IoT’s rapid growth requires new thinking regarding testing

internet of things 2015
Credit: Thinkstock

The Internet of Things (IoT) is set to skyrocket over the next five years, with more than 50 billion devices expected to be connected by 2025, according to market research firm ZK Research (Disclaimer: I am an employee of ZK Research), up from just 5 billion today. It seems that new IoT technologies and services are popping up daily as every vendor is looking to capitalize on IoT's momentum.

I’ve recently had conversations with executives from Spirent, one of the leading network testing vendors. The very nature of what Spirent does means they need to start thinking about the implications of new products several years before they hit the market. This means they have somewhat of an “insider” perspective on the market and the challenges associated with the expected growth.

They shared with me that their carrier and vendor customers are facing a real challenge today – as all of these new devices come to market, how to ensure they can connect to the network and do so at a scale much greater than ever seen before in any previous wave of technology. Be it a small RFID tag placed in the field, to a collar on a pet, or a sensor in a car’s dashboard, everything needs to find its way onto the network reliably and securely.

The challenge is that with thousands of new devices and too few overarching standards, the industry has to act quickly to create and agree on a better way speed the pace for IoT devices to get certified when they come to market. It’s time for a change in the networking industry.

To understand what needs changing, it’s prudent to look at the current state of testing. Today, a new smartphone takes about two months and $1.5 million to get tested, certified and approved before being put in consumer hands and registered with a carrier network. This certification process and cost structure has been in place since 2008 and is fine for an industry where there are a few hundred new mobile devices from about a dozen vendors release each year.

But how will this model work when there are exponentially more devices from orders of magnitude more suppliers? Also, the devices are no longer phones and tablets. Now we are connecting everything from cars to parking meters to appliances to personal wearable endpoints.

The industry needs to work together to reduce the cost, complexity and time it takes for products to become certified. There are a number of new problems that arise with IoT as the new devices can be remotely located, need to be in place for long periods of time and be embedded in other systems.

As a testing vendor Spirent is addressing the new challenges in the following three ways:

  1. The development of standards. Spirent is working to connect the eco-system of companies and carriers to allow devices to ship anywhere on the planet without customized configurations or complex configuration systems.  
  2. Helping companies design and build their products with IoT in mind. Spirent wants to enable applications and devices to function properly within their given vertical markets. Spirent will be introducing new tools in 2016 that make it easier for companies to focus on building their applications without having to worry about the complexity of wireless radio frequencies and the collection of emerging M2M protocols found in different industries.
  3. Streamlining the certification process. The company is working to help change testing to be optimized and efficient to address the scale and diversity of IoT. One component will be self-certification with analytics tailored to specific verticals. For example monitoring heartbeats in the healthcare vertical or testing moisture in a field.

Quickening the pace of baseline testing, using analytics and implementing security will be necessary to support the wave of 50 billion IoT devices by 2025. Spirent is committed to driving this change and I expect that carriers will step up in their efforts, as it will be a benefit to everyone.

To comment on this article and other Network World content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter stream.
Must read: Hidden Cause of Slow Internet and how to fix it
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.