IoT Device Testing Life Cycle with 5 Challenges

Many individuals and organizations use IoT devices to increase productivity and profit. While IoT devices offer great convenience, having large numbers of them in a small space increases complexity in device design, test, performance, and security. Testing these devices is one of the biggest challenges today’s design engineers and device manufacturers face. Learn about testing the 5 C’s of IoT through this article.

IoT Device Testing Life Cycle with 5 Challenges
IoT Device Testing Life Cycle with 5 Challenges

Table of contents

Introduction: Create a Bulletproof IoT Device
Connectivity
A Strong Foundation for Your IoT
Five Key Challenges of Wireless Connectivity Testing
Managing the Challenges of Wireless Design and Test
Continuity
A Major Hurdle for IoT Device Designers
Key Insights IoT Device Designers Need
Maximizing IoT Device Battery Life
Compliance
Keep Up with Evolving Regulations
Roadblocks to Global Market Access
Breaking the Barrier to Success in the Real World
Coexistence
Ensure Reliable Performance Alongside Other Smart Devices
Coexistence Challenges
Five Key Steps to Improve Coexistence
Cybersecurity
Threats Are Rising
Running the Risk of Being Vulnerable
A Layered Approach to Building a Robust IoT Infrastructure
Summary

Introduction: Create a Bulletproof IoT Device

Ensure your IoT devices thrive in a competitive environment

Tens of billions of Internet of Things (IoT) devices surround us today. Billions more will connect to the internet in the next few years. Many individuals and organizations use IoT devices to increase productivity and profit. While IoT devices offer great convenience, having large numbers of them in a small space increases complexity in device design, test, performance, and security.

Testing these devices is one of the biggest challenges today’s design engineers and device manufacturers face. IoT success demands that they address the 5 C challenges across the entire IoT device life cycle:

  • Connectivity: Discover how to ensure the reliable wireless performance of your IoT device.
  • Continuity: Explore the steps you can take to optimize battery life in your IoT devices.
  • Compliance: Find out more about regulatory standards and their test requirements.
  • Coexistence: Understand the interference challenges your device faces and how to design around them.
  • Cybersecurity: Learn how to strengthen the security of your IoT network.

Addressing the multifaceted challenges of IoT device design and test requires a comprehensive approach. Design engineers and manufacturers must follow through in addressing these challenges to ensure a reliable and secure future for IoT.

Connectivity

A Strong Foundation for Your IoT

The IoT is rapidly expanding into previously unconnected industries with applications such as remote machinery, remote surgery, and energy distribution in smart grids.

Many wireless technologies support these applications. Technologies include near-field communication for mobile payments, geosynchronous satellites for unattended remote weather stations, Bluetooth®, wireless LAN, ZigBee, point-to-point radio, and cellular.

Connectivity presents new challenges to designers, especially for mission-critical applications, where highly complex systems and dense device deployments must work reliably and without fail. The evolving wireless standards also add complexity to device development and testing.

Five Key Challenges of Wireless Connectivity Testing

Here are five key challenges in wireless connectivity:

  • Lack of RF knowledge – Designers need to understand which test solutions to use during the development and manufacturing phases.
  • Inability to control the device under test – Designers must be able to simulate actual operational modes and measure radio-frequency (RF) performance over the air (OTA).
  • Insufficient RF test coverage – Uncertainty over what RF parameters to test for in the research, design, and manufacturing phases can hamper testing.
  • The high cost of the test – Companies must balance the cost of test with the need for highly scalable and reliable manufacturing test systems that easily meet increasing volumes.
  • Unreliable test results – Finding a way to ensure the quality and reliability of mission-critical IoT devices when other test methods are insufficient.

IoT devices are under pressure to be smaller, less expensive, and longer-lasting than before. Design and validation engineers need to respond to these challenges to ensure that wireless communication to and from a mission-critical IoT operation is constant, reliable, and secure.

Managing the Challenges of Wireless Design and Test

Here are five tips to help make your design and test of IoT devices less demanding:

  • Tip 1: Use lower-frequencies to extend the range if all other factors are the same. For example, a 900-MHz signal will travel farther than a 2.4-GHz signal. A 60- GHz signal has substantially less range than a 5-GHz signal.
  • Tip 2: Use lower data rates, which are less susceptible to noise and interference, to extend the range and reliability for a given set of factors.
  • Tip 3: Consider factors such as range of communication, number of nodes and model of interaction, data rate, power source, and regulatory issues.
  • Tip 4: Look for a complete test solution that includes test hardware and software, and that can perform appropriate RF tests, without the need to write special test codes or set up a programming connection to the device.
  • Tip 5: Use an OTA signalling test solution to eliminate the complexity and cost associated with parametric testers.

Continuity

A Major Hurdle for IoT Device Designers

Whether we’re talking about wearable devices that send information to your computer or network-connected motion detectors in a home alarm system, extended battery life tops the requirements list for new IoT devices. Consumers often expect long battery life for their applications and devices. Smart agricultural and industrial sensors, for example, must work for long periods — often more than 10 years — between charges.

Unreliable and short battery life causes a disruption, rather than making lives easier, as intended. For those who implement IoT strategies at the core of their business, inefficient power consumption becomes problematic.

Key Insights IoT Device Designers Need

Ensuring long battery runtime is often a challenge requiring these tasks:

  • integrating sensing, processing, control, and communication components to understand the behaviour of peripherals and their respective power consumption
  • understanding the measurement requirements of low-power devices (Figure 1)
  • achieving an optimal balance between performance and power consumption to maximize battery life
  • reducing circuit design cycles to meet time-to-market goals
Figure 1. Example of low-power device and measurement requirements
Figure 1. Example of low-power device and measurement requirements

Note: Battery-powered IoT devices sleep, wake up, and perform essential tasks (for example, sensing, measuring, and edge computing). The devices then communicate with a base station or peer node before returning to a sleep cycle. Each of these tasks draws current.

Maximizing IoT Device Battery Life

Here are four tips to maximize battery life:

  • Tip 1: Visualize the current consumption from nano ampere to ampere, covering the wide current range of IoT devices from sleep to active modes.
  • Tip 2: Correlate the current consumption waveform with subsystem events (such as RF radio on, pump on, and display on) to gain better insight into current consumption of the subsystem.
  • Tip 3: Perform OTA signalling control of the device to simulate real-world operations and measure current consumption during those operations.
  • Tip 4: Calculate the total time spent, measure current drawn by each event or subsystem, and estimate the device battery life while simulating real-world operations.

Compliance

Keep Up with Evolving Regulations

Wireless devices bring convenience to users. However, as the use of the common wireless standards grows, congestion causes wireless communication failure, a problem that is intermittent and hard to trace. To address the congestion, standards bodies and regulatory agencies have issued recommendations and regulations to ensure effective and efficient use of the radio spectrum. Regulatory bodies include the US Federal Communications Commission and the European Commission, which governs the regulations in the European Union. Other regulatory bodies include the Korea Communications Commission and Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada.

For IoT device makers, it is essential to accomplish pre-compliance and compliance testing throughout the product life cycle — from design to test validation, manufacturing, and deployment. This helps manufacturers achieve first-to-market breakthroughs and stay competitive in the market.

Roadblocks to Global Market Access

IoT device manufacturers must certify their products for compliance with regulatory frameworks in markets worldwide.

They often face challenges complying with different regulations around the world while trying to stay ahead in the competitive market. Challenges include these:

  • Time-to-market pressure – Design engineers often scramble to meet tight product introduction schedules and ensure smooth global market penetration while complying with the latest regulations.
  • Complexity in the regulatory test – Regulations changes from time to time, which makes regulatory testing complex. Slow upgrades from test equipment suppliers add stress to the timeline.
  • High capital investment – Large regulatory test systems often require large financial commitments.

Breaking the Barrier to Success in the Real World

Despite the challenges, IoT device manufacturers can keep to a product release schedule by following these tips:

  • Tip 1: Incorporate a pre-compliance test plan into your device design schedule. Device designers must include pre-compliance testing at every stage of their design cycle and execute it according to plan. Fixing an issue early in the design stage, rather than later, saves both time and money.
  • Tip 2: Build a comprehensive test plan. Conceive a market access strategy and build a comprehensive test and execution plan according to geographic markets and regional standards.
  • Tip 3: Capitalize on automated testing to reduce pre-compliance test time. Executing a comprehensive test plan consumes a lot of time. IoT device manufacturers should use an automated test system to speed testing and provide measurement insights into failures.

Coexistence

Ensure Reliable Performance Alongside Other Smart Devices

Wireless devices and networks are susceptible to disruption, especially in the shared license-free industrial, scientific, and medical bands at 2.4 and 5 GHz. Since most IoT devices and sensors rely on an active wireless connection to transmit data, interference can be detrimental to the resulting information. Wireless connections might drop intermittently. Data may become corrupted and unreadable.

Coexistence is the ability of a wireless device to operate in the presence of other devices using dissimilar operating protocols. It is essential for stable, reliable communication in the IoT world. The only way to ensure reliable wireless network performance and succeed in the wireless IoT world — especially in healthcare environments — is to test for radio coexistence properly. The

Coexistence Challenges

Key factors that drive coexistence concerns include

  • increased use of wireless technology for critical equipment connectivity
  • intensive use of unlicensed or shared spectrum
  • higher deployment rates of sensitive equipment, including medical devices (for example, intravenous infusion pumps and pacemakers) and emergency detection devices such as those found in connected vehicles
  • massive deployments of sensors for smart cities, industrial applications, and beyond

These factors directly impact the reliability of the communication of your IoT device.

Five Key Steps to Improve Coexistence

Here are the necessary steps to perform proper coexistence testing, leveraging the key considerations in ANSI C63.27 (American National Standard for Evaluation of Wireless Coexistence):

1. Characterize the target environment.

  • What interferers are present? What are the frequencies, protocols, and signal strengths?

2. Define the device functional wireless performance.

  • What must it communicate? How often does the communication take place? What is the maximum delay allowed? What is the required sustained data rate?

3. Develop the test plan.

  • Choose the test setup.
  • Define the risk tiers.
  • Define the pass / fail criteria.

4. Execute the test.

  • Monitor the RF environment and signal to and from the device under test.
  • Test without interferers to establish reference performance.
  • Test with interferers until failure occurs.

5. Create a report.

Cybersecurity

Threats Are Rising

Cybersecurity is a concern for individuals as well as large organizations. With the exponential growth of household items and widespread deployment of wireless sensors come horror stories about hacked smart household items, worries about identity theft, and ever-increasing concerns about data breaches.

The cybersecurity issue reaches many levels — from devices to the communications network, cloud, applications, and even users. Either cybercriminals or negligent users may be the cause. Enterprises need to find solutions that cater to each level to counter cybersecurity issues.

Running the Risk of Being Vulnerable

Cybercriminals use advanced means to gain access to even the simplest IoT device. Any connected device could potentially act as a gateway to systems that offer more value. Just imagine what would happen if a hacker gained access to the national power distribution or defence system via an IoT device.

With the rapid evolution of cyber breaches that cause harm and financial loss to a company, organizations must invest in preventive technologies.

A Layered Approach to Building a Robust IoT Infrastructure

The best approach to dealing with cybersecurity issues is to adopt a layered approach that includes the following:

  • Security at the device level — the earliest stage of implementing security measures. Consider security at the earliest stage of development and perform continuous validation throughout the product life cycle.
  • Security at the network level — adopting a series of policies and procedures for businesses. As an example, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology has outlined five key activities in its framework:
    1. Identify the data and processes you need to protect and conduct a proper risk assessment.
    2. Protect those assets through physical and administrative controls.
    3. Detect threats within the network at all times.
    4. Respond to threats with a documented and tested incident response plan.
    5. Recover any lost assets, if applicable.
  • Security at the enterprise level — lowest-cost security measures to implement. Educating everyone on the importance of data security provides the highest return on investment. C-level executives and boards, not just the IT department, need to be aware of the risk of cyberattack.

Summary

Rigorous design and test are paramount to building robust and resilient IoT devices. A robust and resilient IoT device gives you an advantage in the ever-competitive marketplace. Building a device based on the 5 C’s of IoT ensures that your complex IoT device reaches the pinnacle of its performance limit.

No doubt, it will be a challenging process to deploy at every stage of the device life cycle — from simulation to research and development, conformance, manufacturing, and field deployment. Following the comprehensive 5 C’s approach can ensure that your device is reliable and secure.

Source: Keysight Technologies

Published by Julie Robert

, passionate about technology, Windows, and everything that has a power button, I spent most of the time to develop new skills and learning more about the tech world because I derive great satisfaction from helping readers eliminate technological headaches that plague their day-to-day lives.