The beginnings of the Internet of Things were not exactly glamorous. If you needed to run a firmware update on a remote device, you had to reckon with downtime, performance setbacks, and disruptions. Even the slightest changes required some sort of human intervention. In most cases, you needed to have people on-site. Manual workers had to oversee the operations and make sure the implemented changes are not disrupting the entire system. Now, OTA updates in IoT contexts are taking away much of that complexity.
First, you had to go to your remote location. You had to extract the device needing a software update, and even dismantle it if necessary. You had to plug it into your computer to do the reprogramming, and then install the device back where it belonged. And if you were running thousands of connected devices or had to roll out a device update only to a specific device group? You still had to do the manual thing and handle these devices one by one. Additional difficulties arise if you had to update devices at multiple sites or extremely remote locations.
The Dilemma: Build or Buy?
Typically, enterprises have two options: to build their own system for deploying over-the-air updates or to buy a managed OTA solution. Each has its advantages. When you build, you do not depend on third-party vendors and have full control over your OTA system. But then again, you also need to invest significant resources in research and planning. Attracting the right experts may not always be straightforward either. Adding over-the-air functionalities to your existing hardware and software can face you with challenges at multiple levels, compatibility issues being just one example.
On this occasion, IoT platforms can serve as your single source of truth when it comes to overseeing large fleets of connected devices and managing assets across all production and consumption stages. The IoT platform infrastructure is already handling multiple complex tasks in the background such as IoT data collection and is taking care of typical security issues. The platforms come with robust IoT device management suites. These serve as the middleware connecting local hardware and software landscapes. All the while, they take care of the code running on devices. Working in multi-tenancy environments, developers run updates and deployments more often than before while continually monitoring the outcomes and safeguarding quality.
While building a solution from scratch locally may be a drain of resources, making use of an existing IoT platform allows you to leverage and adapt the entire platform infrastructure while transparently managing the cost structure.
OTA Updates with IoT Platforms: The Benefits
Today, over-the-air updates and even whole OTA deployments have become a common practice. Most IoT platforms come with at least some rudimentary functionality relating to OTA updates. The ability to perform an OTA firmware update over the air, test new software directly on the edge device, and monitor your processes remotely, from within a single venue, have become indispensable to rapid IoT development. In a way, if you want to be on the fast track to developing your IoT products, you need OTA update capability.
Within this mature IoT platform landscape, the seamless remote monitoring and control of connected devices are getting more sophisticated. Just like remote testing, over-the-air updates allow you to adjust the code on an embedded device. Further, you can oversee the changes in near real-time. As most IoT platforms today are hardware-agnostic, the specific hardware you are using is becoming less relevant. You could connect almost any device and make any machine IoT-capable.
But OTA updates do not stop at the level of building an IoT product. Once the finished product is in the hands of end-users, you can still continue to deliver a seamless product experience by running your regular OTA software update. This means that bug fixes, introducing a new feature, performing an update request, or perfecting product behaviour do not end once your IoT product reaches its end users. So your relationship with the end-users can be sustainably developed by remotely installing new functionalities and testing on multiple connected devices.
OTA Updates with the Record Evolution Platform
The Record Evolution platform is an end-to-end service that comes with the entire infrastructure to connect, monitor, and update devices over the air. This device management suite allows enterprises to quickly come on top of their growing device fleets. You roll out new IoT apps on remote devices and perform OTA updates on multiple devices at once. The platform allows you to scale from one to hundreds of devices. And you roll out applications without encountering the typical deployment issues. If your internet connection is lost while rolling out an app from the IoT app store or performing an update, the process will continue just where you left off once the devices are online again.
The device group functionality allows you to arrange your devices in groups using tags. So you only roll out new firmware to a dedicated group. You assign separate user privileges for each group and let the platform take care of the complex authorisation mechanisms. Updates and app rollouts can only be performed by users that are authorised to do so. Multi-tenancy or working with multiple stakeholders is not an issue any longer. Each separate authorised user has access to the detailed release and update protocols. This way, everyone can keep track of the changes made with each release.
In sum, the ability to run OTA updates through an IoT platform significantly speeds up the IoT development effort. It safeguards transparency and adds to the reliability of connected devices. So far, OTA functionality has been the most effective way to run remote updates on smart devices and manage releases. At the same time, the platform documents every step of the process. Listed below are just a few of the various areas of application where OTA updates can make a significant impact on process efficiency:
- Predictive maintenance. You can equip any piece of machine or equipment with sensors and connect it to the platform. This way, you receive maintenance status notifications and alerts.
- Asset monitoring. You keep track of each and every connected device from a single location in real-time. Further, you enhance the visibility of your mobile assets and take care of security updates.
- Supply chain management. You gain an overview of your supply chain operations, involve the right teams, and optimize where necessary.
- Environmental monitoring. The IoT platform consolidates assets from multiple remote locations. You can use it in water management, agriculture, and various environmental applications. This way, you make sure that environmental resources are properly utilised.
About Record Evolution
We are a data science and IoT team based in Frankfurt, Germany, that helps companies of all sizes innovate at scale. That’s why we’ve developed an easy-to-use industrial IoT platform that enables fast development cycles and allows everyone to benefit from the possibilities of IoT and AI.