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Putting the ‘smart’ into smart homes: Using QA for connected ecosystems

Cognizant

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By: Karthikeyan Murugesan

A few years ago, the phrase “smart home” might have conjured up the image of a few people (most likely Ph.D.’s) on leather couches reading philosophy or theoretical physics, with a backdrop of fully stocked bookshelves. Today, we know a smart home has nothing to do with intellectual pursuits – and maybe more to do with bookshelves that know what the homeowner likes to read.So, what is a smart home, and what makes a home smart? Is it the numerous devices that mutually communicate via a network? Is it the autonomous systems, such as Alexa or Google Home, that analyze data to make pertinent decisions? Or is it a combination of both?

Related: Stepping into digital with IoT – 14 Case Studies

The answer is “none of these.” A home full of connected devices is not a smart home. A home is smart only if it makes living in it easier, safer and more fun. The “smart” element is the collective experience made possible by the coming together of various parts in the home of connected devices.

So if sensor-based devices, such as thermostats or lighting controllers or TVs, don’t behave as they should, then they don’t qualify as “smart.” For instance, the smoke detector in a smart home should set off the fire alarm as soon as it detects smoke, and even trigger an emergency call through a nearby smartphone while transmitting a video snippet of the situation to the emergency officer. If it doesn’t, the fallout could be serious – beyond the erosion of customer trust. So how can enterprises ensure their smart home solutions won’t fail them or their customers?

From ‘Working Features’ to ‘Fitness of Use’

Let’s take a moment to understand why traditional QA approaches don’t work here. There’s inherent complexity in an ecosystem of connected devices, or what we know as the Internet of Things (IoT), where every device functions in conjunction with every other device. Ensuring the quality of one such device depends on all the other devices in the ecosystem – a task that’s way too convoluted for a traditional quality assurance (QA) approach.

[Download]: Stepping into digital with IoT – 14 Case Studies

The answer lies in a smarter QA strategy that goes beyond the technical or functional aspects of ensuring customer experience with respect to real-world scenarios. Such a strategy needs to take into account the entire process, including the stimulus, the environment, the call to action and the required end result. It needs to validate not only whether features work but also the wider and broader aspect of whether they’re fit for use.

From Working Hard to Working Smart

Our work with a leading energy and utilities company in the UK illustrates this strategy for ensuring a smart home solution. Our approach incorporates the following mandates:

  • Devices should talk: The basic feature of an IoT-based ecosystem is its connectedness – several smart devices mutually communicating to get other devices in the ecosystem operating in a certain situation, or what we call interoperability. For us, the first step toward ensuring a smart home is validating the interoperability of a given environment.
  • Devices should respond: Smart devices in a smart home need a stimulus to respond as they should. For example, a fire alarm should go off only when there’s a fire. Ensuring the quality of a fire alarm wouldn’t be possible without a fire situation. Would that mean testers now have to risk their lives?
  • Devices should act independently: Not quite. This is where QA for smart homes leaps traditional boundaries to become smarter. The stimulus that needs to come from a situation or a human action can be substituted by smart test machines that eliminate the need for human intervention.

We simulated the home automation solution in a test lab to ensure the right behavior and the interoperability of the connected system. We also eliminated human intervention with our automated testing robot TEBOT, which mimics human-to-device interaction. The result: a fully automated, pay-as-you-go QA service, resulting in 50% faster releases, and the client’s smart home app being ranked number one in the iOS Store in the region.

[Download]: Stepping into digital with IoT – 14 Case Studies

The Extra Mile

Endeavors to make QA smarter go a step beyond automation and simulation. To be truly adept at handling the validation requirements of complex, interconnected ecosystems – and build in the right quality, the first time – QA needs to be collaborative, and it needs to be orchestrated so that tools and resources can be rapidly commissioned as needed to drive faster releases.

This article originally appeared on the Digitally Cognizant Blog

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New research predicts six key trends in the consumer IoT market

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Smart home IoT company Viomi Technology and the International Data Corporation have jointly issued a white paper that identifies key consumer trends for the Internet of Things and the smart home.

With the smart home, connected services and the Internet of Things overall gaining greater acceptance it is important for businesses to understand where the technology is heading next. Focusing on the home market, smart home Internet of Things company Viomi Technology, in collaboration with the market intelligence company International Data Corporation (IDC), has issued a white paper that signals the key consumer trends that are set to shape the home IoT market over the next few years.

The new paper is called “Consumer IoT Outlook 2025“, and as the title suggests it forecasts the primary trends in the consumer IoT market from now through to 2025. These trends are:

  • Computing capabilities of consumer IoT devices will increase rapidly. For this, artificial intelligence is vital to the future development of consumer IoT. The main developments will be with sensing technology, data acquisition capability and decision-making intelligence.
  • Different network protocols will work together as a hybrid network. The aim here is to provide consumers with stable and fast connection anywhere and anytime. This will be enhanced by 5G, and increased consumer expectations for connection anywhere and anytime.
  • Edge computing and local storage will be widely used on smart devices. This move will improve computing efficiency and personal privacy.
  • Consumer IoT devices will have more open integration in terms of technology. Interoperability should be achieved by breaking the boundaries between products, platforms, and applications.
  • Human-device interaction will be more user-friendly and feel more natural. This will be seen with applications like voice-, image-, face-, and touch-based interaction.
  • Smart devices will soon move into the stage of proliferation. The main growth area, the report suggests, will probably be in China.

The research will be presented by Viomi at the Appliances & Electronics World Expo in Shanghai, China on March 13, 2019.

At the same time, a separate report from market research firm Grand View Research predicts that the global smart home automation market will hit $130 billion by 2025, compared to $46.15 billion in 2016.

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The cloud strategy that Microsoft is leading and that Google and Amazon are betting on is growing, report says

Business Insider

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Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella. - Photo by LeWeb
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  • According to Flexera’s RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud Report, the amount of large companies with a hybrid cloud strategy, or combining public clouds and data centers to store workloads, has risen from 51% to 58%.
  • Microsoft is the leader in hybrid cloud, as it introduced its hybrid cloud Azure Stack in 2017.
  • Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services have also announced hybrid cloud offerings in the past year.

For a long time, Microsoft has been touting hybrid cloud, or a mix of on-premises and public cloud services.

And in the past year, both Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud have followed suit, making major announcements around hybrid cloud. Companies often choose to keep some of their work on data centers due to regulations, especially in industries like health or finance, and analysts say this will not change anytime soon.

Indeed, 58% of companies with more than 1,000 employees are now pursuing a hybrid cloud strategy, up from 51% last year, Flexera’s RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud Report says.

What’s more, 84% of those companies have a multi-cloud strategy, which means that they store workloads on multiple public clouds, hybrid clouds or data centers. This rose from 81% last year.

Microsoft launched its hybrid cloud Azure Stack in 2017, and currently, Microsoft is the only company out of the top three cloud providers that has a generally available hybrid cloud.

Last November, Amazon announced a hybrid cloud offering calledAWS Outposts, and it will be available later this year. And in February, Google Cloud announced that it will make its hybrid cloud offering Cloud Services Platform available as a beta for customers, a move that company officials say is a part of its strategy to attract more enterprise customers.

In addition, IBM is betting on its upcoming acquisition of Red Hat to help it become a top hybrid cloud player.

Now, 45% of enterprises see hybrid cloud or a balanced approach being using public clouds and data centers as their top priority in their cloud strategy, the survey found. In comparison, 31% of enterprises see public cloud as their biggest focus.

The Flexera RightScale survey polled 786 respondents, 58% of which were large, 1,000+ employee corporations and 42% of which were small businesses.

This article was originally published on Business Insider. Copyright 2019.

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Who will control the data from autonomous vehicles?

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Self-driving cars, like many inventions of the data-driven age, collect huge volumes of data, relating to the performance of the car and geospatial information. Who will, and who should, own this data? A new study assesses the importance.

Researchers from Dartmouth College have questioned the ownership of data in relation to autonomous vehicle technology. As self-driving cars advance, there will be a vast quantity of data amassed from navigational technologies. This leads to important questions that need to be asked about data privacy, ownership, cybersecurity and public safety. This is in the context of the mapping data being collected and analysed by the companies that manufacture the navigation technology.

One use that companies will make of the collected geospatial data is to develop and design new maps. These are produced through sophisticated and proprietary combinations of sensing and mapping technologies. These technologies feature continuous, multimodal and extensive data collection and processing.

Such maps will be able to identify the spaces within which people live and travel. While this can help to promote technological innovation, it raises privacy questions. The researchers are calling on the developers of the ‘black boxes’ that will be integral to autonomous cars to be more open as to what happens with the data and for the navigation devices themselves to have greater transparency.

According to lead researcher Professor Luis F. Alvarez León:

“Self-driving cars have the potential to transform our transportation network and society at large. This carries enormous consequences given that the data and technology are likely to fundamentally reshape the way our cities and communities operate.”

The new research paper proposes that governments should enact legislation that allows future autonomous cars users to unlock the ‘black box’ and understand what data is being used for and why. As León states: “oversight of the self-driving car industry cannot be left to the manufacturers themselves.” The paper also calls for developers to use open-source software, which will enable an understanding of what is happening with the data.

There is also a call for greater understanding of security risks and the extent that data can be taken from car navigation systems.

The discussion has been developed in a paper published in the journal Cartographic Perspectives. The research paper is titled “Counter-Mapping the Spaces of Autonomous Driving.”

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