What Is IoT Device Management?

The Internet of things (IoT) has taken the world by storm. IoT refers to all the smart devices now connected to the internet. IoT devices communicate with each other and other servers, making your life easier. This technology has revolutionized manufacturing, industry, and especially the oil and gas industry. For example, workers no longer need to drive around in trucks reading meters and writing down the numbers on paper. IoT technologies make this easier altogether. That said, you’ll need an ordered process to avoid chaos in managing all these IoT devices. This is where IoT device management comes in!

An image of a light oil refinery at twilight with physical systems icons diagram.
What is IoT device management?

In this article, I’ll get into the fundamentals of IoT device management. I’ll also explain what IoT configuration management is, along with its limitations and benefits. 

First, let’s go over some important use cases for IoT.

5 Use Cases for IoT

I could be here all day writing and explaining all the use cases for IoT. For now, I’ll leave you with 5 solid use cases to highlight just how far IoT devices have penetrated our everyday lives. 

1. Smart Homes 

IoT devices like remote sensors, smart locks, etc. are the main components in a smart home. For example, Google Home, Alexa, and such smart products can control your entire home if you so desire. Create heating systems and remotely answered doorbells: you can automate almost everything! Just get a smart plug adapter for your heirloom Tiffany lamp and tell Alexa to turn on Gram’s favorite lamp! IoT technologies will help simplify your home life and turn it into a safer place.  

2. Smart Logistics 

IoT-powered smart logistics allow you to track your goods from anywhere, at any time, globally. One example is RFID tags, a type of smart tracking system that helps you know the real-time location of your goods across the world with tiny tags. That way, you can know the product’s condition, status, and exact location. Smart logistics also ensure authenticity for some goods like wine. 

3. Smart Cars 

Improving the connectivity of cars has been in talks recently. Smart cars employ IoT devices that attain both maintenance and notification functions. For example, Tesla Motors is one of the biggest names leveraging IoT in their vehicles now. Smart cars in IoT become aware of each other and share information like speed, braking, etc. In turn, this helps decrease the risk of accidents and human error

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More smart cars, more enjoyable rides!

4. Farming 

IoT-enabled devices also made their way to farmers. Farmers use sensors and algorithms like greenhouse automation, crop management, and agricultural drones. Implementing IoT in farming helps farmers to collect and analyze data and then make predictions about weather, soil, and much more. This helps farmers to increase crop yield. 

5. Oil and Gas Industry 

The oil and gas industry has undergone a complete transformation since adopting new technologies like IoT devices. For example, workers can now monitor remote wellheads for an entire field from a central location. Gone are the days of driving around the field and looking at meter outputs! IoT in the oil and gas industry helps better field communication. It also reduces maintenance costs and power consumption

That’s a lot to accomplish with IoT! Yet, it can get out of hand quickly without management. Let’s dig deeper into what IoT device management is.

What Is IoT Device Management?

IoT device management is a process to help you manage the millions of devices in your IoT environment. IoT device management gives you an easier route to keep devices online, connected, up-to-date, and secure. To do this, you need to configure devices properly, run routine diagnostics, and perform maintenance. You’ll also need to set up and secure  authentication and monitor the devices. Anything connected to the internet is a potential opportunity for hacking, so you’ll avoid chaos and make your life easier with proper IoT device management. 

Now, let’s jump into the fundamentals of IoT device management. 

5 Fundamentals of IoT Device Management

Now’s the time to learn how to implement IoT device management. Here’s a list of 5 actions you must take if you want your device to perform at its peak

1. Configure Your Device

Open the box, plug it in, and turn it on. You’re not done here, though! You need to properly set up the configuration of your device. This helps to ensure your devices behave as intended within your IoT environment. You need to connect the sensors in need of calibrating and networking. If you have more than one, you’ll need to account for that with group configurations. 

2. Diagnose Your Device

Preventative maintenance is just what the doctor ordered. Running routine diagnostics on your IoT devices can help detect potential problems before they happen and cause downtime. Usually, devices come with diagnostic software from the manufacturer. The manufacturer has guidelines to tell you how often you should run the diagnostics, so you can follow these. 

3. Apply Maintenance

For optimal performance, maintaining your devices is key. The diagnostic software will give you  insights into what you might need to update, replace, or fix. That way, you’ll avoid breakdowns causing downtime. Devices have a lifetime, so you’ll definitely need to enhance features, update firmware, etc. every now and then. The device manufacturer will also have suggestions on regular maintenance intervals. 

4. Ensure Proper Authentication

You need to enable trust within your IoT environment. To make configuration changes, you’ll need as an admin the proper credentials. That means you must protect your device access with the proper authentication measures. This helps ensure your devices are trusted. You also need to secure the network connected to prevent any bad actors from accessing your device or even worse your network. 

5. Monitor Your IoT Devices

Your IoT device will always provide real-time data. It’s crucial then for you to have the proper monitoring software in place. That way you can follow all the important data points. Monitoring also helps you detect breaches, prevent failures, and fix problems before they cause any harm. If you notice something odd in your usual data, it’s your sign to take some action and fix the problem. 

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Monitor your devices remotely!

Now, I’ll explain what IoT configuration management is.

What Is IoT Configuration Management?

As IoT devices become more plentiful and networks take on more data from these devices, configuration management has become essential. Configuration management helps you tame all of the devices and their data. Your devices won’t work as intended without proper configuration. You’ll also need to configure what data points you want to receive to filter out the data. Below are 3 important points about IoT configuration management

1. Supports Multiple Management Interfaces 

Gateway elements are very diverse, so your management software should communicate with all kinds of IoT devices. Your management software should also be universal and not based on vendors. This helps you better manage all the devices at any time. That also enhances functionality

2. Provides a Scalable Enterprise Configuration 

It’s impractical to maintain individual gateways’ configurations when IoT domains continue to grow.. The use of automation keeps consistency in configuring a large IoT network. In turn, this improves your chances of growing your IoT-based environment.

3. Audits Configuration Changes 

In a vast infrastructure, logging the configuration changes becomes necessary. This ensures you can configure your devices efficiently, securely, and remotely. Auditing also helps you to track the configuration changes to maintain all resources consistently. 

The above points define the ground rules of IoT configuration management and are crucial for any new setup. Remember, it’s better to do things right the first time.  Otherwise, you’ll be rushing in, getting it wrong, and having to go back and reconfigure everything correctly. 

Now, let’s review some of the limitations of IoT device management. 

3 Limitations of IoT Device Management

Like other processes, IoT device management will also stumble upon some challenges. In this section, I’ll discuss 3 limitations of IoT device management

1. Range 

Devices running on wireless may cause issues sometimes. For example, an issue may occur if you have very remote assets like wellheads in vast oilfields and you need to get the data back to central. Range is a function concerning the built-in power management of your devices. This function concerns IoT device management professionals. You can use wireless range extenders or possibly, but less desirable, hardwiring to bridge issues. 

2. Bandwidth 

Got big data problems? You might not have enough bandwidth on your network for all your devices sending massive data amounts from the field. If this is the case, you’ll need to update your network to handle all that data coming back. IoT device management tools help you test the bandwidth and gain visibility across the network

3. Battery Life

Batteries don’t last forever, even with the advances in solar power (but they’re getting better!). You’ll still face limitations on how long your battery can last to power your device and send back the data. For example, remote oil wells use data power each time they send data. To solve this, you have to address better solutions. For example, you can implement improved cooling solutions, Wake-Up chips, and alternative power sources.

Having covered the limitations, let’s now have a look at 3 benefits of IoT device management. 

3 Benefits of IoT Device Management

IoT device management provides many benefits to optimize the functionality of your devices with ease. You may already know some, but here are 3 major benefits

1. Remote Management

Your network may contain millions of devices, but each one still has the same importance. Remote management of your devices ensures you can manage and update each device. You won’t have to manually check gauges and write down numbers. The data gets old fast, and by the time you get back to base and crunch the numbers, your hand-written data is hours or days old. IoT devices make those meters transmit all the data directly to your centralized location for real-time analytics. 

2. Security

Security is a big concern in all IT-related applications. You can secure all your data on your servers and keep them away from cybercriminals when you have proper IT security in place. IoT devices help you to set a secure approach to configure and permit only authorized devices into the network architecture. You’ll also want to ensure you’re using the latest TLS certificates for transferring data and AES-258 Encryption on your stored data. In turn, your operations will be as secure as possible!

3. Scalability

IoT devices can grow with your company easily. This happens when you add more devices or change the data points you need to transfer. Your company’s ability to manage devices from a central management interface also impacts the scalability of a department. Improving scalability means you can manage and update a larger number of devices without affecting the quality of service.

Final Words

When you’re in the market for an IoT device management software suite, you’ll want to remember the factors I previously covered. These include choosing a suite that supports multiple management interfaces, provides a scalable enterprise configuration, and audits configuration changes. Besides that, you’ll want to keep a schedule for running diagnostics, performing maintenance, and keeping your security tight and your network secure. 

In this article, I covered the definition of IoT device management. I also explained its fundamentals, limitations, and benefits. This article will come in handy in helping you learn all about IoT device management before you implement these technologies in your company. 

Have more questions about IoT device management? Check out the FAQ and Resources sections below.

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FAQ

When did IoT first come about?

The first IoT device was a Coca-Cola machine at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Students had set it up to keep track of the machine’s inventory without having to go look every time. It wasn’t until about 2013 that things really started to take off for IoT, and it created a buzz. Part of the delay was because cloud storage, a very important component to get IoT to work, took a while to surface. 

Why is IoT device management important?

IoT device management facilitates your work. It allows you to manage the millions of devices connected in your IoT environment. Any internet-connected device is also at risk of cyberattacks. Configuration improves your security set-up and ensures you’re not broadcasting your signal for just anyone to pick up. 

Can IoT device management increase trust?

Yes, it does. When you configure your devices, you also configure your security certificates. You get these certificates in the header when a device tries to connect to another device or a server. Have you ever visited a website with an expired certificate? You get a warning, and your browser blocks you from accessing the site. That’s because it could be potentially harmful. The same situation is happening with your IoT-managed devices

What is condition-based maintenance?

Condition-based maintenance allows you to set conditions on your device for when you need to perform maintenance. For example, in newer cars, sensors test your oil. Once the oil percentage gets down to 15% of its life, an indicator will turn on in the dashboard. The indicator lets you know that you need to change the oil soon. This is the same for IoT condition-based maintenance. 

What should I do when devices fail?

When it comes time to replace a device, you’ll want to try to do it before it fails and causes downtime. The device monitoring should help you predict when it might be time to replace a device. You should use device monitoring as a guide. Your IoT device life cycle management should include end-of-life management. 

Resources 

TechGenix: IoT vs. Edge Computing 

Find out the differences between IoT and Edge computing here.

TechGenix: Guide on Artificial Intelligence of Things

Learn more about Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) and predictions for its future here.

TechGenix:IoT Protocols 

Find out what the 6 most common IoT protocols are right here.

TechGenix: IoT Device Security 

Learn what IoT device security is and its impact on remote working here.

TechGenix: Cybersecurity Risks for Autonomous IoT-Ready Cars 

Learn about the risks of having your car connected to the internet here.

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