IoT Device Management is a Major Problem in Plain Sight

by Daniel Mandell | 10/04/2017

Device management is part of the foundation of an IoT solution. “Device management” is also an overly simplified term in light of the IoT where preserving embedded software and security integrity means greater control throughout the lifecycle. However, enabling scalable and secure IoT device management today still requires a fair amount of engineering time and investments to build – even on top of “building blocks” provided by IoT and cloud services providers. Device management and monitoring are not functions that translate easily between connected device classes, vendors, and use cases but remain critical to all of them. New solutions are coming to market to help alleviate connected device management challenges and allow OEMs to focus on their own products while opening the door for new business models and partnerships.

A major pain point for hardware providers today is developing scalable management software to ship with their products (to support throughout deployed lifetimes). A variety of development resources is available to jumpstart OEMs’ efforts such as MQTT brokers from Amazon and Microsoft, Azure IoT Hub and Mbed Cloud. Such resources, though, still often require several months of engineering cycles and millions of dollars spent orchestrating a platform that is not the OEMs’ product. This may not always be a roadblock for larger manufacturers but is undoubtedly a detriment to small and medium sized teams – of which most young IoT companies feature.

Device management platforms themselves are also evolving as the IoT pushes more multi-tenant portals and solutions requiring customized data access and views for OEMs, support organizations, end users, and others. More sophisticated, multi-dimensional device management solutions can also facilitate the deployment and control of new microservices. Linking data streams and device management between different stakeholders is at the very heart of the industrial IoT: enabling new business models and operational efficiencies.

More comprehensive device management solutions are making their way to market. For example, this week, longtime IoT OEM Lantronix launched the MACH10 Global Device Manager IoT application suite, which addresses a number of these trends. The web-scale Global Device Manager enables OEMs and their partners to manage both OEM and Lantronix devices from deployment to decommissioning. One huge advantage of MACH10 Global Device Manager is that in addition to working with Lantronix embedded and device IoT gateways, the application suite can also work with other suppliers’ hardware and can be a hosted service (especially important if time-to-market is a priority) or deployed in an OEM datacenter or customer sites.

IoT Device Management is a Major Problem in Plain Sight

MACH10 Global Device Manager can also be deployed in the background of customer applications to preserve existing software assets while enabling new functionality like intuitive search, device grouping, and firmware updates. Through simple REST APIs built on industry-standard protocols, OEMs can augment existing software applications without any new languages or porting required. This can be particularly useful in environments like healthcare where manufacturers have spent years developing existing software applications (and nurses and doctors trained to use them – not to mention industry certifications). With MACH10 Global Device Manager, OEMs can also create customizable self-service portals with different access privileges and experiences while controlling, monitoring, or maintaining connected products.

Device management solutions are aplenty from IoT solutions providers (particularly IoT gateway suppliers). However, most are locked into proprietary hardware platforms or require drastic engineering development to become valuable. Solutions like the Lantronix MACH10 Global Device Manager help mitigate the hidden costs and scalability challenges of non-differentiating IoT functions like device management for manufacturers while opening the door for third-party services. Scalable IoT device management will continue to be a major challenge for most organizations through the next several years as more projects scale to deployments of 100s or 1,000s of nodes. As it stands today, device management is a well-known but not fully understood challenge to the IoT.

View the 2017 IoT & Embedded Technology Research Outline to learn more.