IoT device management: What it is and why it’s important

Explore what IoT device management is, the key parts of maintaining devices, and why these processes are important for your business.
Kelli Harris
September 10, 2021
person using a tablet and stylus to monitor analytics

The research firm Gartner views IoT as one of the top five game-changing technologies.

By 2029, Gartner expects more than 15 billion IoT devices will connect to the enterprise infrastructure. IDC, on the other hand, offers a more aggressive prediction, saying that by 2025 there will be 55.7 billion connected devices worldwide, with three quarters connected to an IoT platform.

The data generated from IoT devices and sent over these platforms will be enormous. Not only will companies have to figure out how to store an incredible amount of data, but they will also have to manage, monitor, and secure every connected device on their service. That’s a lot of different hardware and software components to manage while making sure everything works. And that’s why choosing an IoT device management platform is so important for your business.

Intro to IoT device management

IoT device management is neededto control, configure, maintain and monitor IoT devices. To govern this large landscape you’ll need sound processes and technologies.

Yet while many businesses understand how to manage software across an enterprise, IoT devices are also hardware — they are physical things that require a different type of management, from logistics to connectivity. You need to know the status of your device, what its digital representation looks like, how it’s configured, and how you can interact with it.

In the logistics environment, for example, device management begins when a product is packed and ready for shipment. The first step involves bringing the device online and onto your network. You want to understand its properties, including what databases it is connected to, how it’s configured, and what it may need from a server so it can begin operating as you want it to.

Then you’ll want to monitor how the device operates in the field as it moves from a warehouse to its final destination. With devices deployed nationally or globally, you need to manage them virtually. And connectivity will change as the device moves along the journey, and these connections need to be monitored so the fleet remains operational.

Recommended reading: What is Cellular IoT? The Future of IoT Connectivity

Key parts of IoT device management

After bringing devices online and connecting them to the network, you need to configure each device for use, and you need to maintain that device and update it when necessary. You also need the ability to run diagnostics and prevent unauthorized access. Lastly, you’ll need to manage device replacements and migrate data from old to new devices. That’s a lot of moving parts to manage. Let’s take a look at each of those steps in more detail.

Onboarding devices

An essential start to onboarding your IoT device is to digitally authenticate it. You will want to understand its properties, including what databases it needs to connect to, how it’s configured, and what it needs from a server so it can begin operating.

You also want to make sure it can connect to and be recognized by the network. This step is important so you and the network can recognize the device and its status, and can identify it from possible rogue devices that may tap into your network.

Recommended reading: How to understand the different LTE IoT device categories.

Configuring devices

After onboarding, it’s probably that your devices are in default mode. Every IoT device must be further configured according to your business needs. In other words, you need to tell the device what it’s going to do, what data it’s going to collect, and where it’s going to send the data.

Configuration can include programming access so appropriate restrictions are in place to avoid unauthorized use; and programming the appropriate passwords to use when traveling over different connectivity networks, to make sure its data is encrypted.

The device also needs to be configured to keep its software updated with the latest security patches, where to back up data, and where to store device logs.

Maintaining and updating devices

In order to function as planned, your devices need to be always on and communicating to the network. They need to have the right protocols in place to navigate what might be a very complex environment. You need to monitor their operational statuses and update them when appropriate. Monitoring is also necessary to make sure your devices remain secure, up-to-date, and bug free.

This step is important because if one of your IoT devices stops working, it can impact your whole project or operation.

Running diagnostics for detection and prevention

Diagnostic processes can help you determine how much data traffic passed through a device, how much data it used, where the device was located, and which network carriers it used.

Diagnostic features are crucial in reducing the impact of device downtime that may occur from unexpected operational issues. Predictive maintenance can help ensure the success of your IoT project, helping to seal off any security breaches or counteract them before they harm your connections or project. Analytics can alert you to any issues that may occur.

Device replacement and data migrations

What happens if a device breaks and you need to replace it? What happens to the devices after you complete your project? How do you know you’ve decommissioned every one?

You will need a plan to replace devices as well as to phase out a project to help avoid data leaks or system downtime, and thwart any unapproved device access, if a device set for replacement or decommission is compromised.

Among the tasks in this step is migrating all device data, checking its status, and then wiping the device clean. You’ll need a process to update information in a database or other record stating when and why the device was replaced or deactivated.

Benefits of having an IoT device management platform

An IoT device management platform that adopts industry standards will help you manage your devices at scale. Unfortunately, at this point in the industry’s evolution there is no one-size-fits-all device management platform. Those on the market today tend to focus on a specific use case or industry. That’s why it’s important to understand the benefits an IoT device management platform offers so you can evaluate the many platforms available and choose the right one for your project.

Recommended Reading: What is an IoT Platform?

A platform will automate many of the basic tasks, making your job much easier. Hologram’s device management platform features the ability to update devices over the air, enabling routine, automated security checks; offering easy-to-use, out-of- the-box functionality for business users; and providing a complete view of an entire network of devices. Let’s explore each of these benefits more closely.

1. Provide over-the-air updates

When IoT projects were first launched, updating remote devices caused disruption and performance issues. Many times they needed to be taken offline, retrieved from the field, connected to a computer, updated, and then sent back to the field and only then brought back online. As you can imagine, this time-consuming effort caused major headaches, including interrupted data collection, among other issues.

These days, many platforms use over-the-air updates to reliably update devices. Using this approach, you need a device management platform that can connect with microprocessors and install software to handle updates on your IoT devices.

Why is this valuable? Scalable, automatic updates with no interruptions save you time and money.

2. Allow for routine, automatic security checks

There have been many examples in the news about large companies having been hacked simply because they failed to install computer updates or to back data up. If you perform routine checks for your main company network, you should obviously understand the benefits of doing this for your IoT projects.

That said, many IoT sensors and devices – think refrigerators, thermostats, and medical equipment – don’t allow or have a provision for endpoint security. Device management platforms need to analyze network traffic to and from the device and monitor that traffic for anomalous behavior. Some platforms deploy deep machine learning to automate these checks.

We know IoT security can be a daunting subject. If you are looking for the right IoT security solution, we detailed several IoT security options in this post.

3. Create easy scalability for businesses

Ideally, you want to build an IoT application that can tap thousands or millions of devices with zero downtime no matter where those devices are located. Building such a system is complex and has many challenges, and you don’t want to have to employ scores of developers just to make the application work. You want easy-to-use tools and services that are ready to go out of the box.

For example, you probably want to focus on your IoT application’s product and data and not the underlying connectivity infrastructure, carrier negotiations, or connectivity pricing. An IoT device management platform that handles the entire connectivity end for you while providing an easy-to-use dashboard is valuable for your business.

4. Give a complete view of your entire network of devices

A device management platform should provide a high level look to get an understanding of the micro and the macro level of your devices. Since you are already analyzing the data your project is returning, the last thing you have time for is to analyze other data to spot anomalies. You need a platform that provides the big picture for you.

Hologram’s platform makes IoT device management simple

Hologram’s IoT SIM card offers seamless, global coverage for IoT devices with access to LTE/4G/3G/2G technologies. With our Hyper eUICC-enabled SIMs, you’ll gain access to new connectivity partnerships without any additional carrier negotiations, integrations, or hardware swaps. Even better, Hologram’s device management tool, the Dashboard, is included. Find out more about the benefits of Dashboard.

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