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Smart Wearable Device Testing: How to Perform the Main Steps

Whenever you track your steps or wonder how many hours you've slept, smart wearable devices are always handy. The stages described in this article are common for the testing phases of most wearable devices that make it to the market. Also, in this article, we'll address the device-specific stages based on the type of gear being tested.
November 16, 2018
In terms of QA, what is more important is how the hardware integrates with the software — and how smooth this interaction is. The faster and more seamless the integration is, all those quality requirements are equally applicable to the wearables' testing

Below is a brief overview of the testing steps that are most common for wearable devices available on the market today.
1. Material Testing
Material testing is often executed on a prototype and during the manufacturing phases. Let's take a look at types of material testing:

Chemical testing: This involves detecting the presence of irritating or potentially harmful chemicals that may be present in the parts of the shoes and other wearable devices that are prohibited under the local laws.

Mechanical/physical testing: This ensures that all of the parts of the device are attached properly, wearable qualities are tested.

Performance testing: This focuses on conformity to the quality indicators set by the companies and how well a device withstands weather conditions, friction, pressure, etc.
2. Hardware Testing
Let's take a look at the types of hardware testing for wearable devices:

Wireless testing: Wireless testing covers the speed, correctness/accuracy, and completeness of the information transmitted over the air via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Battery lifecycle testing: This refers to the lifetime of a battery from the moment of factory installation until the full discharge. The battery is tested under various device modes (e.g., airplane mode). It's defined how long the battery holds, which is crucial for the items like shoes since the battery is irreplaceable in the most sneaker models.

Electrical safety testing: This is performed to ensure that there is no risk for the user of getting an electric shock or burns since the devices are in direct contact with the skin.
3. Firmware Testing
Firmware testing focuses on operating software and integration data layer on the wearable devices. Types of testing include:

Usability testing: This includes first-hand user experiences, including the physical interaction with the device, analyzing the users' expectations, and the actual results

Compatibility testing: This manages how various devices and platforms connect and interact with each other

Data/Database Integrity Testing: This will verify that the data is being stored correctly and is not compromised by any updates or restoration.

Security testing: This covers how protected and private the data storages with user information are. Any data leaks and security breaches must be excluded.
4. External Software Integration Testing
This includes any mobile application or other wearable devices. This stage is performed together with the beta testing stage, with an approved feature set with several features to be tested (cadence/steps per minute).

Updates include features that are tested for compatibility with older versions; there are no memory losses, etc. If there are bugs (like the steps count was set to zero after 120.000 steps) in this stage, they're being fixed.

Here's a brief list of the companies that carry out wearables' testing and whose case studies may be of great interest.
  • Athos — This is a company that tests complex smart clothing for professional athletes, using the method of the surface electromyography (sEMG) with a team of testers consisting of both men and women with different levels of physical fitness.
  • Applause came up with an interesting project for the most precious moments — they've tested an app synchronized with the wearable to keep the record of the number of words the baby hears throughout the day to track the progress of the baby's learning.
  • Orpyx provided a real life-changer for people with health issues that can cause irreversible body damage, for example, diabetes.
  • Solvd is a San-Francisco-based company that carries out testing for smart shoes, fitness bracelets, and clothes for professional athletes.
Wearable devices are not limited to only fitness bracelets and shoes for professional runners. A few companies went further and used their technical knowledge for good, designing devices for people with serious diseases that may put lives at risk and cause dangerous seizures or strokes. Creating such a gear requires a scientific approach.

One of the examples is the US-based company Orpyx. They offer a range of soles for people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. The soles are designed to prevent diabetic foot ulcers and track progress. The smartwatch would alert if the pressure level is dangerous and signal to change the position of the feet. There are several medical pieces of research conducted to ensure that the sole is functioning the way it is supposed to. For testing, the team also brought in diabetic patients to confirm the effectiveness of the wearable and to track improvements in patients' health.

First impressions matter a lot when it comes to using wearables. To ensure the most seamless integration of wearable devices with the apps, crowd testing is quite handy in terms of catching bugs (some of which may be quite unexpectable) to ensure those bugs won't get to the end user.

Some companies invent wearables, and due to the specification of their devices, some companies test them under their own supervision; some test for the leaders of the industry, but what unites a variety of approaches existing on the market now is that testing smart wearable devices is a complex challenge to face in every phase of development.