Businesses have too many IoT devices to manage manually and individually. They must adapt the way they install, modernize and monitor this equipment.
IoT device management tools keep these devices connected and in service up to date. This article reviews the basic knowledge that must be mastered in order to understand this type of service. It also lists some of the solutions available in the market.
What is connected device management?
IoT device management refers to all the tools, capabilities, and processes that organizations have put in place to facilitate the deployment of large-scale connected objects.
IT teams use these device managers throughout the life of an IoT project.
These management tools run faster, organize and manage devices efficiently and update them over the air, if necessary. They ensure that sensors, machines, and other IoT components are connected to the company’s IT infrastructure.
These tools should also facilitate the declaration and configuration of items, for taking inventory of the IoT fleet, handling alarms and aspects of cybersecurity. The interface displays alerts in the event of a malfunction, indicating the cause of the problem and means of resolving it remotely when possible.
Some connected objects, even professional ones, come with management software. Only, to use it you have to buy compatible hardware and it is not sure that these software can support thousands of stations. A dedicated management tool should ensure a high level of interoperability, regardless of capabilities, features, location or operating system.
Most of these tools make it easy to add new equipment to an existing fleet. This procedure can be manual, or even more or less automatic. The installer can enter sensor identifiers (IP address, function, manufacturer, communication protocol, etc.) into the solution. Many manufacturers offer to automate this process by enclosing this information in a QR code. The integrator only has to flash it using his smartphone and the corresponding app to connect it to the manager. Some solutions offer to detect objects near the network for easy connection.
Criteria for selecting an IoT equipment manager
An essential characteristic of any device manager is its ability to manage updates in any configuration or architecture. Organizations may need to update several devices at the same time. Therefore, the procedure should be as effective as possible.
This tool should easily and efficiently integrate with your existing infrastructure. The rules for adding new devices ideally depend on a specific scheme. The tool also provides the correct security standards throughout the lifecycle of an IoT project.
This manager should support as many communication protocols (HTTP, MQTT, OPC-UA, TCP, etc.) and communication (Bluetooth, LPWAN, cellular, Wifi, Ethernet, satellite, etc.)
To deal with the increase in the number of devices, many cloud providers are including the management of connected objects in their services. Companies have a large number of solutions at their disposal. They can choose the option of their current cloud provider or check other platforms to manage device updates. Some publishers offer such an offer as a building block by itself or as a component of an IoT platform with more advanced features.
On paper, AWS Device Management fulfills a good portion of the above selection criteria. The cloud service allows recording devices in blocks using JSON files, grouping devices automatically after similarity rules are defined, indexing and searching devices according to their status, manufacturer, firmware version, etc. The solution provides a way to securely connect devices by creating a secure communication tunnel, encrypted in TLS, which can be subject to automated shutdown procedures (12 hours of maximum usage).
To do this, you have to deploy a proxy app on the device and a proxy. However, AWS Device Management is not compatible with all IoT operating systems, which hinders updating of all objects. The service only supports FreeRTOS, AWS version, and Greengrass Core. Moreover, it is designed to integrate with the provider’s ecosystem. Pricing is planned more appropriately for large fleets (at least 10,000 items).
Google Cloud IoT Core
Google Cloud IoT Core is a fully managed service that provides secure connectivity, management, and data transfer capabilities for large IoT fleets. In addition to security streaming via TLS 1.2, IoT Core includes an IAM offering for managing access to stations. Device Manager allows them to be recorded individually or automatically published from REST APIs. The solution supports MQTT and HTTP gateway protocols. This collects all telemetry data via a NodeJS dependency in Pub/Sub mode into a central repository. The same technology also makes it easier to send commands including updates, software, and ML algorithms within devices. Google talks about advanced visualization and machine learning features. Warning: These are separate templates that must be added to IoT Core. Likewise, the user will have to design their own visualization and algorithms to take advantage of it. Cloud IoT Core pricing works like a log ingest service: based on the amount of data stored.
Azure IoT Hub
Microsoft also offers its solution as a “managed service to enable two-way communication between IoT and Azure devices”. Here again, Le cloudiste offers secure TLS communication channels (in preview), individual and group device management, compatibility with FaaS Event Grid service and Azure IoT Edge, a showcase for injecting algorithms into devices. The tool supports HTTP, AMQP and MQTT protocols as well as managing logs and metrics in JSON format for reporting popular alerts.
The price depends on the IoT module, which requires you to provide a set of messages for the standard and basic version of the offer (400,000 messages with a minimum of 256 KB each). Automated device posting is based on separate billing in the order of pennies per 1000 messages. Hey, Microsoft offers technical support starting at 24,456 euros per month and a 99.9% service level agreement. The free version connects 8000 messages per day and 500 device IDs. The included SDK is compatible with Java, Python, and .Net.
IBM Watson IoT platform
The IBM Watson IoT platform combines the many bricks Big Blue has to offer. Presented as comprehensive, the main functions of the product are communication, collection, monitoring, archiving of data, and securing connected devices. The registration of new equipment passes through the REST API gateway while the MQTT protocol must allow the connection of the data flow. IoT data is collected in JSON format. The document in question displays the rise time, serial number of the device, its operating status as well as the values recorded by its sensors. Everything is saved in the Cloud Object Storage container in the NoSQL Cloudant DB.
Temporary information is kept in a PostgreSQL database, while DB2 can be used for analytical purposes. The publisher offers two extensions: one to analyze data and take advantage of anomaly detection models, and the other to connect the IoT fleet to the blockchain network. This second service is no longer available at this time.
Bosch IoT . Suite
With Bosch IoT Suite, the German manufacturer offers a comprehensive platform that includes device management, data management, dual digital system (Eclipse Ditto) and IoT data analysis and visualization. The service we care about, Bosch IoT Remote Manager, supports MQTT, TR-069, OMA-DM, OMA LwM2M and REST/HTTP communication protocols. Likewise, the tool complies with the OSGi specification, a Java-based SOA standard system for designing applications. Like AWS, Bosch offers a query engine to find objects according to their attributes or functions. Service is clearly one of the building blocks of the Bosch IoT Suite. The rules engine should simplify device management. Bosch IoT Remote manager has a free, starter, premium and native version. Managed service is available on Bosch Cloud, AWS, Microsoft Azure, Huawei Cloud, or on-premises.
PTC ThingWorx 8
Here again, ThingWorx is an integrated Internet of Things (PaaS) platform which must not only manage connected objects but also design applications and perform analytics based on the data collected. To connect industrial equipment, a CAD specialist relies on two tools: Kepware and Azure IoT Hub. Kepware is a physical OPC server capable of managing more than 200 proprietary industrial communication protocols designed by companies such as Schneider, Yokogawa, Mitsubishi, Siemens, and Toshiba. It also has a security tunnel, software configuration of equipment via REST, the function of diagnosing problems and a central registry repository. The Kepware server can be connected to the Azure IoT Hub to take advantage of tools developed by Microsoft.
So most of these managers do not know in terms of communication. On the other hand, the tools themselves are based on proprietary logic and underlie a potential monopoly lock, even if it is possible to interact with third-party solutions.
Note: The above list is not comprehensive.