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Performance Testers: Prepare for the Internet of Things | @ThingsExpo #IoT

Ponder the future of performance testing for IoT applications

The Internet has obviously had a huge impact on society to the point where it's hard to remember what life was like before it was around. But here's a thought: we're in for an even bigger transformation.

It's called the Internet of Things, and it's coming quickly. ABI Research predicts there will be 40.9 billion active wireless connected devices by the year 2020. Likewise, IHS Automotive forecasts 152 million cars will be connected to the Internet by the same year. Within the next decade, we are going to see everything from power plants to transportation systems to factories to the appliances in our homes connected together for data collection, analytics, command-and-control, and all sorts of other applications.

What is all this going to mean for performance testing? It's almost impossible to know for sure as so much of this story remains unwritten. However, there are industries where IoT is already happening. Let's take a look at a few of these and ponder the future of performance testing for IoT applications.

Key Performance Areas in IoT
We are still in the early stages of IoT, so not a lot is known about the behavioral and performance characteristics of large-scale IoT systems. However, there are a few things we do know.

When it comes to IoT, it's a pretty safe bet that performance engineers will want to pay particular attention to the following areas:

Dealing with massive data spikes. IoT has the capability of driving traffic spikes that will put Black Friday to shame. For example, an entire building coming online in the morning could deliver a huge amount of data in a short timeframe. Now, think of what would happen when an entire city turns the lights on between 8:30 and 9.

Mission-critical applications and the importance of high performance all the time. If you're running transportation systems on IoT, you've got to know that data is flowing unimpeded, all the time. While we're used to our mobile browsers spinning for half a minute waiting for data to load, that's not going to fly in the Internet of Things.

Security of sensitive information (not just social security numbers). Consider what a competitor could learn from all the data that describes exactly how a proprietary manufacturing plant is operating. Or worse - if a hacker is able to access the control path of a nuclear power plant. Security is paramount in IoT.

The importance of simulation. You can't test in production very easily when dealing with physical systems. Stuff just needs to work. That means you have to invest a lot in simulation, and have realistic scenarios to drive them.

The fact about IoT is that while it hasn't invaded every aspect of our lives yet, it's also not a complete unknown. There are a lot of industries that are already dipping toes or entire feet in the IoT waters. We thought it might be interesting to walk through a few of them.

Healthcare
Thanks largely to technology, the health industry will have some of the most important advancements for the future of our society. Healthcare is intensely personal, and performance testing is a matter of safety and security. When we talk about disease monitoring and measuring the vital signs for the elderly, we're talking about people's lives.

Some particularly interesting achievements and ideas in healthcare that relate to IoT are as follows:

  • Medical Refrigerator Tech: New monitoring tools are available that keep live metrics about controlling the conditions inside medical freezers that store vaccines, medicines and other organic elements.
  • Disease Management: Remote patient-monitoring technology gathers data about pulmonary problems, heart disease and diabetes.
  • Dental Hygiene: A toothbrush can track your brushing habits and even connect to your dentist's office to report how you're doing.
  • Physical Activity Management For The Elderly: Body sensors connect to networks and measure vital signs in an unobtrusive manner or via wearables.

There is a lot we can leverage from existing processes in health industry. Virtual simulation allows you to simulate the actual conditions of the product. Meanwhile, considering bandwidth limiting is important. Patients move around, so you will need to emulate connectivity for specified locations. Finally, don't forget testing in production. It gets tough when a production environment is so fragile and literally, cannot go down.

Environmental Infrastructure
Another hot area that is seeing a lot of innovation as far as IoT goes is city management and the environmental sector. Take water management, for example. We can now monitor real time water usage, its status, and cleanliness over IP networks, which drastically reduces maintenance costs. A multitude of examples occur in agriculture. For example, we are able to control micro-climates in modern greenhouses for better vegetable and fruit production with IoT technology.

When we refer to water supply management and metropolitan management in IoT, security can be a challenge. You cannot leave products vulnerable by missing data encryption, allowing for unauthorized access, or supporting only minimal password requirements. A common tactic may be security through obscurity, like being secretive about how updates to the product are implemented. Be careful about this as a strategy. If your security is breached (maybe by an insider), it could be very hard to recover.

With environmental factors involved, performance testers must realize how their unique device reacts to the various elements. Tough hardware conditions and challenges will require frequent software performance testing. In this industry, we don't want to wait for a headline news story to highlight your product's security breach or find out about product-related shortcomings. If you have questions about performance testing for application security, here's a handy checklist you may find interesting.

Travel And Tourism
We have begun to see an influx of IoT applications in the travel and tourism industry as well. Of course, proximity and live event information is gaining popularity at hot theme parks. You'll also find city applications that monitor crowds and shoppers.

What are the major implications on performance testing for tourism products? Their nature tends to be based upon movement. Sensor technology involves connectivity. In many cases networks can be intermittent or unreliable. As a consumer of a tourism-based application or device, it is important to know that your data will be saved and stored correctly, even if you unexpectedly lose a connection. It also important that it is delivered correctly when your connection is restored. Therefore, it is imperative for product testers of this industry to monitor networks.

In these situations, latency is always significantly higher and you'll see more packet loss. Focus on response times for the client and on server capacity. Keep in mind that there are many networks with different characteristics (private and public), which means there will be more interference with other networks in range. You'll need to perform network speed tests, reviewing the time it takes to fetch DNS information and to connect to the server. The user experience is key in this industry.

In General, Know Your Device
Depending on your point of view, it's either going to be amazing or amazingly scary. But one thing's for sure - it's happening. This year, the activity around the Internet of Things (or IoT as it's often abbreviated) has increased dramatically. You hear about it in the news, corporations are building strategies around it, and enthusiasts are beginning to get together and play around with it, reminiscent of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in the Homebrew Computer Club.

One thing to remember - in IoT, it's all about the device. This is what feeds data into the system, and it's how things are controlled. Users will likely manage IoT applications through mobile devices as well.

Now's a great time to get familiar with IoT and keep track of the exciting things happening in this space. IoT is going to drive huge demand for performance testing, so get in front of the trend, sharpen those skills, and you'll be in for an exciting decade!

Photo Credit: Brendan C

More Stories By Tim Hinds

Tim Hinds is the Product Marketing Manager for NeoLoad at Neotys. He has a background in Agile software development, Scrum, Kanban, Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and Continuous Testing practices.

Previously, Tim was Product Marketing Manager at AccuRev, a company acquired by Micro Focus, where he worked with software configuration management, issue tracking, Agile project management, continuous integration, workflow automation, and distributed version control systems.

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