Smart devices are everywhere around us. We carry one in our pocket, watch movies on another while a third cooks us dinner. Every day there are thousands of new devices connecting to the Internet. Research shows that by 2025, more than 150,000 IoT devices will come online every minute. With such vast numbers it is impossible to keep everything in working order just on your own. This brings the need for IoT device management. But what is IoT device management? To answer this question we first need to understand what the Internet of Things (IoT) is.

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a broad concept that has multiple definitions. According to Wikipedia, “The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the network of physical objects, so known as, “Things” — that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies that is used for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet.”

According to Forbes, IoT is “connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other)”.

From the examples above it is clear that any device connected to a network could be considered an IoT device. But is that enough to make IoT exciting for billions of dollars to be invested in the sector? The entire IoT industry is striving to improve the level of autonomy and the human input required for a device to be useful. Phones, laptops and personal computers are rarely considered IoT devices, because they perform a multitude of complex functions with an abundance of human interaction. In contrast, an IoT device can connect to a network and monitor, control or perform a particular function. These connected things often interact with the external world by collecting data about it or by making changes to their environment. 

An IoT device could be anything from a car or a smart domestic appliance to an industrial controller in a factory or even an agricultural sensor. The possible applications are vast and the number of connected devices is growing every day.

IoT Device Management

With a rapidly increasing number of devices, manual management of devices becomes extremely difficult, prone to human error and often impossible. Imagine having to individually check hundreds of devices to ensure that they are working as expected – not an easy task! This brings the need for IoT management (IoTM) solutions that simplify and automate the management of the Internet of Things.

A device management platform can establish a connection to a device, obtain information about its state and in some cases change the state of the device. Such solutions often come in the form of a software or platform as a service.

Globally distributed IoT devices are mostly managed by a public-facing cloud solution, while industrial devices tend to connect to local platforms, often with stricter security requirements. 

IoT management platforms can range in function from simply allowing the exchange of messages between devices and services to performing complex operations like software updates or tweaking machine learning models running on particular devices.

Future of IoT device management

Monitoring your connected devices is only the beginning. As a fleet of things grows, the management solution will have to grow and develop with it. The diversity and complexity of IoT devices increases exponentially. This drives the need for advanced platforms that can not only list a fleet of devices, but look after them and leverage their full capabilities.

Management solutions become even more integrated in the IoT life cycle. They drive fully automated operations and empower developers to deploy the newest capabilities with the push of a button. The rise in features and complexity presents new challenges. Security, performance and long-term maintainability will become increasingly important.

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Cover photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash