NashTech Insights

Embedded Testing: Challenges & Solutions

Nhan Nguyen Hoang
Nhan Nguyen Hoang
Table of Contents

Embedded systems software testing and application software testing share many similarities. While both types of testing involve verifying the functionality and quality of software, there are specific aspects that set embedded systems testing apart. The seven principles of software testing in ISTQB are also applicable in the context of embedded testing. Specifically, the principle of “Testing is context dependent” is evident in embedded testing.

In embedded software context, one key difference is that embedded developers frequently utilize specialized hardware-based test tools that are not typically employed in application development. These tools enable them to assess the software’s performance with the underlying hardware components, ensuring integration and optimal functionality.

Due to the interdependence of hardware and software in embedded systems, it is particularly important to test them for both non-functional and functional. In my perspective, here are some common challenges in embedded software testing:

Lack of Standardization

Each system and industry domain, such as automotive, telecom, medical,…etc has its own distinct requirements and constraints. Consequently, determining the most suitable testing approach becomes a complex task. It can be challenging to identify the type of testing approach that is necessary.

To promote consistency within specific industries, there are ISO/SAE 21434 in the automotive sector or DO-178C in avionics are established standardized practices within their respective industries. However, adhering to these standards often necessitates development teams to adapt their processes accordingly.

While the standards offer useful guidelines, development teams often need to modify their testing methods to ensure they follow the rules and effectively meet the specific requirements of their field.

Real-Time Constraint

Embedded systems often require real-time responsiveness, where any delay in responding to external events is seen as a failure. To ensure accurate testing, it’s important to simulate the actual conditions the system will encounter during its use.

However, simulating these conditions poses a significant challenge in embedded software testing. One effective approach to address this challenge is through advanced mocking techniques. These techniques have proven successful in replicating real-world scenarios, enabling testing of the embedded system’s responsiveness and performance.

Lack of Automation Testing Tool

Manually testing embedded systems can take a lot of time. To make the testing process faster and more accurate, automated testing is often used. However, automating tests for embedded systems can be challenging because embedded testing is the unique nature of embedded systems themselves. In the automotive industry, many embedded development teams choose to integrate fuzz testing into their continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) process.

Complexity of Hardware-Software Integration

Embedded systems rely on the seamless integration of hardware and software components. Testing the interaction between these two elements can be complex, requiring specialized tools and techniques to ensure compatibility and reliability.

Environmental Factor

Embedded systems are exposed to a range of environmental conditions, which can affect their performance. Testing the software under different environmental variables, such as temperature, humidity, and electromagnetic interference, poses a challenge in replicating real-world scenarios accurately.

Resource Limitation

Embedded systems often operate with limited resources such as memory, processing power, and energy. Testing the software within these resource constraints can be challenging, as it requires optimizing performance and efficiency while maintaining functionality.

Overcome the Challenges

Addressing these challenges requires knowledge in both software testing and the specific field of the embedded system. In my opinion, we need to adjust their methods, use specialized tools, and take into account the distinct features of the embedded system to make sure testing is thorough and effective. Here are some recommendations for testing the embedded software:

  • Clear Requirements and Test Planning: Don’t assume the expectation of the requirement. We need to understand of the embedded system’s requirements and constraints. Then, we develop a comprehensive test plan that encompasses the specific needs of the system, including real-time responsiveness, resource limitations, hardware-software integration, and environmental factors.
  • Simulation and Emulation: Employ simulation and emulation tools to replicate real-world conditions and test the embedded system’s performance and behavior. These tools help overcome the challenges of limited resources, real-time constraints, and device variability.
  • Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) Testing: Integrate hardware components with simulation tools (e.g: dSpace) to create a realistic testing environment. This approach enables comprehensive testing of the embedded system, including its interaction with the hardware components.
  • Compliance and Standards: Adhere to industry-specific standards and regulations relevant to the embedded system. Conduct thorough compliance testing to ensure the system meets the required safety and security standards.
  • Knowledge Sharing and Training: Encourage knowledge sharing among team members and provide training on specialized tools, techniques, and domain-specific challenges. This helps build expertise and ensures that the team is equipped to handle the unique testing requirements of embedded systems.
  • Continuous Testing and Integration: Implement a continuous integration and continuous testing (CI/CT) approach to facilitate regular and frequent testing iterations. This ensures that software changes are thoroughly tested and integrated into the system, reducing the risk of issues and improving overall quality.

With these suggestions, we can effectively overcome the challenges in embedded testing, ensuring quality of the system via testing. Overall, embedded testing demands a specialized approach that accounts for the unique characteristics and challenges of embedded systems to ensure their reliability, safety, and optimal performance in their intended environments.


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Nhan Nguyen Hoang

Nhan Nguyen Hoang

I am a Senior Test Manager with 20+ years of experience in the software testing industry. With a strong background in computer science, I have managed testing projects across various domains successfully. I am now responsible for overseeing and managing the testing team in software development projects to ensure the quality of software applications.

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