In the early days of IoT, updating remote devices often caused intermittent disruption and performance degradation. As IoT platforms have matured, they have embraced a novel way to remotely and reliably update connected devices with little to no disruption: over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates.
Over-the-air firmware updates refers to the practice of remotely updating the code on an embedded device. The embedded hardware must be built with OTA functionality for this mechanism to work.
Here is a visualization of how OTA firmware is delivered to remote devices using a device management system:
Prior to OTA updates, you had to go out and retrieve the device, take it apart, connect it to your computer, reprogram it, put the device back together, and then take the device back.
However, this process is overly burdensome and unscalable for companies who have devices out on the field. Although, it hasn’t stopped some from trying . . .
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You tell me which is the better headline.
To send out OTA firmware updates, you need a device management system that can interface with microprocessors and local software on IoT devices. This is complicated to build because few companies have an IoT software and hardware ecosystem that can process OTA firmware updates and manage remote devices.
“The updating of software/firmware over-the-air (SOTA/FOTA) is being seen as a critical methodology to manage software updates with the latest revisions for the entire lifecycle of a system.” — Stephane Strahm, Smart 2.0
There are two options companies can take: you can build your own OTA firmware system or buy a managed OTA firmware system. For the build route, it is imperative that you research, plan, and consult domain experts to help you add OTA functionality to your hardware and software. Implementing the proper industry encryptions, finding the compatible hardware/software, and finding domain experts who can actually help you will be some of your biggest concerns.
However, due to the complexities of transmitting of the data and security concerns, you could harness a managed platform solution. For example, one such platform is by Particle.
Particle is a full stack IoT platform that offers the hardware and software tools to connect everyday electronics to the internet. Part of this platform, Particle cloud and console, also allows consumers to control fleets of devices and products with wireless firmware updates. Here are some of the benefits of using Particle for OTA firmware updates:
OTA firmware is the critical driver for IoT success because it is powering the reliability and scalability of connected devices. Companies must decide whether building their own OTA firmware system is worth the time and potential costs, or if purchasing a platform that has OTA firmware functionality is a more efficient and effective way to update remote wireless devices.