SOTA is a buzzword commonly used in the context of IoT solutions. However, when speaking to our industrial customers, we often find that many of them are still unfamiliar with the concept of software updates over the air (SOTA). This short primer tells you what SOTA is all about.
Software updates over the air – or SOTA for short – refers to the process of remotely accessing one or many devices in the field to install the latest software version and thus fix bugs, solve security issues, add new features, and much more.
So how does SOTA work?
Before you can start updating your industrial devices over the air, you need to ensure connectivity. Take the engine of an excavator as an example: it is equipped with a connectivity control unit (CCU), which gathers information from the excavator, pre-processes the data, and forwards it to the cloud. There, the cloud services of an IoT platform, for example the Bosch IoT Suite, answer such questions as:
Niklas Bodo Schmidt is the main contact for industrial companies, who are looking for innovative IoT solutions. Together with our customers, he drafts IIoT use cases, which form the basis for minimum viable products (MVPs) and other productive solutions.
- Is there an update available?
- Are the devices compatible?
- When is a good time to update the device?
- What are the convenient time intervals for device updates?
- Can big fleets be grouped into one campaign?
- Are we able to carry out security-relevant updates?
The update is processed based on the answers to these questions.
While this might sound straightforward at first, the complexity of such updates becomes apparent when you consider the fact that devices are potentially distributed across the globe and might also differ significantly in age, type, and technical features. Hence rolling out software updates over the air requires a robust and smart solution to efficiently manage the update process for a huge number of devices.
The benefits of SOTA
Why would a company install updates remotely? In general, there are few alternatives to SOTA. Let’s look at the excavator example again:
- The owner of the excavators has to send all vehicles to a service station every time a new software update is available.
- The manufacturer of the excavator has to send out technicians to manually install updates to each vehicle.
- Vendors of excavators send software updates to their customers (e.g. via e-mail). Trained staff performs the software update onsite.
Expert panel: Over-the-air updates for off-highway machinery
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All options have considerable drawbacks: while option 1 is a serious inconvenience for the owner of the excavators, option 2 and 3 require considerable time and effort from the service technicians. These difficulties are amplified if the machines are used in remote locations. Considering that software updates need to be rolled out in ever-shorter time intervals, SOTA is by far the more comfortable solution for all parties involved – especially for customers, who no longer have to go to the workshop.
Last but not least, you can expect plenty of costs savings by reducing all manual processes and carrying out your software updates remotely.
Comprehensive insights for industrial companies
However, SOTA is only one example of how industrial companies can benefit from IoT solutions.
To gain a better understanding of what challenges industrial companies are facing and how they can address these by remotely managing their devices with the Bosch IoT Suite, we recommend reading our latest Industrial IoT whitepaper.