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The Importance of OTA Updates for IoT Devices

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How many times have you received a notification on your mobile to update to the latest version of your operating system? IoT should follow this policy too.

Gartner defines “Over-the-air” (OTA) as the ability to download applications, services and configurations through a mobile or cellular network. It is literally an update sent “over the air”, a mechanism to remotely and wirelessly update the hardware connected to the internet with new software and/or firmware configurations.

Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), there are more and more devices connected to the internet, and it is important that they remain safe; A security breach puts IoT implementations at risk.

The ability of an IoT device to receive OTA updates is critical for resolving vulnerabilities. This type of updates provides the manufacturers of technological devices, system integrators, and operators of IoT solutions with the means to implement new functionalities to their products over time and also correct any vulnerability of the device.

OTA updates act immediately to keep the implementation robust and ensure data protection.

OTA updates also reduce maintenance costs. An update deployment can be done in phases and there are no limitations regarding how many you can release per year. By delivering a proven, ready for the launch service and releasing additional features via OTA when errors have been solved, you gain time in the programming process.

It’s not feasible to update the devices deployed in the field by using the traditional method (connecting each integrated device to a cable PC). The costs would be so high that we risk giving up the whole part of critical security patch updates, bug fixes or the latest features of the product.

Barbara OTAs updates

OTA services must be fast, secure and easy to use. These allow updating devices individually or in groups with a single click. But pushing this type of updates is not easy, since it involves a series of competencies, such as managing different versions of the firmware so that a failure in the update does not “lock” the device, or that the update does not use all the available bandwidth and of course that an urgent update is made at the right time. All this is complicated as the number of devices connected to a single business network increases.

To send OTA firmware updates, you need a device management system that can interact with microprocessors and local IoT device software. This is complicated to build as few companies have an IoT software and hardware ecosystem that can process these types of updates and manage remote devices.

Considerations of OTAs design for IoT

  • Recovery of versions: A failed update should be able to be reverted so the device stays on the previous stable version and it’s not locked.
  • Verifications of the versions: It is essential to check the origin of the OTA so devices just accept updates from a trusted and verified source that has not been modified in the journey.
  • Code compatibility: For devices that support multiple architectures it is recommended to confirm first that the received image is the appropriate one for that architecture before starting the updating process. Otherwise, it would be impossible to recover those devices.
  • Secure communication: All updates must be made through encrypted communication channels.
  • Partial updates: In this way, the bandwidth consumption and the processing time of the device are reduced.

Benefits of OTAs

  • Incremental OTAS allow continuous improvement of devices even after they are in the hands of consumers
  • They increase functionality through updates to one or more devices
  • They save costs  as you manage the firmware updates from a remote platform
  • OTAs allows to quickly correct security vulnerabilities
  • They Increase scalability by adding new features and infrastructure to the products after their launch.

 

Devices with Barbara OS always have access to the latest OTA updates to keep their system up to date and avoid vulnerabilities. In our team’s years of experience in managing and updating deployments of device networks, we have learned the right ways to meet the needs of each deployment.

 

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Article written by Ana Rosa González, User Experience Manager at Barbara IoT.

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