RTI Steps Up to Meet IoT Functional Test Challenges

IoT devices are becoming more prevalent in our daily lives due to the inundation of smart devices and the network of systems that serve them, aggregating, and analyzing data behind the scenes. Security Today said during 2020 an estimated 31 billion IoT devices were installed as well as global spending on IoT devices should reach $1.29 trillion. Statista forecasts that by 2030 around 50 billion of these IoT devices will be in use around the world, creating a massive web of interconnected devices spanning everything from smartphones to kitchen appliances. Regardless of forecasts projecting what to expect from IoT tomorrow, the need to test emerging complex IoT devices exists today.

IoT Functional Test Approach

IoT devices are intended to monitor an environment for specific input conditions, locally process the variable data, sometimes physically actuate based on the computed result, and finally transmit the resulting data in near-real-time to another device or database securely.

Most IoT functional testing starts at the prototype or low volume engineering test level with the firmware/software running in a simulated environment. Hardware and field testing, however, still play critical roles in the QA functional test process to ensure proper performance in the device’s real-world application. This requires real-time data input from hardware components such as pressure, temperature, and humidity sensors and a means to transmit the resulting computed data through hardware components such as WiFi and Bluetooth antennas or high-performance board-to-board connectors.

Ensuring that the device will provide reliable and repeatable performance in the field requires an equally robust hardware test platform that extends beyond the simulated operational performance of the DUT in the lab.

breakout fixture for IoT functional test

Benchtop breakout fixture contacts top and bottom of a rigid-flex module routing to high-speed connectors, terminals and header pins.

“Bain & Company expects the combined markets for the Internet of Things (IoT), including hardware, software, systems integration, and data and telecom services, to grow to $520 billion by 2021 – more than double the $235 billion spent in 2017 – the majority of which will be captured by enterprise and industrial segments.”


Unique Designs, Unique Applications, Unique Solutions

While IoT devices share similar DNA, each device’s functionality, footprint, and hardware/software model are bound to be unique. Many devices in the IoT landscape have extended expected life-spans requiring them to operate in both current and future IoT landscapes. This is especially true in the case of medical, automotive, AI, and M2M applications, each involving test standards of their own. RTI’s test solutions are sensitive to these standards while remaining flexible enough to account for unforeseen results during the test process. One example is the ability to interface with the SOIC package installed on the module allowing for on-the-fly programming without disrupting onboard sensors or inhibiting communications in the process.

Benchtop test presses can include pneumatic pistons for physical actuation of pressure-sensitive buttons. Show above with parent and companion devices routing signals to standard connectors.

“The total installed base of Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices is porjected to amount 75.44 billion worldwide by 2025, a fivefold increase in ten years.”


Addressing the Challenge of Testing Custom IoT Devices

By the time an IoT device is ready to undergo hardware functional testing, it’s safe to assume that individual component testing has already been completed. On-board SOIC devices have been programmed, sensors and SMT components have been tested by the OEM, final PCB layout and device form factors have been determined, and data transfer security protocols and infrastructure has been established at the Edge and Cloud levels. Even so, unforeseen failures may occur when the individual components are combined into the final product. For this reason, RTI’s IoT test fixtures address all design aspects of the DUT and proposed test process(es) to eliminate it as a possible root cause failure. This requires a strong understanding of the IoT device by the developer and the ability to communicate operational requirements to the fixture provider at the time of design.

Benchtop fixture for NFC transmission allows for live device programming of a companion device while in close proximity to host device (device not shown)

COVID-19’s Impact on IoT Device Dependency

COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on our economy and society. We’re seeing growth in the implementation of IoT systems in the healthcare sector to manage patient care including the remote monitoring of in-home patients, telehealth consultations, digital diagnostics, and robot assistance. Government bodies are using information collected from cloud-connected drones for public surveillance to monitor red zones. Every day we depend on the Internet Of Things to provide near real-time information on-demand to keep us informed and safe.

With a high demand for enterprise IoT applications and systems, it’s imperative your IoT devices function appropriately in their intended environment to provide accurate information. RTI supports the endeavors of device reliability and functional testing. We design robust test fixtures to ensure your IoT devices are fully operational before deployment.

What to Look for in an RTI Test Fixture Solution

Many of the functions performed by IoT devices such as over-the-air communication, MEMs sensor operation, interoperation with companion devices, when combined with their custom form factors require a unique test platform. RTI’s test solutions are flexible, allowing for access to all variable components in the device’s architecture. They are inclusive, accounting for existing and potential variations in the device models and their interoperability with a host and each other. They are reliable, providing an opportunity to mimic the real-world conditions the DUT will be exposed to and respond appropriately. They are powerful, allowing access to multiple functions of the DUT simultaneously without delay. They are dynamic, offering a variety of design options that address feature sets of the DUT in conjunction with sub-assemblies required for operation. Ultimately, RTI’s IoT test fixtures are accountable for the accuracy of the final test results to ensure the product’s success.

RTI’s IoT test fixture solutions can include custom pin loading with pitches down to 0.15mm while offering precision alignment of the DUT(s) to multiple test points on all sides of the unit under test. RTI also offers RF shielded enclosures for wireless TX/RX, thermal resilience at temperatures of -55C to +200C, and compatibility with existing test and measurement systems. Solutions can also be designed to interface with a variety of developer test kits and popular computer-on-module systems like Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and Beagle Boards. Partnering with RTI’s experienced team of designers and manufacturers during the development process can ultimately reduce the cost to market when it comes to the functional testing the next latest and greatest IoT ready product.