Internet of Things Testing: Full Guide

By: Segiy Sergienko, 18 Feb 2022
11   min read
Reading Time: 11 minutes

The fourth technological revolution has made the Internet of Things a major growth driver for a wide variety of industries. New technologies are designed to make the world and business ultimately convenient, safe, and able to meet new challenges.

As the network infrastructure tech expands, the IoT becomes widely available. Given the growing population of connected devices, it is necessary to guarantee the integrity and reliability of products, which can only be achieved with high-quality IoT testing. Sirin Software, an established IoT software development company with sufficient experience in this field, shares its own vision of optimal solutions.

IoT Market: the Present and the Future

Both global consumers and businesses are eager to use smart devices, the common supply of which is growing rapidly. Today, there are about 46 billion connected devices in the world, and that number should increase up to 125 billion by 2030. It is expected that the total value of the global IoT market, while maintaining an average annual growth rate of 10%, will grow from the current $850 billion to $1380 billion by 2026. And many experts believe that even these staggering figures are underestimated.

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Although the IoT and Industry 4.0 are closely related, in the industrial sector they can coexist separately. A regular IoT software development company is faced with the task of gaining a sturdy competitive edge without sacrificing product quality.

The concept of IoT is considered futuristic so far, but the expectations from it are realistic and extensive. Advanced solutions are expanding particularly fast in the areas of robotics, retail, marketing, medicine, transportation, automotive, professional training, and revenue stream optimization.

The streamlined development of wireless technologies (5G, Wi-Fi6, BT5), combined with the decrease in the cost of connected devices is also driving the market. Connected devices use cloud platforms, which are also developing very quickly. The synergy of efforts in different areas will lead to an even greater introduction of new technologies that can partially exclude human participation in many underlying workflow processes.

Leading manufacturers and hundreds of startups have entered the game, so significant breakthroughs should be expected. And this means that the Internet of things Testing will have to be taken seriously. And it will be available to very small groups of developers.

What is IoT Testing? It’s Importance in Development Process 

Thanks to the proliferation of high-bandwidth wireless networks and low-cost computer chips, IoT devices collect and exchange data practically in real time. This allows you to raise the level of digital intelligence of devices in order to process information on the spot without delay. However, traditional testing techniques are not suitable in this case.

The Internet of Things Testing is a type of testing that aims to provide a deep understanding and control of interconnected devices in an IoT ecosystem. Testers should focus on user requirements, preventing bugs before they occur.

This is important because as it grants:

  1. Improved interaction: Users get a better interface;
  2. Business development: An integrated approach gives the prospect of growth;
  3. Fast time-to-market through early automation.

Because the IoT requires real-time data transfer, any performance bottlenecks need to be eliminated in advance. Early testing helps to identify weak nodes and network vulnerabilities beforehand.

What Are the IoT Testing Types? 

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At Sirin Software, we employ several dozen types of functional and non-functional testing, among which we give priority to the following:

Usability testing

The system has many devices for different purposes and form factors. Moreover, users have different perceptions, so checking the usability of the entire system is important. Make sure the product gets all the features it needs and check the UX carefully.

Load testing

Some of the key factors a tester typically works with include:

  • performance at maximum loads;
  • checking multiple devices at the same time;
  • tests of data exchange between devices.
  • load on RAM, battery usage, power consumption, etc.;
  • testing in various network conditions and environments.

Simulate the load using cloud services and custom scripts.

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Compatibility testing

Devices have a different configuration with a huge number of possible combinations. The process usually involves testing various devices, browsers, OS’s, and communication modes. Checking the compatibility of modules with different platforms allows you to identify issues before the product goes to market.

Make sure that products with standard and precise specifications can work together seamlessly and handle the load. Check the response time and the correctness of the transferred data.

Scalability testing

In order to build a test environment for the scalability checking purposes, apply sensor simulation using virtualization tools.

Data consistency check

The data consistency check covers a large amount of data and its application. Make an assessment at each stage of the readiness of nodes and after the integration of new extra modules.

Security testing

Users have access to a huge amount of data so it’s important to test authentication capabilities and enable data privacy controls at every stage of development. Ensure that data can be deleted remotely if necessary.

Connectivity testing

Make sure your connection is uninterrupted even if the network is suddenly disconnected. Ensure loss prevention and offline data retention in all situations. Apply connection redundancy. Don’t forget to register devices on the network. Ping regularly to check for errors.

What are the Common Challenges of IoT Testing and How to Properly Address Them?  

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It’s critical to be aware of the issues before coming up with the ideal test structure. Here are the main ones:

Lack of standardization

You must have tools capable of evaluating every element in the structure of an IoT system. Don’t run all scripts at once. Test combinations of integrations that are most in-demand by the market.

Too many platforms

It is difficult to test all possible combinations. Gather information from users to understand which devices and software versions are used the most. Focus on them. Test each device on different IoT testing frameworks.

Too many communication protocols

The underlying protocols MQTT, XMPP, and CoAP have their drawbacks, but each device must be tested for compatibility with all. An API based on JSON or XML is often layered on top of TP to make it easier to interact with the device. Testers can use it to automate the process.

Raised security requirements

IoT devices generate a lot of data that needs to be protected. Testers should pay particular attention to the password policy and ensure that the minimum requirements are met at the device level. We recommend that you require a password change on first access, which should be taken into account when using automated tests.

High network load

The state of the network significantly affects performance. Devices and applications need to be tested under these various conditions to ensure they respond correctly without data loss.

Use network virtualization to programmatically simulate network conditions. During testing, monitor system metrics such as the CPU and memory.

IoT Testing Framework: What is it All About? 

Because smart systems involve fragmented hardware, the complexity of testing can be eliminated by creating teams of testers who examine the reliability of components across different platforms and devices. For maximum performance, we recommend:

  1. Start with a secure connection to create a unified experience for users;
  2. Make process continuity and data protection a top priority throughout the IoT deployment process;
  3. Ensure that regulatory requirements and standards guidelines are followed.

IoT customization uses different approaches and common IoT testing framework software.

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It is important to pay equal attention to devices, computing, and data exchange, which must be processed and analyzed at all levels:

Application

This is the interface between the device and the network with which it will interact. It handles the formatting and presentation of the data and serves as a bridge between what an IoT device does and the transmission of data across the network. At this level, it is important to test the functionality, compatibility, usability, and localization of the API.

Service 

Today, there is a growing need to provide better and faster services. There is a demand to access, create, use and share data from any device. The main goal is to provide a deeper understanding and control over various interconnected IoT devices. Therefore, testing of interaction, functionality, and API is necessary.

Gateway and network 

A gateway is a physical device or virtual platform that connects sensors, IoT modules, and smart devices to the cloud. Gateways serve as a wireless access portal to provide devices with access to the Internet. It is important to check compatibility and network connectivity here.

Sensory

At this level, IoT experts must test the functionality and security of working with devices that detect and respond to changes in the environment. To do this, your IoT testing framework must support:

  1. Protocol simulators. Simulators should be convenient to use when there are many differences in device endpoints and their interfaces.
  2. Data loggers from different types of devices. Useful for intelligent testing of different sets of devices. Recorded data can be automatically played on different endpoints of the device, which in turn can help with compatibility testing.
  3. Virtualization. Introducing enough virtualization into services will result in earlier defect detection, faster turnaround, and lower costs through minimal reliance on real-time environments.
  4. Establishment of laboratories for experiments and simulation of user experience in real time.

How to Test an IoT App?

 

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Comprehensive testing must be carried out from different angles, from checking the hardware to testing the functionality of the entire system. Some testing steps can be automated, such as firmware testing.

What tools are used to test IoT apps?

There is a wide variety of tools you can use for such purposes.

Software:

  • Wireshark — an open-source application indispensable for monitoring interface traffic, source/destination host addresses, etc.;
  • Tcpdump — a similar utility but without a command line-based GUI. Helps to display TCP/IP and other packets on the network;
  • Solutions by LoRa Alliance — Certification Program, Stack Test, & Certification Tool (LoRaWAN) and Actility Network Server Compatibility. The system verifies network connectivity, required MAC command support, and upstream packet generation for the generic LoRaWAN network server version. It uses a specialized device test mode, so it cannot test other LoRaWAN usage modes;
  • ReadyAPI and SoapUI — the platform accelerates functional testing, security testing, and load testing of RESTful, SOAP, GraphQL, and other web services right inside the CI/CD pipeline. Allows you to test using the MQTT protocol, but does not have the functionality for dynamic generation of messages. For example, there is no function to convert messages to base64 format. Also, the management of MQTT topics is poorly implemented in the tool. This shortcoming limits the application of the test suite;
  • Apache JMeter — allows you to test the behavior of the software under various continuous loads and network speeds by throttling the outgoing bandwidth. For IoT systems using data processing based on Hadoop MapReduce, there are special plugins to test the MapReduce JobTracker service;
  • Acunetix — used for security vulnerability scanning of IoT web user interfaces and REST APIs. Integrates with the OpenVAS Network Security Scanner to provide network security assessments. Helps detect SQL injections, XSS, misconfigurations, weak passwords, missing authorization, insecure FTP, SSH, and database servers;
  • Shodan — a tool for determining devices connected to the Internet. This allows you to monitor all computers that are directly accessible online.
  • Thingful — a search system that provides secure interaction of a mass of objects over the Internet. This testing tool allows you to monitor data usage and make more informed related decisions.

Hardware:

  • JTAG Dongle — helps to debug the code of the target platform and show the variable step by step;
  • Digital storage oscilloscope — used to check various events with timestamps, maintain power failures and signal integrity;
  • Software-defined radio — used to simulate a receiver and transmitter for a large number of wireless gateways.

To test an IoT app, supporting enterprise tools are manually applied. For example, the LoraData program allows you to register devices under test on the ChirpStack network server, send control commands and receive response messages from devices and interface modules.

Testing timeframes

Conventional testing methods are not suitable for these purposes because they require too much time. It is necessary to apply earlier and more frequent testing in order to identify problems in a timely manner. For the IoT, this is essential because the platforms include many integrations. Include testing stages in the IoT testing process plan, which will run in parallel with the main development.

IoT testing process plan

The actual plan is drawn up according to the requirements, the development model, and the current stage of the SDLC project. Our IoT experts recommend including several steps:

  • Team building — a QA Manager should be assigned while the specifications are being developed. It must decide how often QA and development teams should collaborate to ensure that relevant test cases are prioritized, defect management is effective, and regression testing is performed. Then he/she must consider possible risks and ways to eliminate them.
  • Create a strategy — choosing the right test environment setup, configuration of test automation frameworks that fully reflect the actual hardware configurations, using simulators or virtualization tools.
  • Preparing for testing — selecting tools, creating a test lab, and estimating labor costs (you may need multiple test groups). Our experts typically automate integration and regression testing, as well as critical functional testing scenarios. Security, usability, and most functional tests are performed manually.
  • Testing in various conditions, environments, analyzing problems, and documenting fixes.

It is mandatory to check the stability of the entire application and gradual degradation under stress, changing operating, and network conditions (such as intermittent failures or loss of network connectivity).

Not all popular performance testing tools support IoT-specific communication protocol standards (e.g., MQTT, XMPP, CoAP, SOAP). The compatibility of the application’s technical stack with the capabilities of the preferred testing tool should be carefully considered. If there are not enough internal resources to test an IoT app, the task can be outsourced.

Test protocol

The test script should allow you to test all the capabilities of the software and hardware. In the process, we send the results to our clients to get recommendations on how to improve the interaction between devices, sensors, gateways, servers, and user applications. This requires regression testing.

The standard IoT testing process plan includes checks:

  • Components: network connectivity, applications, sensors, hardware, security systems, server/cloud infrastructure;
  • Functionality: exceptions and errors, communication between devices, response, results;
  • Performance: fault tolerance, data rate, synchronization.

We use testing communication to and from the device, as well as the cryptographic security of encrypted transmission, the ability to capture and modify data transmission. After evaluating the security of communication protocols, our experts find out the risks.

Best practices for IoT software development company. Opportunities for solutions for IoT testing

 

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In our own practice, we use only proven methods, such as:

  1. Gray Box Testing: Allows you to evaluate the OS, architecture, third-party hardware, connectivity, and hardware limitations. The tester examines the program code and can write a test case that will surely test certain functionality. This technique is applicable at different levels of testing – from unit to system, but mainly at the integration level.
  2. Automated testing in several stages:
  • scenario definition;
  • registration of devices and modules on the server or connection to the communication platform;
  • testing. The testing system exchanges messages with the tested devices and checks the correctness of the response messages.
  • getting results. The results of the tests carried out are placed in a database or a test log file. The specialist studies the results and, if necessary, refines the software.

The following principles will help in the implementation of the IoT testing process plan:

  • using the MQTT server as the main communication platform;
  • using YAML as a test script format;
  • employing system modularity to support other communication platforms.

Testing requires significant recalibration. To get the most out of key threats, you need to enable real-time analytics and follow all the mentioned best practices.

Conclusion

The purpose of testing is to offer the user convenience and security. The only way to deal with an IoT vulnerability is with an effective testing strategy. That being said, it’s always a good idea to seek help from industry experts.

Sirin Software’s IoT experts will scope and suggest several Internet of Things Testing scenarios for your project that increase your productivity, enhance your customer experience, and ensure reliable information gathering.

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