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Testers, get ready...the IoT is about to make your life even harder

In the midst of all the IoT hype, Claire Rowland is a well-timed reality check. A London-based UX consultant specializing in the IoT space, Rowland is enthusiastic about the opportunities. But she’s also very, very realistic, particularly when it comes to exactly how interconnected these devices are going to have to be, how it’s all going to work, and of course, the $64,000 question: how the heck do you test it all?

Right after we had this conversation, the New York Times did a story on how IoT home thermostat provider Nest did a software upgrade in December that ended up actually causing a whole lot of their thermostats to lose battery power and disconnect from the net, just at the time when temps were plunging around the country. Suffice it to say this glitch left a bunch of users cold, in every sense of the word.

The Nest scenario is exactly what Rowland was talking about. “Testing is not something I have much experience of but I can see that very quickly we are going to get to the point where it’s not possible to test all the devices out there,” she said in an interview this month. “The idea that you could release something and be confident that it is going to cooperate with lots of other products is not going to happen,” she said flatly. “I don’t know what the current thinking is in the software testing mode but there needs to be some way to figure out how we deal with this try and prevent horrible things from happening. Getting your head around this kind of system as a user is extraordinarily complicated and it’s going to be even more extraordinarily complicated as a tester.”

Rowland’s not the only one worried about this. Our expert Gerie Owen explained just how hard IoT testing at home is likely to be and suggested, in a separate article, that the sooner software testers and UX testers get closer together, the better.

But more has to happen. So I’m throwing it out there — how can testers take their strong problem-solving skills to tackle this potentially mighty challenge? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.