How to Manage IoT Devices

Managing IoT devices is extremely important, but what is it exactly? Is it really that necessary? How hard can it be and what should be included in such tool? This post will answer everything regarding IoT Management infrastructure, Pros, Risks and the ultimate management platform.

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Internet-Of-Things
Internet of Things

How to Manage IoT Devices

The term Internet of Things (IoT) refers to physical devices that link wirelessly to a network or the internet. These devices can gather and transmit data, later on send it via the internet or other network.

IoT devices have evolved to use AI and machine learning in automation systems. Most devices are small and use micro-controllers/processors making their use energy-efficient and cost-effective. It's also possible to monitor and control IoT devices remotely when necessary.

Examples of Internet of Things Devices

IoT devices include mechanical and digital systems linked together. They can gather and share data among them via sensors.

Any physical object can become an IoT device if you can possibly connect it to the internet. With internet connectivity, it's capable of transmitting information. Every connected device can communicate with other related devices. This makes it possible to automate processes and tasks. 

IoT Devices may additionally contain the following:

  • In-built sensors
  • Bluetooth
  • Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID)
  • Near-Field Communication (NFC), and 
  • GPS

You'll also find them embedded into other devices. Such devices are medical gadgets, smart industrial equipment, and smart manufacturing equipment. They can send sensible data to the intended receiver.

Types of IoT Devices

You can group IoT devices into three sections; consumer, enterprise, and industrial.

  1. Consumer IoT Devices 

Consumer IoT refers to the devices we use in our personal space or homes. The devices links to wireless technologies and use microcontrollers. 

It's possible to easily share data and information and integrate the internet as part of our life's.

Such devices include smart TVs and smart appliances. For instance, a light bulb with a motion sensor is an IoT device. 

It's possible to have IoT devices on the move. For example, in transport systems within cities, IoT devices can collect the fare. Additionally, they also:

  • Enhance security
  • Provide the driver or operator with GPS information
  • Avail public-access Wi-Fi to passengers

       2. Enterprise IoT Devices 

These devices aim to assist businesses to improve efficiency. Some examples are smart security measures and smart thermostats.

IoT devices keep track of vehicles and packages delivery across geographical areas. For seamless operation, one can check and manage the IoT devices from a central location. Meaning, when necessary, it’s possible to troubleshoot remotely.

       3. Industrial IoT Devices (IIoT) 

This refers to IoT applications in various industrial sectors. It focuses on Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication, machine learning, and large amounts of data. 

IIoT allows industries to improve efficiency and become more reliable. The applications of IIoT vary from sectors such as;

  • Oil and gas mining and transportation
  • Monitoring communication systems
  • Digital signs on highways
  • Waste management
  • Environmental rehabilitation projects
  • Robotics
  • Medical devices

IIoT devices use machine learning and artificial intelligence applications to automate tasks. So, they need a secure network to access and send data. For this reason, a monitoring and alert system should be in place to protect the network.

IIoT devices are also applicable in industrial facilities and factories. Here, they help to check manufacturing and assembly lines. Sensors can predict the wear and tear of some parts, preventing unforeseen downtime.

It's possible to have larger objects fitted with small IoT components. A good example is how smart cities have sensors in multiple regions to help to manage the environment.

 How Do IoT Devices Work?

IoT devices are similar in how they work but perform different functions. These devices are physical objects with sensors such as smart security cameras. They make it possible to detect changes in the real world.

They come with a linked CPU, network adapter, and firmware. Most IoT devices connect to a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol server. The connectivity allows them to use the IP address to complete tasks on the network.

IoT devices function entirely on private networks. But it's possible to access some over the public internet. You can configure and manage the appliance through a software application. But some models can merge with web servers. In such a case, there is no need for an extra application.

After configuring the IoT device, most of the traffic is outgoing. Although some devices like smart lights accept inputs.

Why It's Important to Manage IoT Devices 

After installing IoT devices, they may require software updates or bug fixing, therefore, a repair or replacement might take place which causes unexpected downtime.

In addition, other difficulties can prevent the implementation of an IoT system and the devices linked to it. Some of the challenges are;

  • Security
  • Integration
  • Processing power
  • Scalability, and 
  • Ease of access

The solution to most of these difficulties lies within IoT device management.

What Exactly is IoT Device Management?

IoT Device Management is the process of registering, authentication, configuring, and provisioning. It also includes troubleshooting, updating firmware, maintaining and monitoring the connected devices.

It offers administrators access to a deployed network of IoT devices. The connected devices carry out tasks such as data collection and edge computation. 

With device management, companies can maintain the health of their devices. It enables them to connect and secure IoT devices throughout their lifespans. They can combine, organize, observe and manage devices with an internet connection remotely.

The management app keeps track of the network activities and notifies the administrator. Due to the secure access, the administrator can perform the following functions:

  • Troubleshoot
  • Update firmware, and 
  • Reboot the devices if necessary.

As an IoT device manufacturer, it's vital to integrate IoT device management tools. Software and standard protocols should also be in the deployment. 

Major cloud vendors integrate IoT device management services in their products. Popular ones are Google Cloud IoT, IBM, and AWS IoT.

How Does IoT Device Management Work?

There are five steps involved in IoT Device Lifecycle Management; 

Step 1: Provisioning and Authentication

Provisioning refers to the process of enrolling a device in a system. For a smart device to function, it requires an initial connection to the internet. 

The first step is registering the device for it to connect to the internet. You can register a single device or multiple devices at once, depending on what you require.

It’s possible to combine devices into groups, and then, you can then send a command to different devices at the same time.

After registration, you can configure the device depending on your specific needs. Registration and configuration are automatic for smooth operation.

Authentication is the process of enrolling valid credentials of the device. It shows whether the device is using trusted software by an authorized user. 

Every device has a different authentication process and a certificate to show authenticity. The certificate comes with unique data such as the serial number or model number.

2. Configuration and Control

After installing a new device, configuration prepares the device for use. It involves establishing some settings that will help the device run efficiently.

For example, the device needs to pair with a specific truck in your fleet so the data uploaded to the cloud is useable.

Once the device deploys, control is important. It eases proper function, safeguarding from security threats and performance. The ability to reset the device will protect it from problems. It will also ensure it follows any new configurations.

3. Monitoring and Diagnostics

Any device can have software bugs or other issues that cause malfunction. To resolve such cases, you'll need to recognize them first, then continuously track them.

Device management software can provide tools to diagnose issues, notify the user, and have deploy an update to fix the issue as fast as possible.

4. Software Updates and Maintenance

After installation, a device needs updates for it to function efficiently. You can upgrade it, for example, to increase functionality. Carrying out manual updates can be difficult, if not impossible, due to large numbers.

With good device management you can sustain and update the device software remotely.

5. Device Off-boarding

When IoT projects come to an end, you have to consider what will happen to the devices once the project is complete. Or when a device reaches the end of its life cycle.

There is the need to decommission such devices by removing authentications and validations. Consider cost-effective measures without compromising security.

The procedure should be swift and shouldn't interfere with how the network functions. If the device needs replacement, the environment should ease the new device deployment. 

At the end of a smart project, decommissioning processes should be secure. It needs to protect the network against data leakage and malicious attacks from breaches.

Upswift IoT Device Management makes it possible to maintain a healthy device ecosystem.

IoT Communication with other devices showcase
IoT Communication
Importance of Managing IoT Devices as the IoT Manufacturer

An IoT network is dynamic and hence keeps changing and evolving. Some ways in which IoT device management Is essential includes:

  1. Easy Remote Device Management

A successful IoT deployment needs monitoring, maintenance and troubleshooting the deployed network.

You can carry out software updates remotely as well as other tasks that can performed remotely are;

  • Rebooting
  • Restoring factory resets
  • Security patches

With Upswift, administrators can receive alerts regardless of the number of devices deployed.

         2. Configuration Management

The way IoT devices operate is different. Each application should enable a specific device to function by determining three things. Why, when, and how. This configuration is through the IoT’s device firmware. It can happen either before or after deployment.

Most IoT use cases need to use edge computing. This refers to data processing that happens near the machine instead of a data center far away.

Let's consider a use case in Agriculture where numerous sensors cover a large area. The sensors measure aspects such as moisture and soil temperature. They only transmit minimal data over specific intervals.

It’s therefore important to prolong battery life and ensure adequate connectivity. In such a case, it’s possible to configure the IoT devices to operate on a schedule. With that in place, you can regularly check and send reports on the data.

         3. Eliminate Security Risks

Cyber-attacks pose a threat to parts of the IoT network with an internet connection, such as routers and base stations. Therefore, it's crucial to have the latest security upgrades to protect your network.

Manually updating security features is slow, which puts crucial network components at risk. IoT devises management tools that offer automated security updates provided by the operation system manufacturer to protect against malware. In many ways, this is more cost-effective, especially when it comes to reaching remote base stations.

Due to continuous network monitoring, it's easy to detect unusual behaviors in data traffic, which may be a sign of malicious attacks.

Different platforms secure applications in different ways. The IoT device management platform you’re using should ensure the security of the deployed application.

Most platforms automatically configure and monitor deployment. They can also execute factory resets in case of any tampering. If there are any changes or attempts to change the configuration, administrators receive alerts.

          4. Quick, Secure Device On- and Off-boarding

A smart device has no automatic connection to your IoT network. First, the device requires configuration. Then you're able to add it and other devices with the correct authorization to the network architecture.

To make this process easy, you should utilize device management tools. You can also use end nodes' network keys and identification credentials to register them from a web interface. You'll then attach them to authorized base stations, creating secure communication. 

The node is only allowed to join the network and transfer encrypted data after onboarding is complete. Off-boarding unused nodes from the web UI is easy, without being physically present in the field.

IoT Device Management platforms enable you to define attributes of devices in bulk securely. You can add details such as the name of the device, type of device, year of manufacture, certificates, and access policies.

It's also possible to link the devices and use many connected devices in a short time.

           5. Lower Costs and Accelerated Time-to-Market

IoT device management platforms assist developers in minimizing the time it takes to develop and test their work. If there’s an additional connectivity offering, you are able to set up the network right away.

You can leverage the architecture for massive deployments. This will secure your IoT solution's growth and development in the future.

Since device and network administration processes are on autopilot, you can focus on important aspects and cut costs as well.

           6. Streamlined Troubleshooting and Network Monitoring

IoT deployment can scale to numerous nodes distributed over a wide geographical area. You may decide to troubleshoot manually, which is expensive and ineffective. You can also choose to leave the nodes unattended, which poses a risk of missing data vital to your business.

Once you deploy an IoT solution on the device management platform, you’ll get a comprehensive view of network traffic and current updates. You'll be able to see data coming in, scheduled on and off messages, and power levels in the batteries of each node.

Main Features You Need to Have to Manage IoT Devices Easily

Most IoT device management platforms recognize the importance of having in-depth control. This is possible through an intelligent network solution. Some of the regular abilities include;

  • Authenticating and configuring devices.
  • Enhancing how the devices perform and improving their security by updating firmware.
  • Troubleshooting any errors or issues remotely.

Besides the regular abilities, other important features of a good management platform are;

  • Strong, comprehensive APIs

The API explorer should facilitate easy access to the API library. Testing how the API functions should also be easy.

You should be able to connect your software or database to the management platform remotely. This determines the ability to integrate the management program into your system. It also shows the ability to generate reports and analyses from the data.

  • Customizable dashboard

The application interface should have editing capabilities. You'll be able to tailor-make it based on your needs or specific requirements. You should be able to easily generate charts and graphs to represent important aspects of your network.

  • Ability to transmit customized scripts to deployed devices

This aspect allows sending files like python scripts after deployment which can be executed from a far.

  • Ability to group and control those device groups

A good device management platform can control the configuration and access policies of devices. It should be flexible enough to organize devices into groups and deploy the specified configuration.

You're able to easily track, run and operate the devices based on your security needs. For instance, you can establish how devices communicate and perform updates for devices within one location.

You can also determine the hierarchy of groups, and then the devices inherit access policies according to the group they are in.

  • Ability to access edge devices

Edge computing allows:

  • More IoT deployments
  • Minimizes latency in data transfers
  • Refines network effectiveness.

The ideal device management platform should allow this access for proper data transmission from the edge.

  • Out-of-band management

Having offline access to IoT devices is vital for many applications like troubleshooting. The device management platform should have this ability without the need for constant upgrading.

  • White labeling

White labeling allows you to add your branding to the solutions you develop. You can use the platform’s APIs to tailor the software depending on the use.

Challenges of IoT Device Management

The frequency of cybersecurity issues directed at devices and networks is alarming. There are a lot of security breaches in the Internet of Things network that make it vulnerable to hackers. An example is browser hacking. 

Breaches can allow sensitive information like financial information to fall into the wrong hands. Every security breach means additional costs such as buying and installing new devices. This harms the IoT architecture in general.

Scalability is another major issue affecting IoT deployment and management. IoT devices have a compounded collection of features like databases, protocols, and networks.

Predicting and accommodating needs and additions to the network can be difficult and very expensive.

Conclusion

A proper IoT device management solution enables companies and businesses to integrate, sort, keep track and manage devices remotely. It should have important features that:

  • Enhance network health
  • Ability of IoT devices to connect
  • Offer IoT devices security during their entire lifecycle

It should have important features that enhance network health. It should facilitate the ability of IoT devices to connect and offer IoT devices security during their entire lifecycle.

Device management goes beyond infrastructure, the ability to connect, and the software used on devices. It also covers IoT protocols and the programming language the devices use.

The IoT lacks a standard vertical technology stack. It's therefore essential to define the part that protocols such as the Lightweight M2M play.

If you need the perfect IoT device solutions, come to Upswift