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March 21, 2017

The new-age digital customer needs only one less-than-positive experience to abandon one brand and switch to another. Many customers will not give a second chance to a device or an app that is challenging to use, or lets them down. The same holds true for wearable devices the manufacturers brand and revenues are directly tied to how thoroughly the device hardware and software have been tested. It would be a fallacy to assume that the testing challenges remain similar to ones encountered with smartphones and tablets. Wearable devices add extra dimensions to the testing process, and may even need testing scenarios to be redefined. Because smart wearable devices include multiple sensors and interactions that must be tested, too. Traditional testing practices will need to be re-examined and testers must be ready to explore new grounds.

For instance, testers will encounter different screen sizes, variety of different chipsets, customizations to vanilla Android Wear by OEMs, different hardware specs in terms of memory, controls, and so on. Lets examine specific aspects that the new age tester must be prepared for:

  • UX Design This primary challenge makes the device a hit or a miss. User centric designs with optimized resource utilization and maximized functionality is the need of the hour. Easier said than done, this is a mammoth task given that there are no standards or guidelines available in the industry to emulate. Testers must ask how is the UX design leveraging and extracting the most benefit from the user experience and usability we have grown used to with smartphones and tablets, and what are the implications on how users will interact with this wearable device.
  • Connectivity – While different industries choose to adopt smart wearable devices for various use cases, continuous access to real-time information is a critical success factor for all wearables applications. Standards like Bluetooth, ZigBee, and WiFi exist together with proprietary interfaces. However, these protocols were not designed to operate under low power situations. Testers and developers must work together, to win the superior connectivity versus energy efficiency battle. Specifically, wearables assurance includes tests to ensure wearables operations with low battery usage.
  • Information security The wearable device constantly collects data, and many device applications need to sync or exchange this collected data with other devices, service provider applications, or internal enterprise systems. Security of the information stored or relayed on these devices is of prime importance as they can be easily lost or stolen owing to their size and portability. Further, the data exchange depends on third party mobile networks. These scenarios sometimes expose user confidential data, and compromise privacy, which in turn can cause irreparable damage. Imagine ones fitness or health records being exposed to the external world. QA teams must ensure that, in the rush to accelerate time to market, security and privacy challenges are addressed, and not compromised.
  • Device level interaction Wearable devices do not operate in isolation, but as part of a connected ecosystem of upstream and downstream devices, sensors, and systems. Besides device performance, QA must also assure device to device and device to system interactions. The wearables ecosystem comprising of the device sensors, wired / wireless communication mediums and back end systems will have to be thoroughly tested for seamless integration. The endless possibilities and use cases simply render the traditional, user action-system response test case approach ineffective. Wearables testing must not just be strategized and planned, but also designed. Its time for Design Thinking in QA too.
  • Display Size As compared to phones and tablets, wearables have a significantly smaller display size and resolution. The interface real estate is premium, and must be used efficiently. Thumbnails and shrunk content must be intelligently rendered. In the wearables UX space, concise messaging drives UI control clarity its not just a design, but a communication challenge as well.
  • Functionality Wearables functionality must be designed independently. Merely porting mobile functionality in its lighter form, and with a smaller interface, is not a good strategy. Given that most wearables also operate under the popular Android iOS operating systems, there is some scope for code reuse. But wearables functionality needs special attention, and must be designed from scratch not reused. And to drive efficient design, QA must get involved from the outset, contribute to, and validate design. QA must envision effective use cases to validate sensing and interpretation of raw data into meaningful representations, storage and retrieval from day to day living experiences of customers.

If your business doesnt yet have a wearables strategy, its time to start thinking about one. Very soon, it may not be a matter of keeping up with the latest, its a matter of simply staying in the business.

Kanthi is leading assets & innovation for Mobility Assurance CoE in Assurance Services unit, TCS. She has over 17 years of experience in pre-sales, mobile consultancy and test automation, program management, and development of new offerings. A voracious reader with a penchant for developing automation tools, she has conceptualized and implemented "Remote Android Blackbox Instructive Tests" or 'RABBIT' for platform level testing of Android devices. Prior to working with TCS, she has successfully worked as an automation consultant towards the launch of phone models for popular device vendors.


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