Several recent developments have indicated that 2015 will be the year that the Internet of Things (IoT) ceases to be part of an imagined future, and instead becomes a reality.
For example, Apple has announced that the long-awaited, highly anticipated Apple Watch will be brought to market in April, and is encouraging developers to start working on apps for the platform. Australian airline Quantas, meanwhile, is trialling Samsung’s virtual reality headset, Gear VR, on its flights, while Samsung itself has predicted that wearables will become the new status symbols of high-value consumers this year.
For brands, the widespread adoption of wearables, headsets, in-car systems like Android Auto and Apply CarPlay, and online TVs presents an unprecedented opportunity to engage with consumers. If the sharp increase in the use of Smartphones and tablets has led John Lewis MD Andy Street, among others, to refer to consumers as being ‘always on’, this phrase will prove even more accurate when shoppers are continually interacting with online objects.
Whichever brands are able to rapidly make their mark on new wearable and other platforms, then, are likely to increase sales by reaching customers at hitherto inaccessible times and places. Not only that, but these brands will also achieve a significant advantage over their competitors online.
Rushing into developing and releasing new IoT apps is not advisable, however – as is currently the case with mobile devices, releasing a buggy app would risk alienating customers and doing damage to a company’s brand image and revenue. In fact, this is even more likely to be the case with wearables, given that so few developers will have worked on new IoT platforms when they’re brought to market.
Instead, software should be rigorously tested on a broad range of unique platforms to ensure it functions correctly for as many customers as possible.
This could prove challenging for brands using internal teams or relying on 3rd party developers for testing, as simply testing software on a sufficient range of Smartphones and tablets is becoming impossible using these traditional methods. Adding IoT platforms to the increasing number of unique mobile devices being used by consumers will only increase the burden on already struggling test teams.
To release fully functional, comprehensively tested IoT apps that engage consumers, brands should find a crowdsourced software testing partner. By maintaining worldwide communities of thousands of professional software testers, crowdsourcing companies, such as BugFinders, have the capacity to test software on hundreds of unique platforms.
A crowdsourced team of up to 200 testers can thoroughly scrutinise an app for bugs on up to 200 devices, for example, in just 24 hours. The scalability of the crowdsourcing model means that IoT platforms could easily be added to, or included within, this number of devices, and crowdsourced testers could either supplement an in-house team or perform testing in its entirety.
As online access is absorbed into the very fabric of everyday life, so brands will have the opportunity to engage with consumers on a much more frequent basis. Those that make sure their software is up to this task will flourish, while those that don’t will struggle to keep up in the new digital world that is, suddenly, right around the corner.
Martin Mudge is technical director of BugFinders.