“Alexa, turn on the TV”, “Ok Google play The Weeknd songs” – Does that sound familiar? I am sure it does. Today, we are not privy to seeing things like – A light bulb being switched on using a smartphone application, or a motion sensor, or an automatic sensor controlled street light, an automatic car, a smartwatch or a zillion other things that we come across in our everyday life that without even our knowledge at times, are understanding and controlling our environment. This merging of physical and digital worlds is called ‘Internet of Things’ also abbreviated as (IoT).
Kevin Ashton coined the phrase – “Internet of Things” in 1999. But we certainly have come a long way since then.
What is (IoT)?
(IoT) or Internet of Things can be defined as any physical object that can be transformed into a digital device by connecting it to internet or by having sensors and microchips embedded in them. They make our environment, our homes, our offices smarter. There are billions of such devices surrounding us in the world today that are sensing human needs or we may say preferences and then processing large amount of real-time data and delivering it.
Why do we need (IoT) in our lives?
Technology continuously and consistently works on making our lives easier. It has kind of ease its way into our homes, into the way we lead our lives and blended in so seamlessly with accomplishing the everyday chores and needs of ours that we don’t even realize.
- Smartphones wake us up in the morning, monitor our sleep patterns at night.
- Wake up in the morning and your smart coffee machine has already prepared the coffee, as per your liking.
- Thermostats are automatically controlling the temperature of our houses, our offices.
- Smart Home Security Systems, smart locks.
- Wearable health monitors tracking your steps of the day, monitoring heart health.
- Smart innovations like Alexa, Echo, Google Home doing things for us just by having to tell them verbally what to do.
- Driving in our smart cars to work.
And many many more.
This is like technology at its best and it is serving humans every day in some way or the other. Let’s just say that we have evolved and are enjoying a life that is not just going by everyday essentials or the bare minimum. Today we have the luxury of making our day to day life much easier without all the hard work and hassle.
Components of (IoT)
There are about 35 billion (IoT) devices in the world today and they are being used for a variety of applications and across industries. However, a complete (IoT) system runs on the integration of 4 basic components, which include –
- Sensors / Devices – They collect the data from our environment. There could be one or more than one sensor embedded in a device and on the basis of its ability of handling things or how well integrated a device is, decides if it can be used to perform a simple function or handle a complex application.
- Network / Connectivity – Now, the sensors or the devices have collected data which has to be processed and sent to cloud or in-house data servers if we are using them for internal use only. This is where Connectivity comes into picture. We use a variety of data transfer sources like – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Cellular data, LAN etc. to transmit the data collected by devices.
- Data Center / Data Processing – After collecting this data, it needs to be processed to retrieve the readings or any other output that the device is being used for. And then that data is measured to check for any discrepancies or abnormality.
- Application / User Interface – After the processing of data, if the measured readings or output are not in sync with the desired values, the user can be notified for it through mediums like – text or email and they can make changes or adjust the values by making changes through the UI of our smart device. And in some cases, the devices are smart enough to make the changes themselves and adjust the settings to required level without any user intervention.
As we know that (IoT) bridges the gap between digital and physical worlds, these devices can majorly impact our privacy as they have access to our sensitive data by being around us in so many forms and collecting so much information about us. Security being the utmost priority as well as a challenge with (IoT), we have to carefully choose the ways and types to how we are going to go about testing these devices. The types of testing performed are –
- Usability Testing – As the name itself suggests, this type of testing is done by users to check if the device is fit for use, how it performs, how easily and accurately it is collecting the data and performing the required function precisely.
- Security Testing – (IoT) devices have access to massive amounts of our personal information like – what we eat, what we are talking about, what are our preferred restaurants, movies etc. are, all of this leaves us highly vulnerable as there could be potential threats like misuse of data , hacking of these devices, unauthorized access and control over our devices, data leakage. Hence the Security Testing plays a pivotal role as it helps with data privacy. It is done by putting into place processes like – Data Encryption, User authentication, Verifying unauthorized access to devices, having strict protocols in place, keeping an eye on device vulnerabilities like – injectable points etc.
- Performance Testing – Performance Testing for (IoT) devices is done at various levels like – At the device level, network level, database level as well as application level. All these layers are required to be tested for performance to ensure various parameters like – communication capabilities of the device, computation, how it collects and sends data and how it interacts with the network etc.
- Data Integrity Testing – How a device is handling the sensitive data is a matter of supreme importance. How it is interacting with the network and how the data is being processed further. All this accounts for Data Integrity Testing.
- Compatibility Testing – We sync our iPhone with our Apple watch and Mac and other devices that we need to control and operate. So it needs to be ensured that all these (IoT) devices are well configured and compatible with each other. This is also called – Device Interoperability Testing.
The negative picture of (IoT)
The smart technology is definitely promising and is being used majorly worldwide. We have a well -established ecosystem of connected devices and consumers and industries due to this. But every good thing comes at a price and we have to bear the consequences of living in a smart world. How (IoT) is negatively impacting our lives can be understood by these few points –
- These devices collect extremely sensitive data. And we do not know how that data is being encrypted and where it is being stored. So, security is without a doubt one of the biggest issues or challenges with (IoT) devices.
- Another major challenge with these devices is that there could be flaws in the software, even with the well-used code, there is a possibility that the devices are not compatible with the new versions of software and updates and hence the performance failures.
- Many (IoT) devices lack the ability to be patched in case the updates are required, code needs to be updated.
- Drones that are the big drivers of data creation are major security threats to privacy and security.
- There are so many (IoT) devices available in the world right now and that too so easily and at dirt cheap prices, that it makes us all the more vulnerable due to lack of strict security protocols in place.
- We are more vulnerable to attack by hackers, data leakage.
- Major implications for our personal privacy due to us being surrounded by these devices everywhere.
(IoT) Testing Tools
- For Software Testing
- SOASTA Cloud Test
- For Hardware Testing –
- JTAG Dongle
- Digital Storage Oscilloscope
- Software Defined Radio
The number of (IoT) devices that are being used across the world today are estimated to be doubled in another 5 years, this clearly shows their increasing popularity. We are so used to world being a simpler place today and accustomed to getting things done with a click on our phones. So, it has definitely made life easy but it comes with a cost – cost of our data and our security being compromised, our growing dependency on these devices, decreasing human interactions, lack of control over what we want to share about ourselves and what not. So, after carefully weighing all the pros and cons only we should decide if we want to be a part of (IoT) ecosystem or not.