What is IoT Device Management and How it works?
IoT device management has become significant with the growing demand for IoT devices, data management approaches, and changing architectures to convert a massive amount of data into actionable insights.
IoT technology promises to provide insights by combining various sources of device data. Data-driven knowledge offered by IoT is used to create new business models or improve existing business cases. However, it is essential to consider the foundation of any IoT solution, i.e., device management, to successfully deploy an enterprise’s IoT solution.
The article aims to explain IoT device management, how it works, and the technologies required for managing IoT devices or sensors.
What is IoT Device Management?
IoT Device Management refers to processes that involve registration, configuration and provisioning, maintenance and monitoring of connected devices. For example, all the significant cloud providers, Azure IoT Hub, AWS IoT or Google Cloud IoT, include services of IoT device management in their offerings.
Their device management offerings allow IoT solutions providers to authenticate, provision, control, configure, maintain and monitor IoT devices.
How does IoT Device Management work?
Here are the steps involved in the IoT Device Management
Step 1: Register devices
You may find billions of smart devices that are already running on the internet worldwide. However, every single device needs to be connected to the web for the first time. Therefore, the first step is to register the device.
For example, in AWS IoT, each device is called a thing. A thing can be either a physical device or a logical representation of a device. You can either register one device at a time or multiple devices based on your requirements.
For example, when you have a sensor to track temperature in your time, you can register one sensor at a time. But, if you have to manage a fleet of self-driving cars, you may have to register multiple sensors at a time.
If you are using the AWS IoT cloud platform, you can create groups in the IoT device registry. Using groups in the registry allows you to aggregate devices to implement a similar command to various devices at once.
Step 2: Configure and provision devices
After registering the device, you need to provision your device to make it ready for use. Let’s consider the example of configuration and provision of a device using the AWS IoT platform.
To provision your device for use, you will require the following three resources in AWS IoT core:
- An IoT policy
An IoT policy is a document that mentions whether your device can send and receive and from where. Without this policy, your device cannot have access to send and receive data. You will have to link the IoT policy to the device certificate to provision a device in the IoT core.
- An X.509 Certificate
It is a digital certificate that leverages the X.509 public key infrastructure to validate that the device within the certificate has the correct key. If you already created an IoT device or thing, you may either have AWS create an X.509 certificate for you or use the existing one.The certificate allows the IoT device registered on the IoT core to communicate with the device and authenticate. You have to copy a certificate to the thing that you created for your device and onto the device itself.AWS uses X.509 certificate as it is ideal for long-term connections and you will only have to copy the certificate onto the device once.
- Your IoT Device/Sensor
The above process may work if you have only one or a few devices you require to provision in IoT core. The process is tedious and time-consuming for many devices. However, AWS provides us a way to do it automatically for many devices.
Step 3: Send and Receive Data
You can receive and send data from IoT devices in real-time with the help of two protocols:
- MQTT: It is a lightweight sub/pub protocol used for areas where network bandwidth is restricted and where transferring a large amount of data is not feasible. It is a device-to-device protocol and is used in IoT solutions widely.
- HTTP: It is a protocol that is used in sending data over the web. It supports more information than MQTT and is not ideal for low-bandwidth areas.
Step 4: Data Analysis
The last step is to analyze the data generated from IoT devices by applying computation and action on that information. You need to perform the computation on data using the following steps:
- Workflow Execution
Define a workflow for the data collected by IoT devices or sensors. For example, if the temperature under which a specific product needs to be kept gets reduced, users should receive a notification immediately. A defined workflow for an IoT-enabled system can help you take actions efficiently.
It is essential to keep an eye on the functioning of IoT devices from time to time. You should have a plan for the maintenance of an IoT device or sensor.
For example, if your IoT device or sensor stops sending the data, it can affect your business operations. Therefore, you should have an action plan that should send a notification to the owner when the device stops transmitting the data.
- Action and Analysis
IoT devices should be connected to execute any specific action based on the data collected via IoT sensors. For example, if temperature sensors send the alert about the increased temperature level in the room, the air conditioner should automatically manage the temperature level.
Tech Stack required for managing IoT Devices
1. Cloud Platforms
The Cloud Platform is the backbone of your IoT application. Your IoT devices will stream data to the cloud. You can find various cloud platforms for IoT solutions available in the market; however, you need to choose the one that meets your data requirements.
Let’s look at some of the top cloud platforms.
- AWS IoT
AWS IoT offers cloud services to connect your IoT devices to other devices and AWS cloud services. AWS IoT provides device software to help you integrate IoT devices into AWS IoT-based solutions.
The platform allows you to select the most relevant and up-to-date technologies for your IoT solution. AWS IoT supports the following protocols to help you manage IoT devices:
- MQTT over WSS
AWS IoT provides services for multiple security mechanisms, such as encryption and access control to data gathered by device and a service to monitor and audit configurations.
- Azure IoT
Azure IoT is a cloud platform that converts your vision into reality with scalable, secure and open edge-to-cloud IoT solutions. It allows you to connect, track and control billions of devices.
IoT devices or physical objects are called things that connect to the Azure IoT cloud. The information captured by things is turned into actionable insights either via AI or people. People can then respond to those insights and take relevant actions for their business.
Azure IoT Hub enables reliable and secure communication between IoT devices and IoT apps it manages. It provides a cloud-hosted solution to connect the device virtually. The platform accelerates IoT deployment by providing automated device provisioning services.
- Google Cloud IoT
Google Cloud IoT platform allows you to unlock insights from the global device network. Its scalable and fully managed interaction lets you connect, analyze and store data at the edge and in the cloud.
From data ingestion to intelligence, you can leverage Google Cloud IoT building blocks’ benefits to get the value from the device data.
Using Google Cloud IoT, it is possible to predict when equipment requires maintenance and optimize its performance in real-time while detecting anomalies, tracking device status and predicting downtime.
2. IoT devices and connected physical objects
IoT devices include transducers such as actuators and sensors and various smart, connected, and intelligent objects. A connected entity can have thousands of sensors that identify and respond to the environment. Sensors send helpful information as output and exchange that data with other connected systems.
Sensors can be found in different shapes and sizes. Following are some of the sensors that are widely used in IoT solutions:
- Temperature Sensors
Temperature sensors can evaluate the amount of heat energy in a particular source and identify temperature changes. For example, in the healthcare sector, specific drugs must be kept at a controlled temperature. Therefore, temperature sensors can help them keep the drugs at a specific temperature and monitor temperature from time to time.
Gyroscope sensors are used for evaluating the angular velocity of rotation around an axis. It is mainly used in car navigation systems, detecting motion sensing for video games and camera-shake detection systems.
- Humidity Sensors
Humidity Sensors are designed to measure the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. Humidity sensors can be installed in air conditioning, heating systems and vents in industrial and residential areas to check humidity levels.
Accelerometers are used to detect the object’s acceleration, i.e., the object’s velocity change rate with respect to time. Its use cases include fleet monitoring and smart pedometers. Nowadays, they are widely used in an anti-theft protection system that sends a notification when any stationary object is moved from its location.
3. Communication Methods for IoT Data Transmission
IoT interconnects a series of devices to a network that exchanges information and transmitting data that allows machines and people to interact with each other. Connectivity in IoT plays a crucial role. IoT devices can be connected to a network via various methods, including wireless and wired connections.
Selecting the most appropriate communication method is one of the critical decisions that any enterprise needs to make when creating an IoT launch strategy. Choosing the correct communication method depends on various factors, including the range of the connection, device power’s consumption and connection speed.
Following are some of the communication methods used for IoT data transmission:
It is one of the most significant IoT communication protocols suitable for the LAN environment and provides quick data transfer. Connected electronic devices can exchange data wirelessly over a computer network with a WiFi communication method.
Based on the IEEE 802.11n standard, WiFi technology is mainly used in various businesses and homes and offers a range of hundreds of MBs per second. The speed provided by WiFi is good for file transfers, but it consumes a lot of power for many IoT apps.
Bluetooth is one of the most crucial technologies for short-range communication. It is relevant for sending small chunks of data for personal products such as smartwatches.
It is a significant IoT protocol that is highly suitable for mobile devices. It consumes less power and is scalable to all market innovations.
LoRaWan stands for Long Range Wide Area Network used for long-range wireless battery-enabled IoT devices in global, national or regional networks.
It is one of the most trending IoT communication methods, known for long-range interaction with the least power consumption. Also, it can detect signals below the noise level. Its mainly used in smart cities with an extensive network of millions of devices connected.
- NFC (Near-Field Communication)
It is a very short-range wireless technology that works within a distance of 10cm or less. It uses electromagnetic induction between two loop antennas situated within each other near the field.
The technology is mainly designed for smartphones allowing customers to make contactless payments and transfer files instantly. As it is a short-range communication protocol, it consumes less power and takes less time to set up. Unwanted interference with other networks in the environment is reduced.
Based on IEEE 802.15.4 standard, ZigBee is a short-range wireless communication protocol that operates on the frequency of 2.4GHz with a data rate of 250kbps. It is an effective communication protocol for IoT devices due to low power consumption, security, durability and scalability, and high node counts.
ZigBee can move data with a range of up to 200 meters and it uses 128 bit AES encryption with a maximum of 1024 nodes in the network.
- RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)
RFID makes use of electromagnetic fields wirelessly to identify and track tags attached to the object. RFID is similar to barcoding where the device captures the data from a tag or label to feed the data in a database.
LPWAN stands for Low Power Wide Area Network. It is a wireless telecommunication area network designed to enable long-range communications at a low bit rate.
LPWAN technology runs on small batteries for two years and executes over a wide operating range, usually more than 2 km. It is widely used in cities or big buildings for smart grids, smart lighting and asset tracking.
It can work in situations where devices need to send small data over the wide-area while managing the battery life.
Z-Wave is a wireless communication protocol based on low-power RF communication technology. It is preferable for home automation products, including sensors and lamp controllers, among others.
It is scalable and can enable control for up to 232 devices. Using the mesh network topology, Z-wave devices can achieve a communication distance of 40 meters with messages to hop up between up to 4 nodes.
SigFox communication protocol aims to lower the cost of M2M application areas where wide-area coverage is needed. It allows any communication requiring a minimum amount of power consumption.
It works on bidirectional functionality and is used in IoT infrastructure, including retail, transportation, consumer goods and energy-related communications.
MQTT stands for Message Queue Telemetry Transport, a lightweight protocol used to send data flows from sensors to middleware and applications. It functions on the top of the TCP/IP layer and comprises three components: publisher, broker, and subscriber.
The publisher gathers data and transfers it to subscribers. The broker tests subscribers and publishers, ensuring security and checking their authorization.
MQTT provides three modes of achieving the Quality of Service:
- QoS0 (At most once): The least reliable but the fastest mode. The publication is sent but no confirmation is received.
- QoS1 (At least once): The message is delivered at least once, but duplicate messages may be received.
- QoS2 (Exactly once): It is the most reliable mode but the most bandwidth-consuming. Duplicates need to be controlled to make sure that the message is only delivered once.
AMQP stands for Advanced Message Queuing Protocol, an open standard subscribe/publish protocol emerging from the financial industry. It provides asynchronous subscribe/publish communication with messaging. AMQP comes with a store-and-forward feature that enables reliability even if the network disrupts.
AMQP is not relevant for sensor devices having limited memory or network bandwidth. It can be the only viable protocol for end-to-end application in IoT cases, including examples such as SCADA systems or heavy industrial machinery where the network and devices are more capable as a rule.
Data Distribution Service Protocol is specifically designed for real-time M2M communication. It allows reliable, scalable and high-performance data exchange among connected devices independent of the software and hardware platform.
It supports multicasting and broker less architecture to ensure interoperability and high-quality QoS. Though it is not used in a typical IoT solution, it can be used in industrial IoT deployments, including air-traffic control, autonomous vehicles, robotics, transportation services and smart grid management.
- LwM2M (Lightweight M2M)
What makes LwM2M different from other IoT protocols is that it is designed mainly to meet the requirements for handling resource-constrained devices. Its specification defines various IoT device management functions, including firmware and software updates, remote device actions, connectivity management, and monitoring.
OCPP (Open Charge Point Protocol) is a protocol that allows the communication between electric vehicle charging systems and a central management system. It is used for communicating a 24-hour prediction of the locally available capacity to the charge spot operator.
Managing a device by deploying it on IoT device management platforms can help you in many ways. For example, AWS IoT supports a number of services for various purposes, including device security, remote management, data analytics and more. Let’s understand some of the reasons why you should manage IoT devices using IoT device management platforms.
Reasons why you should manage IoT devices using IoT Device Management Platform
- Streamline security of the device
Securing physical access to your devices is essential. Like mobile devices, tablets and computers, firmware and software updates for IoT devices also need to be updated from time to time to ensure that flaws are patched out successfully.
IoT Device Management Platforms allows you not only to update applications, firmware and configuration files on a per device basis remotely; it can also be done on a batch of devices. That is how it makes securing the deployment of thousand devices in different locations.
- Simplified Integration
Device data often needs to be transmitted to various locations and parsed by other pieces of software. When investing in the device management software, you need to ensure the interoperability between devices you deploy in the platforms and field.
- Reduce costs and accelerate time-to-market
An IoT device management platform helps IoT developers reduce development and testing time. When combined with a connectivity offering, the platform offers everything you require to get the network up and running immediately. Moreover, a future-proof architecture allows you to carry out large-scale deployments and promote your IoT solution’s future growth.
Automating and simplifying device and network administration tasks allows you to emphasize your core expertise and keep costs reduced.
- Simplify troubleshoot and network monitoring
Since IoT deployment can scale to hundreds or thousands of geographically scattered nodes, troubleshooting with a manual approach seems expensive or inefficient. On the other side, if you keep the nodes unattended, you have the risk of failing to receive business-critical data when it’s required the most.
Deploying an IoT solution on the IoT device management platform provides you with a top-down view of network traffic, registered nodes, and real-time status. It allows you to get real-time visibility into incoming data, keepalive messages and battery status from individual nodes.
Device management systems are crucial for deploying and operating IoT sensors and field devices. Therefore, many organizations are planning to build a single dashboard using which they can manage and onboard all your IoT devices. It can help you manage your sensors and devices’ entire lifecycle from onboarding to monitoring and maintenance.
If you are looking to build a comprehensive IoT device management platform for your IoT devices or sensors, consult our IoT experts. We have worked on similar kinds of projects and helped our clients develop a complete solution using which they can manage and monitor the functioning of their IoT sensors/devices. Get on a consultation call with our experts and convert your idea into implementation.
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