The Internet of Things

Last Thursday (26th June), I was involved with the Unicom organised Next Generation Test Conference at the Lancaster Hotel in London. My role was to enjoy the day, and then at 4pm take part in a Q&A session with four other test managers in a ‘Topic Guru’ panel session which was to run for just over an hour. I must admit to enjoying the questions, and the time flew by – luckily the other panellists were very open and I think we shared the answers well between us.

But there is one thing I particularly want to mention, The day got off to an interesting start with a talk about ‘The Internet of Things’, an expression I hadn’t heard before, but the whole theme of the day was looking to the future (of testing and other things too).

I need to do some more research around this, but what I took away from it is that we need to stop thinking about systems and applications, and start thinking about people – yes, human beings like you and me! It’s about the way in which we interact with the internet to gain access to the amazing amount of information available to us. It makes perfect sense, as although we write systems to perform tasks, run batch jobs, do uploads, downloads, schedule reports etc, the end result is that data in some form or another is going to be looked at by a person, and a decision made on the basis of that data, whether it be a business or commercial decision, or a personal one, such as which insurer you should choose based on the cost of insurance provided by a man dressed in a seafarers uniform, a nodding dog or a cute furry animal!

As testers it’s easy to look at a user story or requirement and think ‘Ah yes, the system should do x when the user presses y’. Fine, but we should be questioning what the user needs to get out of this interaction in the first place. We design systems that are complex, clever and look great, but often it’s the least technical person who comes along and asks why they need to press 5 buttons just to create a simple report or add in some data, and they would prefer to do this with as little interaction and navigation as possible.

I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this subject – I feel it is one that can run, and run, and run……

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2 thoughts on “The Internet of Things

  1. Think of the people, the humans, using the product! Why does that strike people as revolutionary? Isn’t Usability Testing a part of that. I.e. can a human actual use the product. Before you leap to tell me that you’re talking about a bigger concept than that, I know Usability is just a small part of the human experience. A lot of my testing in the past and now has been ‘a’ in ‘b’ out, but a lot of my defects have been why on earth would a user want to do it that way? Or if it can be done a user will do it! Or that procedure is obscure and people will not persevere long enough to discover how to do it!

    Testers have always had to try to think like a user, but often they either take the easy route or press x and 7 happens, or they can’t justify doing a particular test because nobody wants it done unless it’s black and white.

    I’m always amazed that more companies don’t use the old User Stories and Personas method to define testing. I used to enjoy making up people and their backgrounds, playing amateur physiologist.

    So if this ‘Internet of things’ if it is about people, and I’m not sure that’s the limit of it, that to me is just another name for something I’ve been doing for a while and I thought lots of people were.

    BTW: I thought the ‘Internet of things’ was about connecting anything with a computer chip in it to the internet. E.g. A fridge that can automatically order your shopping each week, or a watch door-bell that alerts you to a visitor even when you are out. But I must admit that I need to do some more research into it as well.

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  2. Thanks for your comment.

    I agree with you – why is it revolutionary? The answer is that of course it is not revolutionary as we have known about this for years. But, the problem is that as systems get more complex, we tend to forget the end users and focus on what the system does.
    It’s interesting you raise this, as a good user Story will refer to a user action and not a system. So no story should ever be accepted if it said ‘As system A I need to send data to System B so that System C can do something with it’. It’s just about reminding us that we have lost focus on the end user – and it is high time we refocussed again!

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