[Tutorial] Performance Testing for IoT Devices

[Tutorial] Performance Testing for IoT Devices

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The emergence of powerful smartphones, connectivity protocols, cloud computing, AI (Artificial Intelligence), etc. has led to a new era of IoT (Internet Of Things). IoT is instrumental in increasing the ubiquity of the internet by connecting objects that can communicate with each other.

The growth of connected devices has led to massive advancements in sectors like digital payments, automobiles, industrial automation, home automation, security applications, and more. As per reports, close to 41.76 billion active IoT-connected devices are forecasted globally by the end of 2023[1].

IoT-connected devices

Source

Major catalysts of this expansion are proliferation of cloud & big-data technologies, roll-out of faster mobile networks (i.e. 5G & in-progress 6G), convergence of internet & industrial networks, amongst others[2].

IoT Market

Source

Here are some of the most prominent usecases of IoT

  • Smart manufacturing
  • Smart farming
  • Smart offices
  • Smart homes
  • Smart meters (or Energy monitoring)
  • Self-driving cars (or Driverless cars)

One thing common in all the above usecases is the extensive usage of cloud technologies, big data, and sensors/actuators. IoT and IIoT (Industrial Internet Of Things) devices not only deal with a plethora of data, but also involve numerous components & endpoints.

Also, many IoT applications are used in sectors like healthcare and home automation systems. In such cases, timely reading, monitoring, and processing of data becomes extremely crucial for providing top-notch user experience. A small error in any interconnected system can negatively impact the entire ecosystem. This is where IoT load and performance tests come into the picture, as they help in building a robust, secure, scalable, and high-performing IoT ecosystem.

By the end of this blog, you would have answers to Why, What, and How of performance testing of IoT devices. So, let’s get started…

Load and Performance Testing

Recap: What is Internet Of Things (IoT)

Internet of Things (or IoT) is the network of interconnected devices (or objects) that are normally embedded with sensors, actuators, displays, connectivity modules (i.e. 4G, 5G, etc.). Since these devices are connected over the internet, they can communicate with each other or with the intended users of the device(s).

Shown below are some of the sample usecases of IoT:

IoT

Image Source

 As mentioned earlier, IoT and IIoT (Industrial IoT) has made significant inroads in sectors like manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, smart wearables, smart cities, and more.

Majority of the IoT devices are equipped with different connectivity modules like Zigbee, WiFi, Bluetooth (or BLE), RFID, mobile connectivity (e.g. LTE, 5G), IoTivity, among others. Since factors like battery consumption, hardware infrastructure, data analysis, and communication mode(s) are so critical in IoT; it is imperative to choose the ones that aid in building a more robust & reliable IoT ecosystem.

The emergence of wireless technologies like Low-power WAN (LPWAN)[3] will be instrumental in building a battery-efficient & ubiquitous wide-area connectivity network.

Overview: Performance Testing of IoT Devices

The IoT device ecosystem is more complex in comparison to other forms of hardware and software. Let’s consider a hypothetical case of IoT devices used in the smart healthcare sector. Any delay in processing the input data can have repercussions on the decisions taken on the basis of the said information. The same rule-of-thumb also applies to usecases like smart cities, smart metering, etc.

In IoT, data is normally sent back to the cloud or data centers; which is not the case with Edge Computing where the data is normally processed on the Edge[4]. The performance of the hardware and software that are a part of the IoT devices play a major role in realizing faster response times and increasing operational efficiency.

Hardware devices that are a part of the ecosystem can use varied protocols like MQTT, AMQP, etc.; depending on the product requirements. Lack of standardization in IoT[5] is still one of the major challenges when it comes to the growth of the IoT ecosystem.

All the above factors are enough to highlight the importance of running performance tests on IoT devices. These tests help in ensuring that the hardware devices and software logic (including cloud systems) work as expected when the system is subjected to a huge number of simultaneous requests.

An experienced performance testing company that has expertise with IoT testing can be instrumental in building a more robust, secure, and scalable IoT device ecosystem.

Load and Performance Testing

Salient Benefits of Performance Testing for IoT Devices

Now that we have covered the basics of IoT systems and IoT testing, let’s look at some of major benefits of performance testing of IoT devices (or systems):

Improve Scalability

Couple of things common across major industry-specific IoT usecases (i.e. smart metering, smart cities, smart manufacturing, etc.) is the ecosystem of interconnected devices capable of processing a large amount of data.

In terms of scale, data ranging from from gigabyte to petabyte is ingested and processed in real-time[6]. Though devices that are a part of the IoT ecosystem are considerably powerful, the performance could take a marginal/big hit if the platform is not built in a scalable manner.

Shown below is a Smart Contract platform from Mastercard that is capable of processing massive volumes of new IoT payments data in a scalable, secure, and seamless manner:

Mastercard

Image Source

As IoT systems (or devices) have to handle large numbers of simultaneous connections and process tons of data volume, it is imperative to test the systems for scale. This is where performance testing can be instrumental in improving the scalability and reliability of the IoT devices.

Realize Faster Response Times

Maximum uptime and faster response times (or increased throughput) are extremely crucial in critical usecases like smart manufacturing, medical IoT, amongst others. Take the case of connected healthcare where many state-of-the-art hospitals are now making extensive use of insulin pens, connected inhalers, and ingestible sensors[7].

The smart medical devices communicate with each other and securely share data that is further used for taking relevant decisions. The data also helps medical practitioners and doctors to monitor patient’s health on a round-the-clock basis. Any delay in delivering information could end up with detrimental results.

IIoT, the guiding pillar for Industry 4.0[8], is also heavily dependent on timely information from devices (i.e. sensors, actuators, edge nodes, etc.) that are a part of the ecosystem.

Industry 4

Industry 4.0

Any delay in information exchange could lead to business losses (i.e. delay in predictive maintenance, increased energy consumption, etc.) or pose potential security hazards (i.e. delay in sending alerts before occurrence of hazards, etc.).

Performance testing helps in verifying the throughput when devices are subjected to different loads. Delays in information exchange or data processing can be captured when devices are tested for performance. All of this helps in building a more robust and highly performant IoT ecosystem.

Increase Battery Life

Depending on the usecase; IoT devices are either battery-powered, externally-powered, or both[9]. In some cases, battery power acts as a fall-back option whenever there is temporary disconnection of external supply.

Battery usage and its longevity becomes extremely important for all the IoT usecases. Over & above, the overall power consumption needs to be monitored when the devices are subjected to different loads. Performance testing helps in recording the overall power numbers under different test scenarios.

The findings from the tests can be leveraged for optimizing the scenarios for improved power consumption. Measuring the charging and recharging of Lithium-powered IoT devices[10] further helps in improving the battery health and taking preventive actions in case there are any issues on the battery or power front.

Improve Network  Efficiency

Take any IoT usecase, devices communicate with each other using communication protocols like 5G, BLE, ZigBee, MQTT, Z-Wave, NFC, etc. Though the underlying protocol differs from one usecase to another, the fact is that throughput, speed, and accuracy are still relevant in all of them.

Any delay in network transmission can delay the decisions being taken on the basis of input data. Performance testing helps in assessing the network transmission, which further aids in reducing latency and improving the throughput.

Shown below is the latency and bandwidth requirements for IoT usecases like connected offices, autonomous driving, among others.

Bandwidth requirements of different IoT usecases

Bandwidth requirements of different IoT usecases

Like 5G, 6G[11] is expected to be a game changer for usecases like IoT that require reliable, stable, and constant internet connectivity! Since stable network connectivity is crucial for any IoT device, performance testing can help in zeroing down network-related issues that can clog the performance of devices that are a part of the said ecosystem.

Apart from the above mentioned points, performance testing also helps in improving the reliability and load-handling efficiency of the IoT devices!

It’s A Wrap

The rapid proliferation of powerful battery-powered devices and emergence of connectivity technologies like 5G & 6G will result in a much better IoT ecosystem. Emergence of newer technologies will eventually lead to more powerful usecases, which makes performance testing more important than ever before!

An outsourced QA provider like KiwiQA with expertise in offering load testing services can be instrumental in improving product quality and accelerating product releases. All of this will help in staying ahead of the curve as far as competition is concerned!

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