IoT Device Management: Learn the Fundamentals

Ralph Heredia
Jun 9, 2021 11:49:03 AM

The security, reliability, and scalability of your connected devices depend on having an effective IoT device management framework. For this reason, a strong IoT device management platform is critical to meeting customer expectations, supporting growing device deployments and possibly avoiding security breaches (and resulting fallout). This guide shares the fundamentals of IoT device management to keep your IoT solutions functioning smoothly. 

What Is IoT Device Management?

IoT device management is a collection of methods and frameworks that deal with provisioning and authenticating, maintaining, and configuring connected devices. It also includes monitoring and diagnosing issues with devices. In short, IoT device management keeps the devices secure, connected, and up-to-date.  

A strong IoT device management platform enables network administrators to handle all of the functions required to support the IoT solution. Monitoring enables alerts to be sent to the administrator, who can troubleshoot the devices and reboot them, update their firmware, or decommission them if necessary. These are just a few of the many examples of why having a reliable IoT device management system is so essential, especially for enterprise-grade IoT solutions, where thousands or even hundreds of thousands of IoT devices are under management.

5 Fundamentals of IoT Device Management

IoT device management is an integral part of a connected device business since it facilitates managing all the devices and sensors in the ecosystem in a central location. There are five core fundamentals of an IoT device management framework. Understanding them will help you identify the links between device management and IoT connectivity, help you think about IoT security, and understand how to implement an effective monetization strategy.

1. Onboarding

Provisioning, or the process established to authenticate new devices and allow them to connect to the network and back end databases, is critical for IoT system security. Each new device must go through a process of authentication, where the device presents its credentials to the server. Details of the process may vary, but it usually includes methods like pre-shared keys or device certificates. With IoT device provisioning, once the device is determined to be trusted and secure, an identity is established, and it receives further configuration data.

2. Configuration and Control

Once a device goes through the onboarding process, it should be configured beyond the default settings provided by the manufacturer. This reconfiguration of the new device ensures it will behave exactly as intended based on the device’s installation location and the planned usage within the IoT ecosystem. A flexible and intuitive configuration mechanism will enable an efficient response to failures. Device grouping capabilities should also be considered in order to enhance the network. Although configuration and control can be tedious if done manually, much of it can be automated. 

3. Ongoing Monitoring, Alerts and Diagnostics

Ongoing monitoring, alerts and diagnostics are crucial for security and reducing the impact of device downtime resulting from operational issues and firmware bugs. The aim is to continuously monitor the network to quickly detect any security breaches, prevent failures from happening, and fix problems before they harm the network. Making sure that you have enabled alerts to notify you of certain detected events as well as establishing a proactive monitoring and diagnostic system will also support compliance. For example, if you detect that a device is consuming substantially more data than anticipated, that could be a sign of trouble (buggy firmware, unauthorized access or usage, etc.)

4. Maintenance and Updates

Software and firmware updates and maintenance are another necessary part of device management for the security of your IoT ecosystem. Security vulnerabilities may pose a threat to your network, and necessary changes may cause issues that require troubleshooting and fixing. Unfortunately, maintenance is often overlooked until there is a security breach. However, with an established process for an ongoing maintenance plan in place, these breaches can be markedly reduced. 

5. Decommission

Not only does your device management system need to provide for the onboarding and ongoing support of your IoT devices, but it also needs to provide support when devices need to be replaced or are no longer in use. Decommissioning devices must be done in a secure and cost-effective manner. It’s important to avoid system downtime and potential data leaks or a system compromise while it’s in process. End-of-life management is an essential part of device management and an aspect that needs to be considered for maintaining a healthy IoT ecosystem.

Challenges of IoT Device Management

IoT device management presents several challenges that make using an effective management platform a must. The larger the IoT ecosystem, the more challenging its management becomes. Scalability can be complex — as your ecosystem grows, you have a greater number of devices, cloud instances, databases, communications protocols, and networks. And the variety of devices may grow as well. Additionally, as technology advances and hackers become continuously more sophisticated, security and management processes must evolve to protect the ecosystem and ensure it operates smoothly. 

Comprehensive IoT Device Management

IoT Device Management is a comprehensive topic. There are multiple places where you have to worry about device management – on the network side, the cloud side, the device side. 

  • Device side management is specific to things like firmware. 
  • Cloud side device management includes things like how you get data flowing to the right destination (sometimes called data ingestion) and getting it visualized (business intelligence).
  • Network side device management includes how the device connects to a network, when it connects, what it’s authorized to connect to, and how much cellular data is being consumed vs. what it’s expected to consume

The Role of IoT Device Management Platforms

Investing in a comprehensive and intuitive device management platform empowers you to architect an effective IoT solution that is scalable, reliable, and secure. Your IoT platform should have robust features to address the fundamentals of IoT device management, including onboarding, configuration and control, monitoring and diagnostics, maintenance and software updates, and decommissioning. When you can handle these activities effectively and efficiently in a secure environment, you’re positioning your company for healthy growth. 

Want to know more about Zipit’s robust yet intuitive IoT platform? Contact us to discuss your company's unique needs. We’re happy to provide you with insights that will help you make the decision.

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