Everynet, which helps businesses deploy and scale IoT solutions, claims to be the first company to develop ‘firmware over the air’, or FOTA, capabilities for low-power, wide-area (LPWA) networks.
The company has developed patent-pending FOTA algorithms and a tools to help manufacturers, network operators and users simplify firmware updates for IoT devices.
This solution is available through a range of LoRaWAN semiconductor manufacturers, and it’ll be available for all LPWA networks at some point in the future.
LPWA networks are flawed
The design of LPWA networks is not optimal for transferring large amounts of data, which can make updating firmware within IoT devices in the field a complicated process.
Manual, device-by-device updates can be hard to access, and updates also drain device memory – but for security reasons, installing updates and new features should be done in a timely way.
Continuous delivery, according to Everynet, is the solution here. The company uses the term, widely understood in software development teams, to refer to the ability to issue changes of all types quickly and safely, often in the form of small, incremental updates.
“Continuous delivery is a cornerstone to producing quality software in short cycles, especially for exponentially growing the IoT market,” said Vitaly Kleban, CTO of Everynet.
Quick, easy process
IoT specialists at the company have created a new type of compile-optimization, and it’s capable of forcing the software compiler to produce a so-called ‘minimum difference’ between new and old versions of software.
Thanks to a compression algorithm, the number of messages that are sent to an IoT device is reduced, meaning that updates can be processed faster than before.
One of the key advantages here is that the solution reduces the time and bandwidth required to conduct updates – so that they can be issued within minutes or even seconds.
To give an example, a 35kb update over a LoRaWAN network would likely need 150 messages and take 90 minutes to complete. Everynet’s solution only requires 31 messages, taking 20 minutes, the company claims.
Updating devices is slow
Lawrence Latham, managing director of Everynet, said that slow firmware updates are common in the IoT world and that they’re slowing the growth of LPWA networks around the world.
“The set of challenges surrounding firmware updates is one of the biggest obstacles holding back the growth of LPWA networks today,” he said.
“Everynet’s bespoke FOTA algorithms remove this obstacle, providing a simple and effective way for device manufacturers and chip manufacturers and operators to push firmware updates to IoT devices.”
Talking about FOTA in particular, he added: “The FOTA advancements will have a profound impact on the deployment and adoption of LPWA devices. “
“You can go back and see what happened when FOTA was released for the 2G and 3G cellular networks. There was a huge gain in adoption numbers. The same can be expected for LPWA.”
Firmware updates need to be easy
Chris Hodson, EMEA CISO at cloud security specialist Zscaler, said that many companies feel the impact of firmware updates today, due to the lack of simplified processes that keep devices on the latest software versions.
“Unlike vulnerabilities in software, which can be addressed with a simple patch, many hardware products today have no easy means of patching firmware. As such, we’re likely to see an entire generation of hardware devices that will simply need to be replaced when critical vulnerabilities are uncovered,” he said.
“Businesses and tech firms must prioritise authentication for IoT devices to ensure that policy can be enforced and measured. Currently authentication, authorization and logging practices are far more mature within mobile devices.
“Having the visibility over connected device traffic is also key to mitigate the threat of corporate assets being infiltrated by hackers. A lack of visibility can result in a new form of shadow IT creating dangers, outside of IT control.”