Why It Is Time to Prioritize IoT Network and Device Management


When talking about IoT architecture, we often think of three major components: devices, connectivity and application platforms. While this line of thought might be a good starting point for anyone who has just recently gotten to know the intricate IoT ecosystem, it omits a vital layer in the IoT value chain: network and device management.

Why Network and Device Management Is Essential to IoT Implementation

An IoT deployment is never a simple launch-and-leave endeavor. Connected devices, be it low-computing end nodes or sophisticated high-performing gateways, need regular maintenance, updates and reconfigurations to accommodate changing business, technical and security requirements. At the same time, the network architecture will continuously evolve to incorporate new, innovative end devices and backend applications or analytic services. To keep up with this growing complexity, companies need a streamlined approach to deploy and operate IoT networks at scale.

This is exactly where a network and device management solution can be useful. Acting as a bridge between the edge network and downstream applications, it provides an efficient process for provisioning, monitoring and controlling all elements of your IoT network, including hardware, firmware/software and data. Via a central interface, emerging issues could be swiftly detected and resolved for optimal function of devices and connectivity. In addition, critical network changes and updates can be remotely performed in simple steps to eliminate the hassle of traveling to the site. By streamlining IoT deployment and ongoing management tasks, robust network and device management is central, if not indispensable, to a scalable and future-proof IoT architecture.

Key Aspects of IoT Network and Device Management  

Network and device management solutions come in varying shapes and sizes, but their core capabilities often boil down to the following four aspects.

  1. Device Lifecycle Management

A network and device management tool provides a mechanism where only trusted endpoints can be safely connected to the network via the input of their security key and identification credential. With authentication integral to the onboarding process, secure communications are established from the outset, and users can easily keep track of device performance throughout its lifecycle. Concurrently, necessary reconfigurations that arise, like changes in the message frequency and activation/deactivation of certain sensing options to reduce battery use, can be executed from afar with no manual intervention required. Likewise, if an end node is no longer needed, it can be remotely decommissioned with a few clicks.

  1. Software and Security Updates

Powerful IoT gateways that handle data communications from a vast number of endpoints must always be armed with the latest software and security features to repulse against malicious attacks and ensure seamless network operations. Manual updates, especially on remote field devices, are not only inefficient but also highly prone to delays. In this context, built-in versatile device management capabilities allow for timely automatic updates of the operating system and security patches, alongside remote maintenance support. Thus, devices are well protected and optimized for operations.

  1. Network Monitoring and Diagnostics

A top-down view of all data traffic including both user and network data, as well as registered devices, facilitates effective diagnostics and troubleshooting of both network- and device-level issues to maximize uptime and availability. For example, when a node stops sending messages while its battery level is still full, there could be a hardware defect or a firmware bug. Likewise, an intermittent interruption in data transmission among multiple nodes could indicate certain connectivity bottlenecks, while a surge in network traffic from questionable endpoints immediately flags a security breach.

  1. Data Integration into Downstream Applications

To derive actionable business insights, sensor data needs to be forwarded to downstream user applications and enterprise systems in a straightforward and painless fashion. A robust network and device management platform enables you to do just that through a rich set of APIs and open messaging protocols (e.g. MQTT, Websocket, etc.). More advanced solutions even offer native plugins to top-tier cloud platforms at the user’s disposal. From a single window, you can have an overview of all existing integrations, and add or delete any backend connections at ease.

When researching a network and management solution, it’s important to consider available deployment options and device support. Ideally, you want a platform that can work with cross-vendor, heterogeneous devices while providing the flexibility to run on the user’s chosen environment – be it on-premises or in the cloud. This contributes to long-term interoperability of your IoT architecture and allows you to nimbly adapt to changing needs further down the road.

Ultimately, the success of IoT hinges on reliable and secure operations of vast, distributed networks of connected devices. Having a viable network and device management solution from day one, companies can effectively streamline costs and complexity to scale IoT projects to any future scenario.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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