoT infrastructure is a much more complicated task. Testing hardware, devices, gateway, and communication protocols requires a structured approach and a strong knowledge of IoT test automation practices as there are no ready IoT QA testing frameworks for that type of testing. Why? Because your system is unique and requires a unique framework that would suit your unique system.

Stage 1: Test each system layer separately

The complexity of IoT ecosystems calls for a well-structured approach that allows us to test each layer of the system separately as well as in relation to one another. You need to test each layer of your system separately, then in relation to each other, and then test the entire system.

Not system layers

A typical IoT infrastructure consists of four layers:

  • Device layer – we begin by testing the technical characteristics and quality of each device. We design an IoT test automation framework for your unique devices and run tests that emulate the real-life environment to see how they perform. For instance, we might need to build a robot that would emulate the work of the device within an environment. With the help of such a robot, we can test how the device responds to certain triggers, acquires data, and transmits it to the gateway layer. 
  • Gateway layer – N-iX can develop custom software and firmware for your gateway using the most suitable connectivity protocols for your business case. Again, this will require custom IoT QA testing framework implementation, and our experts can help with that.
  • Cloud layer – we do not just design high-load, scalable cloud architecture for your IoT environment, we also automate its testing and deployment. DevSecOps approach enables us to test the architecture for potential security threats.
  • Data management layer – the proper functioning of the data management layer is essential for predictive analytics, monitoring, alerting, industrial automation, inventory management, and more. We test the functioning of the data layer giving you complete confidence in its reliability.

Testing each layer separately gives us one major advantage – that way we can quickly identify the source of the problem and locate the problem areas that need our attention. 

Warning: Not testing system layers separately does not give you a precise understanding of the problems that might occur anywhere across the IoT infrastructure. As a result, you will have to test all of the system components manually trying to figure out what went wrong. This is a tedious, time-consuming, and costly process. Also, in case you make any changes to the system, you will need to test it over and over, which would once again take lots of time and resources.

Stage 2: Test the connection between layers 

Proper functioning of the system layers alone does not guarantee the integrity of the entire system. You need to be sure of the proper transition of signals and data between system layers. N-iX experts can test the flow of data from the device through the gateway and into the cloud layer of the infrastructure. 

We run two types of testing: 

  • Device to the gateway – we run short-range, medium-range, and long-range tests to make sure the network’s bandwidth corresponds to the needs of your infrastructure. This is a standard procedure that provides confidence in the proper functioning of all the communication protocols over all distances.
  • Gateway to cloud – we test the quality of Wi-Fi, cellular, and ethernet connectivity to check whether the connection is up to industry standards. As a part of IoT automation testing, we make sure the connection remains stable even if one or several connectivity protocols fail. For instance, if the Wi-Fi goes down for some reason, the system will automatically switch to LTE without losing data or causing any downtimes.

The goal here is to make sure the communication between the system layers is stable at all times. You do not need to worry about power outages or loss of connection that might disrupt the flow of data throughout your infrastructure. This will also help with data analytics if you want to gain additional insight from the information you collect.

Stage 3: Test the entire system

After testing the performance of each separate layer as well as the connections between the layers, we are ready to test the performance of the system as a whole. This is the stage at which we aggregate the collected data from the previous tests and run the whole system in a real-life or emulated environment. Here, we round the IoT QA testing process up to fully automate and integrate it into the CI/CD practice. 

Types of testing in IoT

  • Usability testing:

There exists a wide range of devices of different shapes and forms, and different types of devices are marketed to a number of audiences. The success of the product often depends on the users’ perception shaped by the comfort of use. The user experience is a vital element of the product’s success in a highly competitive market, which is why it is essential to test the product for usability.

  • Compatibility testing:

IoT ecosystems may connect a number of devices, often manufactured by different companies. Such devices would naturally have different software and hardware configurations, which may hinder their ability to function properly within a single network. Compatibility testing is meant to secure the proper interoperability within the IoT ecosystem giving you confidence in its flawless performance.

  • Reliability and scalability testing:

Reliability and Scalability are important parts of IoT automation testing in environments that can be expanded and improved upon as time goes by. As your enterprise grows and evolves, so does your IoT infrastructure, and you want to be sure of its reliability. Testing the reliability of your IoT infrastructure is the key to knowing it is going to function properly in the long run. It also gives you the confidence for further scaling of your enterprise.

  • Security testing:

IoT systems work with large amounts of data that can be compromised as a result of a malicious attack. The vulnerability of such systems and IoT security are major concerns for any business, and that is exactly why data integrity testing is so important. You will need a partner who can run penetration testing to make sure your data is safe and protect your infrastructure from all types of security threats.

You will need a partner who can test your entire IoT infrastructure, and N-iX can apply out-of-the-box test frameworks and develop custom test automation frameworks for you. Any ecosystem might be subjected to changes over time, and that is precisely why you need to be prepared for the scaling needs of your enterprise. We integrate IoT test automation into the CI/CD roadmap so that you can test the system whenever new sets of devices are added to it. 

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Final thoughts

Being sure of your product’s quality is the most important aspect of a successful market launch. It gives you confidence in the smooth running of the development process allowing you to reduce overheads. It also speeds up development, as you can react to problems much faster and eliminate them easily. And last but not least, it gives your clients the perfect product they deserve, boosting your reputation and brand loyalty. 

Testing such complex infrastructures requires profound IoT testing expertise and the use of custom IoT automation testing frameworks. N-iX can help you develop and test IoT and Embedded systems that promote the efficiency of your infrastructure and boost your business's overall performance.

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