The 4 Layers of Every IoT Device
Management Architecture

7 min read

You found this incredible intelligent coffee machine on Black Friday for the office. The machine learns your coffee drinking habits, offers office calendar reminders, and gives hourly news and weather updates. Better yet, it recognizes your face so that it remembers your exact coffee preferences for a perfect cup every time. You can even use an app to remotely turn it on to make sure you have hot coffee on-demand.

Congratulations, you now own one of 35 billion IoT devices reported in 2020, a number expected to rise to 83 billion by 2025. Though impacted by Covid-19, the IoT industry still grew to $761.1 billion by the end of 2020, a number expected to double by 2026. 

This growing market has also created a massive quantity of data. By 2025, there is expected to be over 79 zettabytes of data generated by IoT-connected devices in total. The data comprising the entire internet will be less than double that.

IoT architecture is traditionally split up into devices, connectivity, and applications, but this is just scratching the surface. Maintaining IoT deployments is a vital aspect of success in this regard, yet one that many organizations neglect. However, organizations are being forced to wise up quickly, as more and more IoT-connected devices are being introduced, and increasingly, everyday objects have connectivity included.

So how can that enormous amount of data be kept organized and the devices working properly in sync and secure? This is where IoT device management tools and architecture pick up the slack.

What Is IoT Device Management?

A frequently discovered problem with the increased use of IoT devices is that managing them becomes exponentially more complex. When it’s just a few servers, the process is pretty simple. Modifying settings for each can be time-consuming but manageable. However, as more everyday devices become network-capable, dealing with hundreds, thousands, or millions of interconnected devices becomes a monumental task.

IoT device management covers the processes comprising the installation, authentication, monitoring, diagnosis, and maintenance of all devices contained within your organization’s IoT network ecosystem. It provides administrative control for your IoT network and allows for process automation, support, and troubleshooting for an ever-widening set of features, functions, and devices. 

One of the biggest IoT device management challenges is that each network-connected device has different control and security requirements. These struggles span from the sourcing for internal components to the frequency and reliability of updates from the vendor.

The process of managing IoT devices and infrastructure is worth diving a bit deeper into and so can be divided into four major categories.

Provisioning and Authentication

Whenever a new IoT device is added to your network, it is essential to ensure these devices are trusted and secure. The last thing you want to deal with is a misconfigured or insecure device that offers cybercriminals a backdoor into your network. 

Provisioning is the process by which you introduce and log an IoT device into your system. Authentication is an aspect of that process wherein devices are verified, and only those with proper credentials get deployed.

Configuration and Control

No device perfectly fits the user’s needs when first released, and though often extremely functional, requires configuration to meet each use case specifications. Whether it is a dam’s remote level sensor or a smart thermostat, you need to be able to configure and control device settings at all times

This control needs to be available wherever the IoT devices are located to adjust various metrics to improve performance. These aspects are paramount to maintaining consistent functionality and protection from potential security risks.

Monitoring and Diagnostics

While device management tools can configure and manage device settings and access, you still need to ensure this is maintained and to detect anomalies. This is achieved through active monitoring and event reporting. If even a single IoT device goes offline, the ripple effect can wreck your processes and cost your organization lost uptime.

Bugs or vulnerabilities in your IoT infrastructure can first be exhibited by issues like abnormal resource usage or irrelevant data access. These can only be discovered and mitigated through proactive sweeping of your IoT network, including event logging, using these tools as a part of your device management architecture. 

Software Maintenance and Updates

Once you’ve identified flaws in your security or vulnerable outdated devices, you need the capability to resolve and manage these issues without ever being in physical proximity to the device. When this management includes thousands or millions of interconnected devices, getting easy physical access to each is also impossible. 

IoT device management solutions allow organizations to gain remote access and resolve these software or access issues regardless of their location. This minimizes the impact to business continuity from a problematic device and saves bandwidth wastage by removing the risk of firmware issues from simple bug patches.

Why You Need an IoT Device Management Architecture

Source: Robustel

IoT has never been a plug-and-play, click-and-forget sort of investment. The sprawling network of interconnected devices requires regular updating, maintenance, and reconfiguration to adapt to your organization’s shifting needs. Simultaneously, your IoT architecture will constantly evolve to integrate new devices, applications, and analytics tools. 

A major obstacle for IoT deployment and expansion is the overhead for equipment, staff, and configuration. As your organization expands its network nationally or internationally, this cost can skyrocket with varying security standards and compliance regulations.

Implementing a device management solution can allow for instant remote configuration or downloadable profiles so any device anywhere can immediately be implemented in your IoT ecosystem while saving on personnel and overall deployment costs.

As the complexity of IoT and cybersecurity networks increase, malicious actors find new ways to circumvent these measures and expose sensitive data. One of the more beneficial IoT device management architecture features is its ability to manage device access permissions. This includes taking a real-time inventory of connected devices and their activities and logging any irregularities in usage. 

With the importance behind establishing IoT device management for your organization established, we can dive into the layers and steps towards creating your architecture.

The Four Layers of Every IoT Device Management Architecture

IoT integration requires a many-angled examination of your business processes and IT ecosystem. In practice, this means examining the technical requirements for your organization’s IoT architecture and how it will integrate and interact with your existing IT infrastructure. There are four primary areas you will have to consider as you design your IoT device management architecture.

1. Infrastructure

The infrastructure level comprises the various hardware components, protocols, and compliance standards your organization needs to implement and maintain. This can be easily split between IoT sensors which collect and transmit data, and actuators, which control and manage the IoT ecosystem.

Beyond the devices used, IoT infrastructure includes accounting for your bandwidth and latency requirements to ensure your network can handle the demand of your IoT devices. This may also require deploying additional resources to handle the computing power demand of increased processing and real-time resource utilization spikes. The data collected needs to be processed and analyzed, and the method will depend on your use of the edge or cloud-based services to do so.

Consideration must also be given to your organization’s connectivity requirements. If your IoT deployment requires Bluetooth, 4G, and 5G, GSM, or other connectivity standards and protocols, the need to transfer and process this data changes accordingly. 

2. Security

The massive quantities of data produced by IoT devices are not only challenges for their mass, but the potentially confidential or sensitive nature of that information. Each device is a potential entry point for malicious actors to compromise your network, which is why securing every device, no matter the function, is a vital aspect of IoT network management.

The IoT environment is inherently limited in its ability to provide security for devices. Unlike PCs, the majority of these devices can’t have an antivirus or firewall installed directly. For this reason, IoT security needs to consider the inclusion, securing of and management of the physical components through real-time firmware scanning and updates.

In terms of connectivity, securing your cellular IoT devices and networks is the most significant consideration for your IoT security. This includes protecting bandwidth reliability, battery life, and coverage for your entire IoT infrastructure. Cybercriminals have grown increasingly complex in their attempts to leverage cellular and IoT weak points. Your organization is likely to require multiple solutions and strategies to secure your IoT assets successfully.

3. Integration

Just as the best sports teams work as a tight unit, having a smooth, efficient IoT ecosystem that works symbiotically begins with integration. At this layer, your organization needs to consider the interoperability of your existing systems and applications with your IoT infrastructure. This requires rigorous testing and research of IoT tools and platforms that will seamlessly integrate into your organization.

Integration also includes accounting for any open-source assets you use, middleware and software services, cloud providers, and more. One additional consideration is to ensure that all of these resources will work with the enterprise resource planning and management systems (ERP) in use throughout your organization. 

Analytics and Applications

At this layer of your IoT infrastructure, the data you collect is broken down, analyzed, and displayed to glean business insights. This first necessitates an in-depth grasp of how you will use that data and how analytics tools will be relevant to that end.

The application layer includes device monitoring and control, business intelligence, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning-enhanced analytics, and mobile applications. The application layer also includes tools that allow for data modeling and running training engines, data rendering, and visualization. 

Each IoT ecosystem needs to be built to achieve a specific set of goals and business expectations. The complexity of your organization’s IoT infrastructure and device management architecture is directly relative to that purpose. These applications come from several sources you can choose from, including cloud service providers and third-party vendors.

IoT Architecture Is Paramount for Deployment Success

No matter how you plan on implementing IoT in your organization, you need comprehensive architecture to support it. It must include your strategy for managing the device management aspects, including IoT infrastructure, security, integration, analytics, and applications. Your IoT architecture also needs to examine both your needs in the present and forecasted usage.

Your architecture also needs to contend with your organization’s connectivity needs and requirements, including standards, networks, and platforms you require. In addition to efficiently managing and supporting IoT deployments, organizations must consider the growing security concerns in the field. To effectively protect this expanding IoT usage, a comprehensive security solution protecting your IoT framework and ecosystem from the ground up is just as invaluable.

Thinking about integrating security into your cellular IoT deployments?

The FirstPoint team is here with the leading cellular IoT security in the market today.

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