- March 10, 2023
- Posted by: Prince Kapadiya
- Category: Device Engineering
Have your customers ever experienced frustration with outdated firmware on their electronic device?
Maybe they’ve had to physically bring it in for an update or wait for a technician to come to your home.
Fortunately, Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA) technology now allows for remote firmware updates, making the process more convenient for both manufacturers and consumers.
It also enables quick and efficient updates, bug fixes, and security patches pushed remotely which improves its functionality and enhances the security system.
FOTA is used to update the software on an IoT device. This can include adding new features, such as support for new apps or services, as well as fixing bugs and security vulnerabilities.
- What is FOTA (Firmware Over The Air) Update?
- A Detailed View and Use Case of FOTA
- FOTA Best Practices for Industrial IoT Applications
- The Importance of FOTA Updates for Device Maintenance
- Overcoming FOTA Challenges: Best Solutions for Reliable Firmware Updates
- How to Conduct a Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA) Campaign
- Several Ways to Deploy a Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA)
In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at FOTA and what role it plays in this technological era. Get ready to dive into the world of FOTA and discover its potential impact on the future of firmware updates.
What is FOTA (Firmware Over The Air) Update?
FOTA update is a remote software-management method for embedded systems that makes it possible for a device to change its firmware wirelessly.
FOTA upgrades involve firmware bug repairs, enhancing the operation of the automobile ECU, and replacing an outdated firmware version (for either fixing an issue or adding a new software feature).
Mobile devices with FOTA capabilities download updates directly from the network operator. Depending on the connection speed and file size, the procedure typically takes three to ten minutes.
Let’s have a look on some of its statistics –
FOTA technology is becoming increasingly popular due to the rise of IoT devices. According to a report by MarketsandMarkets, the global FOTA market size is expected to grow from $2.16 billion in 2017 to $10.91 billion by 2022, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38.2%.
According to VDC Research Report FOTA updates can save time and money compared to traditional methods of updating firmware, such as manual updates or recalls. According to a report by VDC Research, the average cost of a recall is $1.5 million, whereas FOTA updates can cost as little as $0.50 per device.
FOTA updates can improve device security by patching vulnerabilities in firmware. In fact, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommends FOTA as a best practice for securing IoT devices.
FOTA updates can also improve device performance by fixing bugs and adding new features. According to a study by Ericsson, FOTA updates can lead to a 50% reduction in crashes and a 30% reduction in device returns.
Now that we have a rough idea of FOTA, let’s discuss it in more detail for more clarity.
A Detailed View and Use Case of FOTA
Depending on the file size and connection speed, FOTA-capable devices can often download updates from service providers or manufacturers in few minutes. This saves businesses the time and money of sending a specialist to physically update or upgrade each of their mobile devices.
I am sure you all have heard the name, Tesla. Let’s see what Tesla has done with the use of FOTA.
Tesla updated each of its vehicles with the ability to self-park using FOTA. Without FOTA, these updates could only have been installed after a Tesla technician visited each vehicle or during a recall. FOTA has significantly helped tesla in enhancing its user experience.
FOTA plays a major role in managing IoT systems, especially the ones with a large number of connected devices that requires regular updates.
Imagine that you need to update soil moisture level sensors all throughout a sizable farm. The traditional approach requires that each sensor be removed from the field, connected to a computer or handheld device, updated with the most recent software, and then reinserted. With the large number of sensors involved, this operation would be difficult and cause unnecessary costs and performance hiccups.
FOTA enables the quick distribution of security patches to IoT devices to address vulnerabilities and protect against cyber attacks. It allows manufacturers to fix bugs and improve device performance without the need for a physical recall or manual update.
The use case of FOTA is very wide as they are tons of things that we can cover like if I talk about the feature updates, it allows manufacturers to add new features and capabilities to IoT devices which enhances the user experience and extends the device’s lifespan.
Technicians can also remotely diagnose and fix issues with IoT devices which reduces the need for expensive on-site visits.
Overall, FOTA is a powerful tool for managing firmware updates in IoT devices, providing a seamless and efficient update process that improves device security, functionality, and reliability.
In a further section, we will discuss about what is Industrial IoT and the best practices of it.
FOTA Best Practices for Industrial IoT Applications
Firmware over the air (FOTA) is becoming an increasingly popular method for updating connected devices and if I talk about industrial IoT applications, its stakes are higher. FOTA should be implemented in a way that maximizes reliability and minimizes risk. Downtime can cost you a lot and they are potentially dangerous as well. In this section, we will explore some best practices for implementing FOTA in industrial IoT applications.
Choose a Reliable FOTA Platform
Selecting a trustworthy FOTA platform is the first step in using FOTA in industrial IoT applications. Choose a platform that is especially suited for industrial use cases and that has a solid reputation in terms of security and reliability. Some key features to look for include:
- Over-the-air updates that are secure and encrypted
- Automatic rollback in case of failed updates
- Support for remote diagnostics and troubleshooting
Prioritize Reliability Over Speed
While fast update times are preferred in consumer applications, a different strategy is needed for industrial IoT applications. Reliability is crucial in mission-critical systems, therefore it’s best to take a bit of caution when it comes to firmware updates. This means thoroughly testing updates before deploying them and avoiding rushed updates that can cause new problems.
Use Redundancy to Minimize Downtime
One way to minimize downtime in industrial IoT applications is to use redundant systems. For example, if you’re updating firmware on a machine that is critical to your operations, you might consider using a redundant system that can take over in case of failure. This can help to ensure that downtime is minimized, even in the event of a failed firmware update.
Test Updates Thoroughly Before Deploying
Before deploying any firmware updates, it’s critical to thoroughly test them. This includes testing updates in a lab environment, as well as in a real-world setting. It’s important to test not only the new firmware but also the update process itself, to ensure that it works reliably and without introducing new problems.
Monitor and Diagnose Issues Remotely
Another key best practice for implementing FOTA in industrial IoT applications is to monitor and diagnose issues remotely. This entails putting in place technologies that let you diagnose and troubleshoot problems remotely, without having to physically visit the affected area. This can help to minimize downtime and reduce the costs associated with maintaining and repairing connected devices.
Implementing FOTA in cutting edge industrial IoT applications requires a different approach than in consumer applications. By prioritizing reliability, using redundancy, thoroughly testing updates, and implementing remote diagnostics and troubleshooting tools, you can ensure that firmware updates are deployed safely and without introducing unnecessary downtime or risk.
The Importance of FOTA Updates for Device Maintenance
Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA) updates can provide several benefits for both device manufacturers and end-users. Here are some of the main advantages of FOTA:
Security: FOTA updates can address security vulnerabilities and patch security holes in firmware to keep devices secure.
Bug Fixes: FOTA updates can fix bugs and other issues in firmware to improve the performance, stability, and reliability of devices.
Cost Savings: FOTA updates can save device manufacturers time and money by reducing the need for costly recalls and repairs.
Improved User Experience: FOTA updates can improve the user experience by adding new features and functionality to devices, enhancing their overall value to users.
Remote Management: FOTA updates enable device manufacturers to remotely manage and update devices in the field, improving efficiency and reducing downtime.
It helps device manufacturers and end-users stay up-to-date with the latest firmware and security patches, while also providing a more efficient and cost-effective way to manage and update devices.
Overcoming FOTA Challenges: Best Solutions for Reliable Firmware Updates
There are several challenges associated with conducting Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA) campaigns. Every problem comes with a solution, same applies to FOTA challenges as well, they can be easily tackled by following the approaches given below. Let’s check out the common challenges with their solutions.
Device compatibility is a critical challenge when conducting a Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA) campaign. Different devices may have different firmware requirements, depending on factors such as the device model, operating system, and hardware configuration. This can make it difficult to ensure that the firmware update is compatible with all devices, which can result in fragmentation and compatibility issues.
Thorough Testing: It’s essential to conduct thorough testing on different devices, platforms, and hardware configurations before releasing the firmware update.
Device Segmentation: Companies can segment their devices based on their model, operating system, and hardware configuration.
Standardization: Companies can work towards standardizing their devices to make it easier to conduct firmware updates.
User Education: Educating users on the importance of firmware updates and providing clear instructions on how to update their devices can help ensure that all devices are updated to the latest firmware.
Bandwidth limitations are another significant challenge associated with conducting Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA) campaigns. Large firmware updates can require significant amounts of data, which can be challenging for users with limited data plans or slow internet speeds. This can result in slow download speeds, interrupted downloads, and higher data charges for users.
Optimize Firmware Updates: Companies can optimize their firmware updates to reduce the size of the updates without compromising on quality.
Provide Wi-Fi Options: Companies can provide the option for users to download the firmware update over Wi-Fi. This can help users with limited data plans avoid high data charges and reduce the strain on mobile networks.
Timing: Companies can set a time for the release of their firmware updates when users are less likely to be using their devices. This can reduce the strain on mobile networks and ensure that the firmware update is downloaded more quickly.
User Notification: Companies can provide users with notifications about the size of the firmware update and the estimated download time. This will help users to know about the updates in advance.
Network compatibility is a significant challenge associated with conducting Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA) campaigns. FOTA updates require compatible network infrastructure to transmit firmware updates over the airwaves. However, it is not necessary that all networks may support FOTA updates, which makes it challenging to deliver updates uniformly.
Network Compatibility Testing: Several tests can conduct for network compatibility to ensure that FOTA updates are compatible with different types of networks.
Collaboration with Network Providers: Companies can collaborate with network providers to ensure that their FOTA updates are supported by the network infrastructure.
Use of Cloud-Based Solutions: Cloud-based solutions allow for updates to be delivered over the internet, which can help reduce the need for network infrastructure compatibility.
Use of Custom Firmware: Companies can use custom firmware to ensure that their FOTA updates are compatible with specific network infrastructures. This is one of the most effective techniques you can follow.
When a new firmware update is released, it’s up to the users to decide whether or not to install it. Some users may not be aware of the update, while others may choose not to install it for various reasons such as they don’t want to lose data, they don’t have enough storage space or they don’t want to risk breaking their device.
This can lead to fragmentation, where some devices are running outdated firmware, which can cause compatibility issues with other devices or software.
Here are some specific solutions to address user adoption:
Improve Communication – Companies can improve communication with their users to ensure they are aware of new firmware updates.
Make the Update Process Simple – To encourage more users to install firmware updates, companies can make the process as simple as possible.
Address Security Concerns – Companies can address these concerns by highlighting the security benefits of the update and ensuring that the update has been thoroughly tested to avoid any security vulnerabilities.
Provide Support – Finally, companies can provide support to users who have questions or concerns about firmware updates. This can include an FAQ section on the company’s website or support through chat or phone.
Thorough testing is crucial to ensure that the firmware update works properly and doesn’t cause any issues. But this process can be time-consuming and expensive, especially for complex devices with many components. It’s important to test the firmware update on different devices, platforms, and use cases to ensure that it’s stable and reliable. Additionally, firmware updates may need to be tested with third-party software and hardware to ensure compatibility, which can further increase the testing time and cost.
Automated Testing: Companies can use automated testing tools to reduce the time and cost of testing. Automated testing can help test the firmware update on different devices, platforms, and use cases, which can help ensure that it’s stable and reliable.
Incremental Updates: Companies can release incremental updates instead of large updates. This can help reduce the testing time and cost as smaller updates can be tested more easily and efficiently.
User Testing: Companies can involve users in the testing process to ensure that the firmware update works properly and meets their needs.
Use of Emulators: Companies can use emulators to test firmware updates on different devices and platforms. This can help reduce the need for physical testing devices and can save time and cost.
How to Conduct a Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA) Campaign
Yes, FOTA (Firmware Over-the-Air) campaigns typically involve several steps, which may vary depending on the specific product as well as the goals and requirements of the campaign. Here are some common steps involved in FOTA campaigns:
Planning: The first step is to plan the FOTA campaign. This involves identifying the devices that need to be updated, the version of the firmware that needs to be installed, the method of delivery, and the timeline for the campaign.
Develop the new firmware: Develop a new firmware version that addresses any bugs or security issues and includes any new features or functionality.
Testing: Before the firmware is released to the devices, it is important to test it thoroughly to ensure that it works properly and does not cause any issues. This testing can be done in a lab or with a small group of devices before rolling it out to the entire user base.
Notify users: Notify users that a firmware update is available and provide instructions on how to install it. This can be done through email, push notifications, or other communication channels.
Deployment: Once the firmware has been tested and approved, it can be deployed to the devices. This can be done through a variety of methods, including over-the-air updates, manual updates via USB, or updates through a mobile application.
Monitoring: It is important to monitor the progress of the FOTA campaign to ensure that the updates are being installed correctly and that there are no issues with the firmware. This may involve tracking metrics such as installation success rates, device performance after the update, and user feedback.
Support: If users experience any issues after the firmware update, it is important to provide support to help them resolve the problem. This may involve providing troubleshooting tips, releasing patches or hotfixes, or offering customer support through a helpdesk or support forum.
Evaluation: After the FOTA campaign is complete, it is important to evaluate the success of the campaign and identify any areas for improvement. This evaluation may involve reviewing metrics such as installation success rates, user feedback, and device performance after the update.
Overall, conducting a successful FOTA campaign requires careful planning, thorough testing, effective communication with users, and ongoing monitoring and support to ensure that the firmware update is installed correctly and that users are satisfied with the results.
Several Ways to Deploy a Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA)
Manual FOTA: In this method, the user is prompted to install the update manually, either through a notification on the device or through a mobile application. This method gives the user control over when the update is installed, but it relies on the user to initiate the update.
Automatic FOTA: In automatic FOTA, the update is automatically downloaded and installed on the device, without any input from the user. This method can be useful for ensuring that all devices receive the update, but it can also be disruptive if the update is installed at an inconvenient time.
Scheduled FOTA: Here the update is scheduled to be installed at a specific time, either by the manufacturer or by the user. This method can be useful for minimizing disruption.
Progressive FOTA: If I talk about Progressive FOTA, the update is rolled out to a small number of devices first, and then to a larger number of devices over time. This allows the manufacturer or vendor to monitor the update process and troubleshoot any issues before rolling it out to a larger number of devices.
Phased FOTA: This method is similar to the progressive method, but instead of a random set of devices, the update is distributed to specific devices or groups of devices. This method can be useful for targeted updates, for example, testing updates on a specific device model or region before rolling it out to all devices.
The choice of method will depend on the type of device, the target audience, the number of devices that need to be updated, the complexity of the update, and the resources available.
These were some of the ways FOTA can be deployed in a particular device.
In conclusion, firmware over the air (FOTA) is a critical component of modern connected devices. It enables remote updates that can improve device functionality, security, and reliability. Here we have explored the basics of FOTA, its use cases, and best practices for implementing it in industrial IoT applications. We have also examined the importance of FOTA updates for device maintenance and the challenges that can arise when deploying FOTA campaigns. By following the best practices stated above organizations can ensure that firmware updates are deployed safely, reliably, and without introducing unnecessary downtime or risk.
Are you ready to revolutionize your connected devices with the power of firmware over-the-air (FOTA) updates?
Click now to explore our resources and gain a deeper understanding of how FOTA can improve your devices’ functionality, security, and reliability. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to take your devices to the next level!