The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to expand its reach extensively, as more and more devices get connected to collaborate together with the intent of gathering and sharing data. This ecosystem consists of diverse devices, different networks, varied protocols, connections, clouds and databases. Devices range from sensors and single purpose modules, to powerful gateways that route communications for groups of devices. The use cases and requirements for IoT operators too vary significantly across industries. Installed devices will need software updates and bug fixes and a few may need to be repaired or replaced owing to hardware failures. For applications reliant on this ecosystem to deliver transformative business value, a scalable and dependable IoT device management solution is necessary that ensures that all devices are current, always accessible and secure. Device management refers to all of the tools, capabilities and processes necessary to support IoT solutions effectively at scale.
Onboarding a device involves securely establishing the identity of the device to ensure that it can be trusted to be part of the bigger network. A cloud-hosted service that the device connects to needs to know that the device is genuine, is running trusted software, and is working on behalf of a trusted user. Devices will be aware of the server address to which it has to connect and will typically contain a key or certificate in a secure memory area that identifies it as trusted. When the device connects to the network for the first time and is found to be genuine through unique credentials such as the device serial number, the key in its secure memory etc, it is configured with relevant data to include it into the ecosystem.
The smooth operation of each device in a secure environment comprising hundreds or thousands of remote devices can directly affect the organization’s bottom line. Minor issues on a subset of devices can impact customer sentiment enough to hamper successful business outcomes. Monitoring and diagnostics are thus very important to mitigate device downtime due to software bugs, faulty hardware, possible security breaches or other unforeseen operational problems. A mechanism to dump logs is also a vital tool for diagnostics and the device management infrastructure should enable easy upload of the logs.
All software will have bugs, will need feature updates and security patches to remain current. Secure updates and maintenance of remote device software is thus absolutely necessary. Updates could involve bootloaders and meta-binaries, security related fixes or application executables. To minimize network bandwidth, it is best if relevant and necessary parts of the software alone are updated and not the complete image. It is also very important to perform updates considering minimum impact to the businesses that the devices support. Scheduling a full OS image update with a built-in fail proof mechanism will take a longer duration than updating just the application software.
All of these functions are fundamental and critical to the success of any IoT implementation. The implementation could be a cloud-based implementation or could be on-premises with private data centers. Government mandated data security and privacy regulations that necessitate high levels of data security or organizations that operate in sensitive environments prefer the on-premise model. This model also gives a higher sense of control to the customer since the data is locally available, always. A cloud based implementation provides the flexibility to manage devices from anywhere and does not require investment in data center infrastructure.
SMART Wireless Computing has been a long-running Qualcomm Embedded Solutions Partner for their IoT chipset product line. We are closely associated with a host of device management vendors in the IoT space and would be glad to provide lifecycle management services for all our connected devices coupled with secure deployment of firmware updates and troubleshooting of deployed devices as required.