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January 24, 2017

The convergence of wireless technologies and the Internet specifically, the Internet of Things (IoT), has impacted mankind in many ways from intelligent manufacturing to smart homes, comprising sensor powered doors that use facial recognition to identify people, lights that turn on automatically when someone moves into a room, air conditioners that auto adjust cooling, refrigerators that send grocery alerts to smart phones, which in turn link to online stores and hunt for the best deals.

The IoT is making this and so much more a reality. As you read this, a smart device or a connected sensor is transmitting data, and impacting businesses, consumers, and the overall quality of life. And thats reason enough to assure not just individual devices, but the entire IoT ecosystem as a whole. Because the cost of a sensor failure and device malfunction could be enormous. Hence a holistic, all-encompassing assurance for the Internet of Everything is the need of the hour.

The IoT brings in mobility of a different kind – one thats much beyond application performance and usability on mobile devices. This in turn demands mobility assurance of a different kind assurance that doesnt stick to the typical user action-system response test case scenarios, but assures the ecosystem as a whole. Simply because their performance impacts other downstream systems and connected devices.

Talking of performance, IoT devices must support prolonged and continuous usage under varied conditions. And theres no room and scope for reboots and restarts. The regular stress testing, which involves subjecting the device to large volumes of traffic and data, is applicable here too but with a different approach. In addition to data and traffic volume, IoT devices must also be put through multiple rounds of testing under various environment conditions, such as exposure to extreme temperature, moisture, water, vibration and noise. 100 percent fail safe device assurance calls for new types of load, stress, fail over, spike and performance tests. With device data being consumed by a number of downstream systems and applications, systems integration and API testing are important components of IoT assurance.

As device to device communication is the heart of an IoT ecosystem, continuous network availability is a critical success factor for the success of an IoT system. IoT performance depends on uninterrupted, high speed, always-on network connectivity. And where there are public networks, there are viruses, malware, and trojans. Needless to say, security too, must be built into IoTs mobility assurance scheme of things. Threats and vulnerabilities must be continuously monitored, pre-empted and thwarted.

While discussing mobility whether for the IoT or any other application, the shrinking screen size is an aspect that must be considered. While computing power and device smartness are on the rise, devices and screen sizes have been shrinking. Realizing the full potential of these devices, within the limited screen size and interface elements, necessitates intuitive interface design. No wonder, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), User Experience testing, customer experience oriented test strategies and interface design are fast emerging as applied assurance areas.

In the backdrop of these realities and assurance requirements, the biggest challenge that IoT assurance practitioners face is provisioning the right-fit test environment for IoT. And Im not talking about firing up hardware or software instances on demand. Thanks to the advent of the cloud, infrastructure provisioning is perhaps, the easiest part. Whats challenging is simulating real world business contexts on the provisioned test infrastructure extreme environment changes like temperature, moisture, and so on discussed earlier. Sensor simulation tools can help address this challenge to some extent, by quickly emulating real time scenarios. Thankfully, these emulators are not expensive to deploy.

With heterogeneous and unique devices in play, IoT mobility requires a personalized approach to testing simply because, while the design of connected things is important, assuring them is critical. Mobility assurance providers have realized this fact. As a result, IoT testing platforms are beginning to evolve in both infrastructure and innovative testing approaches. Its time for assurance teams to start thinking on similar lines because soon, it will be time to assure not just interfaces and applications, but devices, sensors, and the security of an entire ecosystem.

In the next post, we will explore practical and emerging use cases such as the integration of GPS navigation with augmented reality, discover how mobility is redefining software design, development and testing, and evaluate how assurance strategies must evolve, to support next generation mobility.

Vignesh Viswanathan is a Test Automation Consultant with TCS' Mobility Assurance Center of Excellence. He has worked in mobile testing for two years and assists customers in deploying mobile test solutions across domains. His focus is mobile test automation tools such as Perfecto Mobile, Seetest and Appium, and his interests include mobile usage trend analysis and mobile automation tools comparisons.


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