Having covered the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) concept since it first began appearing several years ago, it’s been intriguing to observe the rise of different trend lines as industry interest becomes more directed and technology suppliers respond. Early on, the biggest trends revolved around the deployment of greater numbers of sensors to gather more data. Then came the increasing focus on data collection and analysis. More recently, the biggest trend lines have focused on edge computing and its role in IIoT versus cloud computing or in hybrid data aggregation/analysis deployments. And don't forget the data communication trends such as OPC UA, MQTT and AQMP.
Though the technologies and applications around these trends continue to develop as industry begins deploying increasing numbers of IoT projects, I have begun to see another new trend line emerging. This one is focused on device management.
At the 2017 IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona this fall, I had meetings with two different companies, both of which were promoting the importance of device management to IIoT. Both companies were also quick to point out that the trend has the potential to have the biggest effect on OEMs, in particular.
My first meeting was with Wind River about the recent update to its Helix Device Cloud for a variety of device management approaches (read more about the Helix Device Cloud update here). The other meeting was with Jeff Benck, president and CEO, and Shahram Mehraban, vice president of marketing, of Lantronix. At the IoT Solutions World Congress event, Lantronix announced the availability of its Mach10 Global Device Manager.
This is “our first IoT management software product offering,” Benck said. “With Global Device Manager, OEMs and systems integrators now have the ability to quickly deliver robust and secure web-scale device management for their IoT devices.”
Based on Lantronix’s Mach10 IoT platform, Global Device Manager enables OEMs and system integrators to remotely monitor and manage their installed base of devices. Mehraban said integration with Mach10 Global Device Manager is done through REST API calls, “eliminating the need for learning additional programming languages or any porting.” He noted this means that running maintenance operations—from custom configurations to firmware updates to equipment resets and reboots—can be done with a few mouse clicks; “whether it’s one machine in a remote building or thousands of machines distributed across the globe.”
Benck added that the Mach 10 Global Device Manager allows OEMs and systems integrators to create custom portals that provide secure multi-user and role-based access while keeping customers’ devices, applications and data separate, secure and private. He also pointed out that Lantronix hosts a cloud system for Mach10 Global Device Manager data storage, but that this storage can also be deployed on premise, based on the OEM or end user’s preference.
“Our history has always been in the machine-to-machine hardware segment for OEMs,” said Benck. “But about 18 months ago, we began to see that it’s not just about getting machines connected; we saw a bigger role in the IoT solutions space for software that would allow OEMs to deliver management capabilities to their connected equipment in the field. That’s what led to the Mach10 Global Device Manager.”
Mehraban stressed that Lantronix is targeting OEMs, not end users with this release. “OEMs and end users have different requirements around IoT,” he said. “You have to think about OEMs’ customers and the OEM as a service organization. Mach10’s ability to create different portals—for example a portal for OEMs to monitor and service their equipment, as well as a limited portal for the OEMs customers—means that service access can be targeted for an OEM’s specific use cases.”
As an example of how the Mach10 Global Device Manager is already being deployed, Beck referenced an irrigation equipment OEM that supplies municipal parks and buildings. “This OEM places metal boxes with controllers on site to control irrigation equipment. To update those controllers in the field, the OEM used to send maintenance out with USBs before using the Mach10 Global Device Manager. This was necessary even in cases where they had remote connectivity to the equipment. Lacking device management software capabilities meant that processes such as software or firmware upgrades required direct interaction with the controllers. Now, with the Global Device Manager, they can verify the system’s status, what firmware level is running, what software in the box, and update it all as needed.”
“OEMs tend be good at working with hardware,” Mehraban said, “but they don’t always have the application development skills needed for IoT solutions deployment. That’s why we’re working closely with system integrators to help OEMs with that aspect of IoT.”
Both Benck and Mehraban agreed that IIoT is changing the OEM business. “We see more and more OEMs looking to add apps for value added services,” said Benck. “IoT is changing ideas about the OEM business model. They have to become more strategic.”