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Testing in the World of IoT

With billions of devices using wireless technologies expected to be connected by 2020, and concentrated focus on IoT, the electronic instrumentation market too is responding at an unprecedented pace.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and even more the Internet of Everything will impact all industries and ultimately everyone’s daily life. The expectations from IoT devices with respect to reliability, performance, quality of experience, and longtime availability are extremely high.

IoT represents a giant network of interconnected devices or things that are embedded in the existing internet infrastructure. The proliferation of connected devices and the soaring popularity of IoT among enterprises in developed and developing nations have led to the pressing need for IoT testing mechanisms.

More than 60 legacy technologies and emerging radio frequency (RF) formats  are used for IoT applications today. ZigBee and Thread are emerging technologies whereas Bluetooth and cellular have been used extensively for some time. WiFi and cellular are widely used for several IoT applications. In the current market dynamics, companies must be able to keep up with evolving technologies to carry out more precise and realistic testing. The continuous emergence and proliferation of wireless technology standards require new test instrument capabilities. Moreover, with enhancements being made to long-term evolution (LTE) and LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) systems and the upcoming 5G standard, the need for testing is on the rise with a new technological framework needed to support the increasing number of wireless systems. Networks will present new design challenges for IoT devices. This will require sophisticated test equipment that is highly modular and flexible, and can evolve with changing requirements. Time-to-market and development time for IoT devices will increase with more configurations to be tested. More effective automated test solutions that also minimize the cost of test will be required.

Potential delays in IoT design and product development can also occur due to incorrect module selection. A comprehensive test solution supporting wireless technology, data throughput, latency, power consumption, robustness, and regulatory standards compliance is needed.

Supporting complex IoT systems and embedded functionality can be time-consuming and costly without an appropriate test plan for mixed-signal devices. Design teams face challenges in identifying the root cause of problems, whether with their module or with their integrated devices. There is a need for an all-inclusive design and test solution that help resolve complex digital, analog, and RF system issues.

Power management, energy consumption, battery life, and processing power for IoT devices are other key challenges faced by design and test engineers. Designers need to optimize their designs for IoT with power-efficient designs. Actions must be taken to ensure a constant voltage for device operating modes, guarantee acceptable measurement bandwidth for the sample rates, evaluate power consumption using intricate waveforms, conduct systematic energy analysis, and separate device design matters from power source problems.

Market Dynamics

The global IoT testing market is estimated to grow from USD 302.9 million in 2016 to USD 1378.5 million by 2021, at a CAGR of 35.4 percent, according to MarketsandMarkets. As a matter of fact, IoT testing will be a major driver for the oscilloscope market in the coming years. The global oscilloscope market will grow at a compound annual growth rate near six percent in the next few years, with the connected car market being a particularly strong driver, estimates Technavio.

The major forces driving the IoT testing market include the growing need for Internet Protocol, testing of the increasing number of IoT devices and applications. Moreover, the need for shift left testing of IoT applications and the rising importance of DevOps are also some of the factors which are driving the market.

In terms of type of testing, network testing is expected to be the fastest growing in the IoT testing market in the next five years. Network testing in IoT verifies the working and behavior of IoT applications with heterogeneous network connections and ensures synchronization of application with all different networking protocols to ensure seamless connectivity across the IoT platform. The primary focus of network testing includes the test of uplink and downlink speed of a network and responsiveness of the network connecting IoT application.

The smart manufacturing application segment is expected to hold the largest market share in the IoT testing market. IoT testing of smart manufacturing includes highly efficient and automated manufacturing tests, which make use of a wireless communications tester for sophisticated manufacturing devices to perform nonsignaling tests on IoT devices. IoT testing in smart manufacturing supports functional, performance, and compatibility testing of smart devices deployed in the manufacturing processes and operations, in order to enhance the manufacturing efficiency and overall productivity.

Vendor Update

Test equipment vendors are responding at an unprecedented pace as the focus increases on IoT and with it the need for higher frequencies and resolution.

Anritsu provides total measurement solutions for R&D and I&M of IoT devices for various applications such as Smart Home, Smart Factory, and Smart City applications. The company is partnering with KDDI, a Japanese telecommunications operator, on connection performance and power consumption tests for Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) used in the IoT market. The LTE standards typically used for IoT are standardized by 3GPP as Cat.1, Cat.1+eDRX, and Cat.M1, and globally chip vendors are developing and releasing communication chips. To measure the low power consumption performance of IoT devices, tests are performed by connecting an Anritsu base station simulator to the IoT device implementing a communications chip via Cat.1, Cat.1+eDRX, and Cat.M1 on the air interface.

Rohde & Schwarz provides T&M solutions that cover all major cellular and noncellular technologies. Its comprehensive product portfolio offers the right T&M solution for the IoT device – from the first product idea through to the full device life cycle.

In the T&M market for IoT applications, Keysight is largely driven by the effective implementation of its end-user-centric strategies. According to Frost & Sullivan’s analysis, who recently awarded Keysight with the 2016 global T&M award for IoT company of the year, the strong brand loyalty enjoyed by the vendor is derived from its know-how and capability to offer the broadest product portfolio available in the market supporting the evolving wireless formats used in IoT devices and across stages of the product life cycle. The company’s commitment to covering areas of RF design validation, manufacturing, automated calibration procedures, design, and simulation software helps companies tackle the hardest design and test subjects. A thorough understanding of the needs of IoT designers and manufacturers further increases the company’s brand equity.

NI’s theme is, Optimize the things that matter most. Equipping the things of the enterprise with connected and synchronized measurement and control technologies, it unlocks insights that can increase uptime, boost performance, and drive innovation all while reducing operational costs. Those insights, however, hinge on the availability of accurate and reliable real-world data. With NI’s technology providing unmatched capabilities in measurement, control, ruggedness, and connectivity, along with its expert ecosystem, the enterprise can realize the benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The vendor has set up an IIoT lab, which focuses on intelligent systems and the connection of operational and informational technologies and the companies working with them; the lab will initially concentrate its efforts on advanced control for manufacturing, asset monitoring for heavy equipment, and micro-grid control and communication.

Transcom is setting its sights on the future, by analyzing opportunities and empowering technology to create advanced contact center solutions and perfect the customer experience in the era of the IoT. The company has set up the Leonardo 2.0.14 innovation lab that focuses on the new devices that can be used to connect with contact centers.

Viavi, marketed by Savitri Telecom in India has developed software-based NB-IoT testing available as a license on CellAdvisor handheld instruments. This further enhances CellAdvisor as a comprehensive RF test solution, offering RF over CPRI and BBU emulation in addition to LTE testing and automated interference hunting to help maximize efficiency of technicians while visiting cell sites.

Fujikura, marketed by Keith Telecom in India, has developed dye-sensitized solar cells used in light-energy harvesting devices. These devices are used as power sources for sensor network nodes used for IoT. Various types of sensor network systems are expected to be used for IoT worldwide. To operate these sensor network nodes, energy-harvesting devices will be the most effective compared to other common power sources since they do not require any field-installation work or periodical replacement of batteries and consequently are an eco-friendly solution.

Clients are looking to new testing scenarios with higher modularity, PC control, and software defined radio (SDR) WiFi solutions covering all of the main wireless technologies and all of the stages of an IoT device product life cycle. The wireless industry will require T&M vendors to set a software price for wireless testing. An increasing need is demanding higher modularity, customization, and software design that can facilitate cost-effective upgrades. There is lack of uniform testing standards across different regions such as Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific which is pulling down the demand of the IoT testing market significantly.

A number of IoT testing service providers have emerged in the market who provide various managed services or professional services such as compatibility testing, pilot testing, regulatory testing, and upgrade testing. There are several implementation challenges in IoT testing that service providers must take into account. One such challenge is finding a solution to the hardware–software mesh of components. Functionality testing is limited in scope for understanding the dependence of hardware and software in the system. This calls for real-time communication among IoT devices. The real-time data testing is fraught with creating viable regulatory points for pilot testing, noticeably in healthcare and medical industries.

The ongoing demand for efficient manufacturing and evolution of IT-based services in growing economies such as India and China and is driving the growth of IoT testing market in the Asia-Pacific region.

Way Forward

There is a need to provide a fully integrated test system that includes full test coverage supporting the evolving needs in the IoT industry. A best-in-class customer purchase experience for its test equipment to provide the right combination of hardware design and modular and automated calibration procedures, and to support new measurement challenges needs to be ensured. The T&M vendors need to combine their T&M capabilities with the broadest format coverage across the entire product life cycle of IoT devices to ensure product performance and quality over time.

Finally, with rapidly evolving technology, test instruments need to be continually modified and maintained to meet ever-changing functionality and system-maintenance requirements with the integration of subsystems and verification of performance. Test systems used for IoT devices need to be adaptive and scalable through software while creating custom and standard-compliant test signals.

Overall, customers are looking to new testing scenarios with higher modularity and software-defined radio solutions covering all of the main wireless technologies and all of the stages, R&D, validation, manufacturing, and deployment of an IoT device. Industry participants need to work to overcome these technical challenges to revolutionize the test and measurement space, thereby supporting the evolving needs in the IoT industry.

Testing IoT devices is critical for companies deploying a large number of small IoT devices as failures in the devices can lead to significant losses. Developing an effective IoT testing mechanism takes care of key aspects of compatibility and usability of interconnected devices, security of the network, connectivity, and overall performance of the system.

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