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What is OTA updates for IoT and why its important in today’s world

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“Soon there will be millions of smart devices across the globe, and it will be too costly and time-consuming to manually update these widely spread devices. Here is the solution to automatically update all your far-flung deployments”

 

The Growth:

IoT devices are growing rapidly around the world as they are constantly improving operational efficiency, enhancing productivity, and playing a major role in lowering operational costs. As a result, the number of businesses that use IoT technologies has increased from 13 percent in 2014 to about 25 percent in 2019. According to Ericsson, The number of cellular IoT connections is projected to reach 5 billion in 2025, where one quarter will represent LTE and 5G connection, while roughly 50% will be NB-IoT and LTE-M.

 

The Need:

Since LTE and 5G will represent one-third of the cellular IoT connections and soon there will be millions of smart devices enabling various sectors such smart cities, public transport, automatic fare collection system, Industrial automation, so on and so forth, we will soon have one essential requirement to take care of, and that will be keeping these widely spread deployments up to date.

 

The most commonly used connected devices will be edge devices that play a variety of roles including transmission, computing, routing, processing, monitoring, filtering, translation, storage of data, and also decision-making. 

 

As we are aware that firmware and application updates are essential for consumer electronics such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Similarly, smart or edge devices are also required to be updated to keep the deployments healthy, improve performance, and upgrading to upcoming security protocols.

 

Why we need software updates:

Unfortunately, many organizations do not pay serious attention to the need of updating IoT devices so first let us discuss why we need software update in smart devices:

  • Improve the stability of software and applications
  • Enhances compatibility with hardware
  • Helps in faster time to market - release now, update later
  • Protect against rising cyber attacks with critical security patches
  • Facilitates innovative software-based business models

 

The Problem:

Since we now understand the need of software updates in smart devices, the question comes that how are we going to keep these widely spread devices up to date? As manual updation of such far-flung devices would be too costly and time-consuming.

 

Moreover, in epidemic situations such as the Covid-19 outbreak that resulted in a worldwide lockdown scenario, where arranging field service visits can be extremely hard and risky, how can we keep the system up and running without any physical intervention?

 

The Solution – Over the Air (OTA) Updates:

To avoid the cost burden of field service visits and increase operational efficiency for a widely spread device fleet, it is imperative for us to adopt such a system that will help us remotely access and update.

 

One of the most important features of wirelessly connected devices is the capability of over-the-air (OTA) updates. OTA is useful to update the firmware as well as applications. It works in a similar fashion as our computers, laptops, tablets, and phones get updated.

 

Off late, many organizations are showing interest in implementing OTA technologies, but currently, we are witnessing a significant increase in its adoption, partially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As online conferencing tools such as zoom, skype, microsoft teams are booming nowadays because such tools connect people remotely to improve the workforce’s productivity. Organizations are also understanding the importance of connecting with their widely spread devices remotely to improve operational efficiency.

 

Now, let us cover how an Over-the-Air (OTA) update solution works. In our next blog, we will cover how OTA testing can be a game-changer when it comes to reducing maintenance costs.

Common OTA update scenarios:

The most common OTA update scenarios are as follows:

  • Edge-to-cloud OTA updates: A smart device is capable enough for receiving new firmware updates from the remote cloud. This firmware has updates for both the processor and its underlying hardware peripherals and application running on top of them.
  • Gateway-to-cloud OTA updates: A connected gateway, accountable for managing a group of local edge devices known as nodes. This gateway can receive updates from a remote cloud that has updates for the software application running on the host environment, and/or the gateway device’s firmware.
  • Edge-to-gateway-to-cloud OTA updates: A connected gateway is responsible for managing a group of nodes- edge devices, which in turn can receive remote firmware updates via the gateway.

Not just an update but update with security and the manageable environment is a key consideration for any organization with respect to OTA. Speed, security patches for nodes, and software fixes are the main purpose for OTA with respect to any IoT solutions. Before we wrap up, here are some factors to consider before finalizing on any OTA update technology:

  1. Does that OTA method support firmware as well as application upgrades?
  2. Is the OTA update mechanism support recovery when it fails to update?
  3. Is the OTA system secure enough?
  4. Also consider the bandwidth, storage, and resource occupancy while executing OTA?
  5. Can OTA update mechanism inclusive of container technology, slog seamlessly across various hardware and software environments?

Trunexa has implemented customized OTA solutions in domains such as public transport and surveillance. We help our customers to update smart/edge devices applications and platforms (Linux, Android) deployed on the field. Our services include board support package development for OTA, implementation and customization of cloud, and creation of dashboards for better visibility.