IoT device management software enables IT teams to track, monitor, and manage from a central point IoT devices, such as sensors, robotics, human interfaces, or machine vision cameras. Device management software is more than inventory management, however, allowing users to remotely troubleshoot problems, and update device software and firmware. Furthermore, security and access features are often included in IoT device management software to protect against security risks inherent within IoT ecosystems.
These software solutions can be managed by small IT teams, sometimes a single IoT administrator is all that is needed to oversee the state of hundreds of connected devices. Other software packages integrate with IoT device management systems to extend their capabilities, such as IoT analytics, improved IoT security, and robust IoT software and platform solutions that enable development teams to quickly build IoT applications.
IoT software across network devices (platforms, embedded systems, partner systems, and middleware) work together to collect data throughout the system, integrate devices that create a stable network, discover real-time analytics about the system's behavior, and extend applications and processes for specific purposes.
Data Collection — Software at the device level can manage sensors, measurements, simple data filtering, simple data security, and basic data aggregation. Standard protocols allow machine-to-machine communications. Data is sent both upstream and downstream from a central server.
Device Integration — This vital software cohesively combines and coordinates IoT devices to create a stable network. These applications define the IoT network.
Real-time Analytics — Analytics applications provide critical insights into the behavior and state of the IoT network, and connected devices. These insights can be used to alert IT staff, or in advanced systems they can prompt automatic action by the network.
Application Integrations and Process Extensions — Integrations, such as advanced security software or purpose-specific extensions, all networks greater capabilities for more resilient and effective systems.
What Is IoT Device Management?
Internet of Things (IoT) device management is the practice of managing all IoT devices within an ecosystem. This includes processes for provisioning, authenticating, configuring, maintenance, monitoring, and diagnosing connected devices.
Modern cloud-based IoT device management solutions offer web application services that locate connected devices, quickly register devices, organize devices, and remotely manage devices including permissions, firmware updates, troubleshoot functionality, and IoT device state queries.
IoT administrators are concerned with several challenges, which IoT management software works to help them overcome:
Data Management Challenges — IoT networks generate large volumes of data that must be delivered to central systems, analyzed, and stored. For IoT admins, this may present storage, bandwidth, and processing challenges. Additionally, companies that rely on mobile technology must also contend with wireless and cellular challenges.
Power Management Challenges — While IoT systems overall can consume tremendous amounts of energy, devices that move about autonomously present unique power challenges. Battery life, recharging, and maintenance are all concerns that IoT management software works to address and help with.
Device Monitoring Challenges — In the normal lifespan of sensors and devices, they are onboarded into the IoT network, monitored throughout their performance, and then eventually retired. This means that networks must be sensitive to the many different IoT devices from different vendors and how they integrate with the IoT network.
Device Connectivity Challenges — The more devices that are connected to a network the more bandwidth is consumed. Creating a network with scalable connectivity is an ongoing challenge for expanding IoT networks. A secondary challenge arises as additional service costs, particularly if organizations turn to outside networks to maintain connectivity.
Cybersecurity Challenges — The more devices that are connected to a network the more attack vectors exist for hackers to make attempts. This is also an ongoing challenge for IoT admins, but by adhering to best practices, and using advanced cybersecurity techniques, can help to protect IoT networks.
Key Features Of IoT Device Management Software
IoT device management software capabilities are expanding as industries see the operational benefits that the Internet of Things provides. While integrations and machine learning have helped to improve device features, in order for an application to be considered an IoT Device Management software it must have the following basic features:
At a minimum, IoT administrators should:
Be able to track and monitor all IoT connected devices
Have secure access to all connected devices
Be able to remotely update software and firmware
Be able to organize devices for operational efficiency
Be able to manage devices in bulk
Some vendors include advanced features in their IoT software packages. As well, system integrations and extensions help to increase a system's robustness. Other advanced IoT device management software features can include:
Microservices or server-side business logic integrations
Machine learning models for predictive analytics
Edge connectivity for data collection and analysis on edge servers
Historical analytics for deep or forensic analysis
Benefits Of IoT Device Management Software
IoT device management software packages offer standard benefits that allow businesses to manage their entire IoT network. As networks become more complex, and sprawl to edge areas, new features are emerging that allow greater insight and control over the network's performance.
Ecosystem Security — Device management software can integrate with security packages and provide full network and security visibility.
Edge Intelligence — Edge services can send real-time data insights to management teams.
Network Optimization — Analytics and machine learning can help optimize devices near and at the edge. Optimization can extend device life while improving network performance.
Network Scalability — Automotive onboarding allows networks to expand and contract as needed.
Remote Management — IT administrators can reach out to any device on the network from anywhere in the world and apply updates or troubleshoot.
How Does IoT Device Management Work?
IoT devices live within a network, and therefore have a life cycle within that network. Devices are introduced to a network, configured, and secured. Throughout its life it will be maintained, used for insights, and eventually be retired. The stages of the device life cycle compose the key components of IoT device management.
These stages are:
1. Device Onboarding — An IoT device comes online for the first time and is introduced to the network. It must undergo onboarding: checking credentials, authenticating, assigning device identity.
2. Device Configuration — IoT devices need to be configured to the system to meet the needs of the business and system.
3. Operational Diagnostics — Centralized analyzers use captured data from IoT devices to perform operational diagnostics and alert of impending concerns.
4. Device Security — Security is tested by IoT growth, as many new endpoints join networks that are utilizing unencrypted channels.
5. Device Maintenance — Devices routinely undergo firmware updates supplied over-the-air (OTA).
6. End of Life — Devices that are not in use should be retired or temporarily removed from the network to further secure loose endpoints and reclaim bandwidth. Devices that have exceeded their useful life, are not functioning properly, or at all, for the same reasons should also be removed from the network.
When To Use IoT Device Management Software?
IoT device management software is especially applicable in industrial, consumer, and commercial applications that have large and diverse inventories of IoT devices. Organizations within these spaces have both benefited from current technology, as well as pioneered new IoT technologies.
Industrial Applications — The ability to connect large and diverse industrial device fleets is a game-changer for many industries. Manufacturing remains the largest investor in IoT technologies, relying on robotics, and globally integrated systems that respond to real-time demands of the market, and availability of supplies. Logistics have similar demands as manufacturing, and the advantages of IoT have helped these companies achieve efficiencies that were previously or consistently unobtainable. Close behind investments of manufacturing and logistics are utilities in smart spaces which have turned to smart grids for efficiency improvements in the light of ecological and economic demands.
Consumer Applications — IoT devices have penetrated the consumer markets, a space that expects to see rapid growth. IoT devices are appearing in the home and office, and include consumer electronics, smart assistance, smart appliances, and now many personal vehicles are manufactured to be IoT enabled.
Commercial Applications — Commercial IoT has grown alongside industrial applications, and Healthcare has been pouring investment into improving their IoT systems. Healthcare applications have been exceptionally groundbreaking, such as vital inventory management, especially in cases of vaccines, or drugs with short expiration times. Additionally, IoT has enabled customer-centric approaches that have exceptionally improved client experiences.
Who Uses IoT Device Management Platforms?
Many known companies today rely on IoT devices to achieve their business goals. Some of their stories highlighted here demonstrate the wide applicability of IoT technologies.
Hitachi — Hitachi Vantara is a pioneer of its brand of the integrated approach to IoT networks and management. In some way, each of its 16,000 employees focuses on IoT technologies which they consider one of their strongest advantages. They can deploy and test their new technologies with their teams and businesses before introducing them to markets. When they do, they are able to stand behind their own proven results. For example, they are able to promote their IoT-enhanced production model which has reduced production lead times by half within its Omika Works division.
Maersk — The world's largest integrated shipping company by total capacity spends over $1 billion per year on transporting empty shipping containers. To reduce this cost, and track and monitor its assets, their routes, and fuel consumption, Maersk has adopted IoT networks which has brought greater visibility about their fleet. Further insights about critical refrigerated containers have helped the business optimize their controls on fresh cargo preventing spoilage.
Kaeser Kompressoren — A leader in air pumps, compressed air dryers and filters, Kaeser Kompressoren uses integrated device communications and offers "digital twins" modeling that creates a digital model of equipment performance that allows for predictive testing. This added layer of analytics intelligently predicts when critical events may happen, allowing companies to fix or replace equipment before failures impact business.
Best IoT Device Management Software Solutions
When choosing an IoT device management software, start by understanding how IoT will impact the business's needs. Big companies that have established IoT networks often develop their systems in-house for custom applications. For businesses where IoT device management is new to their operations, while choosing a device management platform (DMP) with the necessary features is important, also consider these other criteria in the decision process.
1. Adopt Software That Integrates North and South — Effective device management platforms (DMPs) need to easily integrate with current hardware and software, but also must ensure that future devices can readily onboard to the network.
2. Adopt Software That Monitors Device Life Cycle — Businesses can achieve much greater efficiencies when they understand the life cycle of every device on their networks. Lifecycle insights help teams anticipate critical device events, ensuring uptime, reducing maintenance costs, and scheduling for replacements and network expansions.
3. Adopt Software That Aligns Architecture With Business — The architecture of the DMP must align with current and future business goals. It can become costly if future plans require the shuttering of a product simply because it was not designed with new capabilities in mind. Security, scalability, flexibility are all aspects to look for in a DMP.
4. Inspect The Vendors Business — Before buying from a vendor, do a thorough evaluation of their business, looking at product capabilities, expertise, company health, partners, and other forward-thinking factors that will ensure they will remain to support your vital business purchase.
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