Every second, another 127 devices are connected to the internet, and by 2027, there will be 41 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices across the world.[i] In 2020, spending on edge infrastructure will reach 18% of the total IoT infrastructure spend.[ii] IoT technology promises to harness the deluge of data coming in from connected devices and combine it with enterprise data and other information to uncover hidden insights. Edge computing architecture, which moves key data processing functions closer to the edge of the network, offers a compelling proposition for IoT use cases by mitigating latency and downtime issues. However, for enterprises to deploy an IoT solution successfully, a strong foundation of ‘device management’ is a critical prerequisite. The IoT device landscape is complicated comprising heterogeneous devices, including an increasing number of edge devices that need to be managed across their lifecycle.
This paper outlines the business case for efficient device management in an IoT world and introduces a solution for managing edge devices remotely, reliably, and cost-efficiently.
The world of IoT devices
Constantly evolving and heterogeneous connected devices with varied software configurations define enterprise IoT architecture. As edge computing gains ground and edge devices become ubiquitous on the IoT landscape, the diversity and distribution of connected devices is growing. The software/firmware of edge devices needs constant updating to ensure the devices are secure, extracting the correct data, and feeding the data into an analytics engine. The consumption of IT operational bandwidth from managing device provisioning, pre-commissioning, commissioning and de-commissioning, and ensuring timely firmware upgrades is significant. With most IoT assets deployed in remote environments distributed across geographies, IT operations teams need to enable efficient remote device maintenance. IoT gateways and edge devices need ongoing maintenance in the form of software updates or changes to configuration in order to deploy new applications, extend features of existing applications, and improve security.
Deployment of IoT devices can be expensive given high software licensing, application, and implementation costs and security capabilities are often limited. A central device management platform can ensure that even cost constrained IoT devices have the ability to update their firmware and software due to security changes and bug fixes and monitor the health of the device. Essentially, a central device management platform enables different parts of the IoT solution to communicate, thereby unlocking significant operational efficiency. This is also important from a scalability standpoint as most IoT projects start with a proof of concept and a limited number of users and devices. However, as more devices appear, enterprises need an application or API that can scale to varied deployment scenarios and enable seamless integration, management, monitoring, and security of these diverse, globally distributed connected devices.
A game plan for IoT device lifecycle management
With enterprise IoT systems designed for longevity, managing the IoT device lifecycle requires a platform with myriad capabilities to update the software/firmware on globally distributed devices, push firmware to the devices, and, in the case of complex edge devices, push software packages independent of firmware packages. An ideal edge device management platform should have open-source, containerized architecture and be hardware and cloud agnostic (i.e., able to run on any Linux device with minimal hardware configurations and in any cloud platform). It should also have a small memory footprint and low bandwidth requirement, so it can operate seamlessly even in remote and adverse conditions. Key capabilities of an edge device management platform include:
- Agent installation during device pre-commissioning: The edge device should have an agent installed that can report all the attributes (health, temperature, humidity, etc.) of the device. Next-gen edge devices even have the capability to store error logs. The agent needs to be configured to connect to the remote device management system automatically with valid credentials for authentication.
- Device grouping: The platform should have the capability to create device groups and allocate devices with similar functionality to respective groups. Firmware upgrades can then be installed based on group configurations. The group should also have the capability to upgrade the device firmware to the latest level per the group’s configuration.
- Zero touch provisioning: The platform should enable single-click installation and provisioning of the entire IoT edge and fog infrastructure.
- Device health monitoring: The platform should continuously monitor the health of the device and the network to provide enterprises with a comprehensive view of their IoT deployments. The platform must be equipped to learn the normal system operating conditions and identify failures/anomalies by leveraging proactive monitoring algorithms.
- Proactive SLA monitoring: The platform should enable proactive analysis of issues across networks, systems, and applications to produce meaningful insights.
- IoT infrastructure landscape: The platform should control, manage, and debug the entire enterprise IoT edge deployment from a single on-premise/cloud instance.
- Root cause analysis/anomaly detection: The platform should correlate events, data, and actions and bring together the right set of insights for faster resolution..
- Remote connectivity: The platform should connect SSH/Telnet directly to remote devices even when they are behind a firewall or NAT.
The many business benefits of an edge device management platform include:
- Incremental application, OS, firmware, and container upgrades across the device landscape
- Dynamic software updates and configuration changes on a single IoT device, across a group of IoT devices, or all registered IoT devices without involving the user or disrupting the service
- Rollback of software updates as and when required
- Comprehensive software inventory and device history available for improved audit preparedness
- Effective monitoring and management of IoT gateway and sub nodes connected to the gateway ensure that, in the event of a malfunction, connected devices can automatically reboot or, even better, troubleshoot the problem autonomously
Successfully deploying a device management platform
Given the rising number of IoT innovations, enterprises are in dire need of a solution to monitor, control, provision, and debug large scale IoT edge and fog deployments. Businesses looking to ensure IoT success must select a device management platform at the onset of their IoT journey because designing a system to handle 100 devices is entirely different from designing a system to handle a million. Selecting a device management platform at the design stage allows device manufacturers and system developers to plan for large scale distribution and diversity of devices and avoids time-consuming and costly fixes later. According to ABI Research, as IoT solutions continue to shift toward performing more processing and computing at the edge, device management services (such as provisioning, software and firmware updates, and device monitoring) will produce revenues worth US$20.5 billion by 2023.[iii]
In addition, partnering with an experienced IoT services provider can help organizations accelerate their IoT journey by implementing a feature-rich device management solution that spans the entire device lifecycle. The result: While offloading IoT platform development, hosting, and device management to the experts, organizations can focus on IoT application development that adds value to their business.
[i] Vxchange, Comprehensive Guide to IoT Statistics in 2020, https://www.vxchnge.com/blog/iot-statistics
[ii] iScoop, Edge Computing and IoT: When Intelligence Moves to the Edge, https://www.i-scoop.eu/internet-of-things-guide/edge-computing-iot/
[iii] PR Newswire, IoT Device Management Revenues to Climb to $20.5 Billion by 2023, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/iot-device-management-revenues-to-climb-to-us20-5-billion-by-2023--300649564.html