Smart meters, PLC concentrators, 3G routers, backbone routers, sensors, gateways… all these and many other gadgets dedicated to give service or communicate, are part of the infrastructure of the Utility. It is basic to manage correctly these devices, in quantities of thousands in any modern utility. The Internet of Things (IoT) is prepared to give solutions to many of the problems considering the magnitude of the deployments, and Device Management (DM) is one of the IoT tools that can help. We give you 7 reasons why Device Management is a must-have for Utilities:
1. Inventory under control
One of the projects in which we are involved deals with a very large amount of meters, communication devices and SIM cards. These have a a roll-out plan of several hundreds every day, spread around the country following a long term deployment plan.
The logistic process of ordering, stockage, job planning and execution must be very carefully planned in order to avoid loosing devices, provisioning the wrong information or failing to achieve the expected number of devices per day.
In this sense, the Device Management tool needs to be integrated with ERPs and other corporate tools in order to be part of the rollout strategy. The DM will discover when devices start-up for the first time, discover they configuration, commission the devices depending on where they are installed, do automatic diagnosis or allow manual diagnosis remotely…
2. Automatic actions and installation costs reduction
When a new device is installed, connecting for the first time, and the DM tool detects that it requires a different configuration, this configuration may be automatically applied without human intervention, or only with an authorisation procedure.
We’ve had use cases where installation times were reduced by 80% thanks to specific installation procedures that involved the Device Management tool and the planning tool.
3. Automated maintenance and operational costs reduction
Once there are several hundreds or thousands of operational devices in the field, it is easy to lose track of what each of them is doing, or even worse, it is easy to fail to detect for a couple of days that some devices never connected (or whatever other failure it may happen to it).
Automating diagnosis, and being proactive in the analysis of the connectivity information, will help detect failures, and will help diagnose and solve the problem occurred.
The diagnosis is not only a “ping” to the device, it is a combination of potential points of failure that go from a lost connectivity, to problems when retrieving a measure from a meter, or to a wrong configuration in the DHCP server. The DM must be prepared for detecting this kind of situations.
4. Application protocol unification for different services
It is a common belief that in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) standard protocols allow for an homogeneous management of devices. Our experience is that, although it may be true for commodity services, here is a case that prevents from this being so simple.
On one hand, manufacturers are applying custom data models within the application protocol (including private parts outside the standard), even in different firmware versions. If we unify different services in a Utility (remote control, Smart metering, generation, security…) then the amount of manufacturers and protocols will make management a bit more complex.
A Device Management tool, focused to the IIOT should be able to adapt to a vast universe of protocols and data models, and then be able to do an homogeneous management.
5. Additional security layers
It’s obvious to say that security is a must in any kind of system in the Utilities. On top of basic VPN infrastructure (that, by the way, we not only recommend but consider it a requirement), a Device Management tool can help in distributing certificates, detecting intrusion trials, verifying software integrity or integrating with an external Radius validation. Of course, all these combined with the multi-protocol support that requires for different authentication policies that may go from a simple ASCII user-password, to a TLS infrastructure.
6. Integration with Communication Management to increase knowledge
When problems occur in a remote device, which may happen when using an M2M device or with an RF network, identifying the problem is basic to reduce downtimes and reduce maintenance costs in the form of wrong solutions or useless displacements. Communication and device are both the infrastructure that may fail for several reasons, and having this integrated can help. When the system is using SIMs then it should integrate the Device Management with the MNO’s management system. It may happen that applying a new APN configuration to the device will solve the problem, and this failure is detected inly by the MNO.
7. Internet of Things architecture is prepared for large amount of information
It’s not (only) a matter of amount of devices. It’s about the amount of information that devices are sending every day, that basically depend on the profile of the device. Lets do some numbers to get the magnitude: If a concentrator to connect every day, and send the daily consumption profile of each of the connected meters, this will easily result in 1.000.000 entries only for this device.
This is huge amount of information. It requires both a transactional performer for real time analysis, and a BigData repository for history analysis.
All these are situations and concerns we have come across these years in different use cases. They may not the only ones, but we consider them of utter importance and have used them as the base for our IoT Platform. You can see some details about it in this video.
Meanwhile we would love to learn about your experience…
- Have you worked in a solution where any of this situations were present?
- Did you save time or money applying a Device Management to your M2M solution?
- Did you ever face a security threat in your IoT deployment? How did you solve it?
Thanks and regards,