Industry 4.0: Testing the Internet of Things

Last week we described how the next industrial revolution is already happening. A big contributor to that revolution, Industry 4.0, is definitely the Internet of Things (IoT).

A while ago we talked about how the Internet of Things is entering both our homes as well as our everyday lives in a rapid pace.“Things” in the IoT term refers to an immense number of different devices: watches, dishwashers, lightning control, burglar alarms, hotel room keys and even intelligent athletic clothes streaming biometrics like heart rate.

Despite the accelerated growth, however, the IoT is a young market and there are still many companies and manufacturers trying to figure out how they can apply the IoT into their products. And several of those companies who are already using this new approach in their devices are facing a new challenge: Functionality and Usability. Because these devices that were only recently analogue are now digital and therefore being used differently. A smart thermostat that seem to work fine in the test lab, how can a manufacturer assure it performs just as good under real life conditions? If the thermostat fails to deliver on that part, it misses the whole purpose of its core functions.

That is why extensive testing is fundamental to better avoid unsuccessful product launches of IoT devices on the market. These IoT products are connected to apps on both smartphones, tablets, desktop computers and laptops – each with different operating systems, app versions and Internet connections. The variety of mobile devices on the market has never before been as diversified as it is now. For a single manufacturer to test their IoT product and app on all these different devices would be nearly impossible, not to mention very expensive and extremely time-consuming.

At Testbirds, we use our crowd to help our clients overcome these obstacles. We recently did a project together with one of our clients where we helped them test their IoT product, which was a smart toothbrush linked to a connected app on both iOS and Android. The toothbrush sent information to the app about the tester’s brushing session: time spent, brushing pressure, thoroughness and other things. With the support from our crowd we could help our client find their target group and test the toothbrush on different markets and on those devices where the app was intended to work. After the test our testers gave detailed qualitative feedback on both functionality and usability of the toothbrush.

Testing IoT products is often exceptionally effective already in the development’s prototype stage. While many companies and manufacturers are eager to jump on the IoT train and get their product on the market, it’s not always certain that the market is ready. Will this new product find acceptance in the target group? Will that once so innovative idea actually transit all the way from beginning to end? Usability tests are therefore essential to assure the product actually serves its purpose. “The customer is always right” is a famous saying and when it comes to usability testing of IoT products, this could not be more true. After all, it is always the end consumer who decides whether a product will be a flop or a success.

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