IoT Device Management: Techniques and Solutions

Any IoT system can’t be considered reliable if it’s not supported by proper monitoring, management, and maintenance.

7 min read, Jan 24
iot-device-management

The device management definition embraces processes and tooling required for its execution that ensures IoT architecture stability, scalability, and security during the whole lifecycle.

Whether it’s implemented as a separate device management API or solution or one of the modules of an end-to-end IoT platform it should be able to constantly track, control and configure the performance of each hardware component.

What is a device management

Surely every system handling depends on its specifics and namely scalability. However, the basics are similar for all and include the following processes:

Authentication and provisioning

During the creation and exploitation of any IoT system, it’s important to maintain its security that still remains one of the core scope challenges. That’s why it’s important to ensure that any initially or subsequently added device is original (authentification) and supported by reliable software solutions before its integration (provisioning) to the architecture.

Configuration and adjustments

Device management techniques also include any required changes in the factory settings to fit each particular ecosystem. That’s why for the system efficiency it’s important to assure that its operational features are properly tuned at the connection time and during any following changes concerning application, scalability, architecture, etc. of the IoT solution.

Monitoring and maintenance

Considering vast employment of IoT systems by manufacturing, mining, defense scopes, etc. where stability and accuracy are crucial to fulfilling the solution purpose it’s vital to be able quickly to locate and identify any failure that may occur during the operation. Delays with matter resolving can result in long-term issues on the technology and business side.

Support and updates

Besides the required ability to keep the appropriate security of both hardware and software parts, any device parameters need regular small changes just to stay up-to-date considering that not every operational environment can be considered constant. Taking into account the possible number of devices, their location and other specifics such procedures should be available for remote execution.

All these steps are fundamental and now are included in basic packs of device management apps and comprehensive IoT platforms provided by big players like Google, Amazon or IBM. However, it only underlines that they aren’t enough to ensure uninterrupted proper performance of the whole system and each particular device.

IoT device management: going deeper

The problem with the basic approach is that it’s grounded on taking as constant device connectivity even for solutions with quite high bandwidth. It’s far from true not only for large complex systems but even small ones since operational conformity dependent on sensor disposition, standards, device quality and features like battery capacity.

Current technological progress forces IoT adopters to set priorities initially since none of the solutions can ensure low power consumption and simultaneously wide connectivity range and high bandwidth. However and not many environments demand all these requirements from the established system.

For instance, choosing LPWAN (Low-Power Wide-Area Network) telecommunication allows checking boxes on the demand list for long-range and battery life. Low bandwidth still leaves big enough scope of application like monitoring systems for only one particular metric. But what’s crucial to understand that it’s in no way simplify the management process.

Minimizing the information amount that can be passed through system concerns also monitoring and maintenance. To keep the charge amount appropriate for the operation, devices constantly can’t remain on full alert for request receiving. It makes impossible regular proper device diagnostics leaving it vulnerable for internal malfunctions and external threats during the life cycle.

Therefore achieve goals with the integration of IoT systems is unfeasible without device management tools. That can be whether separate software or modules of comprehensive IoT platforms that provide full support of IoT architecture or on some of its core levels.

Custom IoT device management software

Despite that, the market offers diverse solutions including from the scope titans like Bosch, IBM and AWS their platforms not necessarily will meet your current requirements budget or feature-wise. Taking into account that is an absolute must-have before making compromises you should consider from-scratch implementation.

Clearly, requesting custom development puts an additional burden on the responsible for IoT system deployment and the company in general. However, if you find a right tech partner it’ll be able to ease the preparation and creation processes. Guiding through the specifics and ensuring that the cooperation result will be compatible with your company goals and the scope of application is the mark of a reliable solution provider.

Nevertheless, before reaching out to your network for required services you should have at least the solution basics figured out. Reviewing the best practices you can outline the desired functionality and other solution specifics based on the system operating environment and IoT system features.

Whether it’s going to be a module of an IoT platform or a separate product the initial list of factors to define to meet device management requirements should include:

Devices

Itemize what types of devices (with complex data models, constrained, etc.) and in particular hardware, sensors and gateways complete the ecosystem.

Connection

Specify via what protocols the internal system communication runs to ensure that the solution can use appropriate standards to connect with each device at any time for any of the outlined purposes.

Scalability

Provide not only current system topology and involved elements but also outline possible future changes especially if your goal is a solution with a narrow application focus.

Configuration

List what possible patterns, device groups, etc. the user should have an ability to create and maintain easily via the solution. Define what parameters are crucial for each option.

Monitoring

Determine what data flow besides telemetry data you desire to be able to track as well as what actions like analytics, alerts, notifications, etc. should trigger certain their metric readings.

Management

Restrict specifics of each device maintenance during its whole lifecycle and describe configuration types to which particular changes can be applied to all elements at once.

Analytics

Outline what metrics are crucial for collection and analysis and create a mockup for a device management dashboard to ensure its relevance for your needs.

Support

Ensure the possibilities to run tests for all new devices that you plan to add to the system on compatibility with the potential management solution and existing IoT architecture.

Security

Note what level of security the system should have since it will affect the management process on multiple levels as well as the whole ecosystem operation.

Integration

Prepare for the future even if it’s going to be the first part of your comprehensive support solution for your IoT ecosystem: ensure ways for integration with other modules.

Platform

Consider what platforms the solution should be able to run on: web, mobile, desktop or it should be hybrid? Take into account the workflow specifics of management system users.

Review the example of functionality implemented for a device management platform of a comprehensive IoT platform:

Management: protocols, sensors (each/group), gateways

Maintenance: device diagnostics and repair

Provisioning: automated

Configuration: remote

Firmware: control/update

Event: triggering/customizing

Integration: unified API

Access: admin/technician

Data: tracking/collecting/analytics

Metrics that can be collected via this platform example include each device parameters including location, firmware version, sensor/gateway/battery statuses and related to any collected or transmitted data.

Device management is an integrated part of one of the fundamental layers of IoT architecture. Without its implementation on the appropriate level, the IoT ecosystem can be considered neither completed nor able to fulfill its purpose.

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