Device Management

Andy Slote - Director of Customer Success for ObjectSpectrum

October 1, 2020

Device Management for IoT may bring to mind some obvious functions for monitoring and maintaining devices (status inquiries, firmware updates, etc.), but what does device management encompass when the most extensive, comprehensive capabilities are available?

Whether your device management application is stand-alone or a part of a larger platform, a substantial User Management capability is critical. Administrators need the ability to create levels, roles, permissions, etc. Beyond the essential ability to register a new user while assigning the allowable activities (either by placing them in a previously defined category/level or granting specific permissions granularly), a robust interface also allows the monitoring of user activity, making changes to profiles, and suspending users at will. A full audit trail of a user’s activity should be easily accessible, with retention of historical data extending past the point when a user-id is disabled.  

When adding a device to the system, efficiently assigning or associating the device to other entities rounds out the device profile with critical attributes. A device assignment to a particular customer may be required, for example. If you can’t associate a device with a specific physical asset, you could be lacking crucial links in your information. 

When IoT implementations are expansive, they often involve more than one network (sometimes employing different technologies). Associating a device to a network aids in trouble-shooting and usually describes a general physical location.     

For more location specificity, you need to be able to store the coordinates of a device. Showing devices on a map takes it up another notch, showing which devices are “neighbors” and any common associations (two devices on the same structure, for example).

When there are large numbers of devices deployed, their status becomes more challenging to monitor. Of course, a view of an individual device status is the basic requirement. Is it on or off? Possibly “sleeping”? If it is connected and sending data, what is the level of utilization? Some connectivity solutions, like LoRaWAN, don’t have continuously connected devices. For these implementations, a “watchdog” capability is a must, with a configurable time parameter specifying the maximum length of time between readings for a device, triggering a notification when exceeded. Otherwise, non-functioning devices will sit undetected for long periods. 

When device numbers become significant, an effective way to communicate all exceptions is most efficient using alerts and notifications, configured based on customer requirements. From a visual perspective, a tile on the screen per device with a red/green/yellow color, triggered by status, gives a macro view of how things are functioning. From an operational perspective, alerts sent to a mobile device or tablet can be the most timely way to get problems cleared.  

Another reason to have the ability to manage devices in groups is for “bulk” actions and functions. From a functional perspective, there may be a need to turn a large number of them on or off. An administrator should be able to run a version check on device firmware en masse. If the network technology supports, managing firmware updates for large groups of devices (both scheduled/automatic and manual) is a must.

Overall, you can’t understate the value of a comprehensive well-designed device dashboard/User Interface, providing user-friendly views of device data, including summary data, graphs, and charts. Support for searches by device, device characteristics, status, etc., save significant time and effort.

Rounding out any robust device management solution is a comprehensive reporting capability, including standard, automated and customized reports.