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Device management: the key to future-proof IoT deployments

device management Source: Bosch

“We need to have analytics and machine learning in our applications.” This is a statement we hear often regarding the development of IoT solutions. These are essential ingredients in generating value based on data, to be sure.

But there is another critical, yet often overlooked core feature, that merits consideration: device management. In fact, I think it is an essential foundation of every IoT deployment. Just ask yourself: how can all the cool analytics happen if there is no data due to malfunctioning devices?

Beyond the installation of IoT infrastructure, robust solutions for device management are key to the success of any overall solution. Among other points, I paint some hypothetical yet likely scenarios that illustrate the value of good device management solutions.

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A cost-efficient way of networking new and existing machines and optimizing production processes and product quality: the IoT gateway makes it easy to connect to Industry 4.0 environments without intervening in the automation logic. The precisely coordinated combination of control hardware and software for implementing IT applications collects sensor and process data, transmits it to MES, cloud applications or local machine state monitoring systems, for example, and enables the analysis of process data.
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Global shipments tend to involve a number of different stages. Goods are packed in the country of origin and then transported by truck to a port. Next, the containers start their journey across the high seas, which lasts a couple of weeks, and finally the goods are dispatched to the delivery address by truck. To enable these shipments to be connected – a prerequisite for being able to monitor the goods remotely – the device management solution must offer the flexibility to support several communication standards, such as 3G, 4G, or satellite.
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The IoT has the potential to unleash a remarkable jump in farm productivity and support the sustainable intensification of food production. Processes in agriculture are highly affected by environmental conditions. For this reason, farmers must make the right decisions in good time to ensure high yields and quality. The right connectivity solution (sensors + device management software + data analytics) enables remote monitoring and subsequently convenient and reliable control of the crop production process.
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Smart home technology is a prime example of how connected devices can help to make our lives more comfortable. Home automation, better security, energy management and savings: all this can be achieved by connecting the devices and appliances in your home. In most cases, smart home devices are connected via a central gateway that connects to a backend in the cloud. A gateway can work with multiple users, tenants, and applications, and is able to connect to thousands of IoT devices. There are some good reasons for connecting devices to the cloud indirectly via gateways: it offers more independence in terms of internet connectivity, reduces the volume of data transferred to the cloud and thus reduces costs, and – last but not least – ensures privacy as master data can be stored and processed locally.
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Smart heating opens up new possibilities for remotely controlling and monitoring heating systems in both smart homes and commercial buildings. It refers to the intelligent networking of heating systems, which can be controlled using a smartphone or tablet, for instance. Bosch Thermotechnology already offers many smart heating products that meet the specific requirements of individual local markets.
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The market for connected cars registered sales of 5.1 million units in 2015 – and is expected to reach 37.7 million units by 2022. We are all well aware that security and safety are two of the most important challenges in this context, which is why a safe and reliable process of remotely updating software must be implemented as soon as the car is connected to the internet. The software must never fail or be vulnerable to attack. This is because on the one hand, it serves to fix any issues or problems with the device but, at the same time, also poses the highest security threat if misused to introduce malicious code.

Firmware-over-the-air updates allow you to celebrate your go-live with no worries

Just imagine: you successfully roll out 20,000+ sensor nodes and gateways across four regions worldwide. You then take a well-earned night off to have celebratory drinks with the team and management. Just as someone is about to propose a toast to the rollout, you receive a notification that there is a bug in the gateway firmware.

You suddenly realize there is no way to update the firmware. Your end users must manually download the patches and update their devices on their own. If you think this cannot happen, think again.

Future-proof your IoT solution with a remote tool for device management that boasts firmware-over-the-air (FOTA) updating capabilities. Paired with campaign management capabilities, this allows you to efficiently ensure the security and integrity of patches via automated mass management. Please note that device management solutions must perform such software updates remotely and reliably – even if connectivity is intermittent.

Device management for accurate reporting and early diagnosis of security issues

After launching your IoT solution, you gather data for a status report and discover a discrepancy in the number of devices. After several rounds of checks. Upon closer inspection, you identify a security lapse and some unknown devices that are connected. Does this mean your network is vulnerable to rogue devices? Or, even worse, hackers?

A robust turnkey solution for device management that has strong authentication methods and security provisions will significantly lower risk. Such solutions also ensure the accuracy of reporting for diagnostics. By always remotely monitoring network statistics, breaches will be flagged immediately and you can take swift action.

If your company is unfamiliar with device management and corresponding security issues, an experienced partner for device management is invaluable. Such partners thoroughly assess your IoT projects before recommending the best methods for provisioning and authentication. Their expertise will include consulting on the lifecycle management of IoT devices.

Device management solutions for multiple configuration settings with no need for manual intervention

“I want to change the data frequency concerning this group of devices with model XYZ module. And could you include a metadata tag for people in Asia?” How often have you exchanged such requests with your end users?

While changes and updates are normal, it can be very time-consuming to select individual line items to perform changes. Just imagine having to select hundreds of devices – and then the system accidentally resets to zero. Because possible configurations are innumerable, there is an urgent need to establish efficient ways of addressing this.

Device management should have flexible and dynamic logical groupings of devices for business groupings. In addition, it should be able to trigger mass actions based on rules, and run saved actions at a scheduled time or event. A complete device management solution can boost the efficiency of development and maintenance, with scripting for runtime process management tools. Your operations team will definitely thank you for implementing a device management solution with the aforementioned sophisticated features.

Device management ensures in-depth visibility of device status and identification of issues

Let’s say you receive multiple issue tickets from the application team. They claim that the data is no longer being sent to the database. Unfortunately, you do not have deep visibility of the device status and conditions. In turn, you cannot troubleshoot effectively. Granted, you could manually check the logs on the gateways.

But that would require a serial cable and much more time. What’s more, your devices are all over the world. So you would need someone on the ground to help you with troubleshooting.

Regarding IoT solutions, deployment is only the first step in an ongoing process. Other considerations include uninterrupted monitoring and diagnostics to minimize downtime and streamline operations. An excellent IoT device management solution will perform remote monitoring from a central system. If additional analysis is required, the solution can also remotely trigger verbose logging and downloading of the log files for analysis. This saves valuable time and improves the efficiency of operations.

There are actually many additional device management functions. All of them are critical to the successful deployment of IoT devices. Yes, it is technically possible to build a device management solution from scratch.

But that would require extensive knowledge of embedded engineering, software engineering, security, infrastructure operations – and a great amount of time. You must also be certain that your customized solution has been proven to scale to millions of devices – as in an IoT scenario.

Device management systems are pivotal to deploying and operating IoT sensors and field devices. They namely enable valuable data to be sent back for execution of analytics. If you want to see how it works in real life with the Bosch IoT Remote Manager, please check out what we accomplished with the Mann+Hummel Group.

More on IoT device management

Learn how our customer MANN+HUMMEL is applying device management for connected filters.

Eight use cases for device management: Explore applications from connected cars to connected sensors in oyster farming.

The Bosch IoT Suite’s device management capabilities are rated “best in class”. Register for the full analyst report.

How to master complexity in IoT deployments? Our white paper on IoT device management provides insights.