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Testing IoT solutions: Importance and Key Challenges

July 29, 2021
8 min
IoT solutions development

You’ve no doubt heard that constant testing is one of the most important stages of the app development process. And it really is. It’s crucial to identify and fix all the gaps as early as possible, because an app that is tested properly and in a timely fashion will always show better performance and higher security. Everybody knows that the earlier a bug is found in the solution, the cheaper it is to fix it. As a result of good testing, the cost-efficiency of your solutions and customer satisfaction are guaranteed.

Testing should be an integral part of the development cycle of any type of software product. But it is of special importance when you’re dealing with IoT solutions whose full-scale functioning must connect with different devices. It is necessary to check not only the features of the app but also its compatibility and way of interacting with IoT devices.

In this article, we will focus on the peculiarities of IoT solution testing and take a closer look at the challenges testers may face.

Peculiarities of IoT testing

The main thing that makes testing IoT apps different from testing other types of software is that their connection with external devices is fundamental. In this situation, testers need to have specific knowledge about these devices and their capacities.

Sometimes the software specialists can physically obtain the necessary device, which significantly facilitates the process of testing. However, it’s not rare to have a situation where getting access to a device is impossible. It’s especially complicated to get access to complex devices if the software is being developed by an outsourced team rather than a group in-house. As a result, developers have to create special software to emulate the particular environment and the interaction.

Based on our experience, we can say that it’s possible for an app itself to be bug-free and perform excellently, while issues with the device and its firmware lead to incorrect functioning of the app. Sometimes the technical characteristics of the IoT device can prevent the app from working properly. When, in the process of testing, we detect such issues, we share our findings with clients and provide them with our recommendations for what can be changed.

It also happens that a client changes something in their device and sends us requirements for introducing changes to the software. Consequently, these changes require us to repeat the regression testing stage to ensure that the entire system functions as it is supposed to, even after the updates.

What does the team need to know to start testing an IoT solution? Specialists should have a clear understanding of what is expected from the required type of interaction, what tasks an IoT device should perform when it’s being controlled via the app, and how to ensure connectivity and a functioning interaction. In other words, testers usually have the following shortlist of aspects that they need to know before developing a testing plan:

  1. Tasks and functionality of the IoT device
  2. Security requirements
  3. Technical characteristics of the device

Challenges of testing IoT solutions

Given all the peculiarities of IoT app testing, these are some of the challenges associated with testing this type of software:

  1. The wide range of IoT devices testers may have to work with. They all are very different (from simple dog trackers to gas station devices) but they all require testers to have a good understanding of their peculiarities, especially when the app is being tested in relation to its interaction with the device;
  2. The necessity to check the entire infrastructure of the system. There is always a server, a server cluster, or a monolith that controls IoT devices. It is important to detect the right testing type that will be appropriate for each type of connection, and to ensure the correct functioning of all the connections;
  3. The launch of new versions of device firmware, which requires conducting new rounds of testing;
  4. Sometimes, the impossibility of gaining physical access to the IoT device to conduct tests. (Though today, despite some technical difficulties and additional time required, this issue can be avoided with the help of emulation.)

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Types of IoT testing

From a theoretical point of view, testing IoT solutions doesn’t seriously differ from testing other kinds of software products. However, some types of tests are of higher importance when we deal with IoT apps.

All in all, sources define up to 40 testing types. For IoT solutions, the most important and widely applied types are so-called smoke and regression testing, especially when it is necessary to check the functionality of the app after a new version of device firmware has been released. 

One other very important aspect is to test the connection between the app and the IoT device, to verify that the data transfer is executed in the right way (API testing).

But we’ll have a look at some other issues as well.

There are two major categories of testing: functional and non-functional.

testing

Functional testing, as you might guess, involves tests aimed at checking how various functional aspects work. This group includes, for example:

  • Unit testing: The process of testing each module or component of an app. This task is usually performed by the IoT development team, not testers, as knowledge in programming is required.
  • Integration testing: When all modules are integrated, it is important to see how they work together.
  • End-to-end testing: This type involves executing tests of the entire software product.
  • Smoke testing: This kind of testing helps to determine whether the software is stable enough for proceeding to further steps.
  • Regression testing: Every new module added leads to changes in the program. If some updates are introduced in the firmware of the IoT device, they can also result in changes in the system. That’s why it is important to make sure that after each update, all components still work properly.
  • Interface testing: At this stage, testers check whether the graphical UI meets the set requirements and specifications.

Non-functional testing focuses on aspects such as reliability, security, performance, etc. In this category we can define the following types:

  • Performance testing: This process includes defining performance issues with the software. Fixing them makes it possible to increase the overall performance of the app.
  • Security testing: As you know, the security of data is of special importance for many IoT solutions; that’s why this type of test, aimed at ensuring the highest level of security of the app, plays a crucial role.
  • Load testing: These tests allow us to determine how much load your software can take without performance deterioration.
  • Compatibility testing: This stage is required to check whether an app can be run on different platforms/in different environments without bugs and other issues. This testing can be performed only when the software is fully stable.
  • Stress testing: At this step, testers create unfavorable conditions for the system, to analyze how it can perform in such circumstances.

Experience of Cogniteq in IoT software testing

At Cogniteq, we have a rich portfolio of successfully launched IoT projects that involved developing and testing various types of software written for different devices. However, in this article we’ll share the details of just one, which happened to be one of the most interesting (and aromatic) projects our IoT development team has worked with—and continues to work with. And it is Ikawa.
Our client manufactures and sells two different types of coffee roasters: regular machines for use at home and high-tech roasters for professional use. So, we had to build two coffee roasting apps for iOS and Android devices that would be synchronized with the roasters via Bluetooth. After setting a profile on the application, users can experience hands-free roasting with a high level of precision, as the roasters will receive all the parameters chosen in the app.

development

The apps even allow users to create their own recipes and share them via email, to record and save their roast history, and to check the progress of their beans as the roaster does its thing.

As you can see even from this short description, the project is quite large, which represents an additional challenge for testing these IoT apps. 

For the Ikawa app our experts chose the following types of testing:

  • Smoke testing
  • Regression testing
  • UI testing
  • Unit testing
  • Integration testing
  • Performance testing

Moreover, all updates of the roasters’ firmware necessitate conducting new rounds of regression testing to make sure everything still works as it is supposed to with the newer version. This testing after the firmware version update usually takes around 80 man-hours, which is quite an impressive figure. But we, as well as our client, fully understand the importance of this stage and pay a lot of attention to it.

A great thing about this project is that we can work directly with an actual roaster when we need to test how the apps interact with the IoT device, so, we do not need to emulate this interaction. And afterward, there’s coffee

Final thoughts

IoT app testing has a very important peculiarity. As long as the IoT device is supported and maintained, testing is required. Any changes in the firmware of the device should be followed by testing to ensure that the app functions correctly.

Having experience of more than 10 years in IoT development, we fully understand the necessity and importance of the testing stage. We recognize all the possible pitfalls and challenges and know how to deal with them.

If you have an IoT project and are looking for experts who will ensure high-quality testing, or you just have an idea and need to find professionals who will transform it into reality, Cogniteq experts are always at your disposal. Leave your inquiry on our website, and after analyzing your case we will contact you and explain how we can help you