Community Blog

Testing IoT

IoT, or Internet of Things, is a broad topic, with many application areas that will each have different priorities.  To put things in perspective, I talked to Ken Van Orman, Senior Product Manager at Spirent Communications, to get his take on how testing fits into the IoT puzzle.

“When most people think of Internet of Things they naturally migrate to consumer ‘things’ – smart watches, light bulbs, audio devices and home appliances. But there are other industries that touch us directly and indirectly that will become part of the IoT – automobiles, power plants and factory automation. Some power plants and factories utilize industrial Ethernet today, but there is a strong desire to increase the level of sophistication, control and standardization. Similarly, automobiles today are part of the IoT but in a limited way – think GM OnStar, Ford SYNC and BMW ConnectedDrive.

“The Industrial Ethernet world is also latching on to the IEEE’s work in time sensitive networking, or TSN,  for the purpose of sending control signals and collecting sensor information.  In this case, the application area might be the factory floor, where determinism provided by reliable timing, is valued – things have to happen ‘immediately’ or with very precise timing to control factory robots. It’s a similar story for power plants, aviation, broadcast networks, and ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems).”

“ADAS will be a big enabler of IoT in the auto industry. These systems will rely on traffic and accident warnings from roadside sensors and vehicle to vehicle communications – think of the vehicles and sensors ahead of you that can provide advanced warning of accidents and unsafe road conditions.”

“For industries new to Ethernet and IP, conformance will undoubtedly be important for IoT. A good example is the automotive industry which has relied on industry-specific protocols for a while.  Another area is performance testing. Many of the applications require networks to be time-sensitive in nature – for example, we expect the control network for a car’s braking system to be fast and reliable enough to ensure safety.  Consequently, new protocols have been defined for “Time-Sensitive Networks” by the IEEE’s Time-Sensitive Network Task Group.    However, testing these protocols is a new thing for the automotive industry.  To fill that gap, the AVnu Alliance, has defined test procedures and processes to ensure that switches and other products conform to IEEE AVB standards.”

“What’s also interesting is that some of these players, especially in the automotive space, do not really even care about IP, but rather are focusing on the underlying Ethernet, which is largely not used today in factories. This raises the question of what defines an Internet of Things device if it doesn’t even speak IP!”

In other words, like Apple’s iWatch, devices in these applications won’t actually speak the Internet Protocol themselves, and maybe should not even be considered part of the IoT.  Somehow, however, terms such as “the Ethernet of Things” or “things (sometimes) connected to the Internet of Things” definitely do not sound as catchy J.

-          Todd Law – Vice-President of NTAF

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