Why OTA firmware updates are a common pitfall for IoT projects
The Clock is Ticking
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Whether it’s an IoT project or other IT project, no one is happy when a project misses a deadline. This doesn’t mean being a week or two late – we’re talking months. Months where your costs are increasing. Months where business needs aren’t being met and frustration levels are rising fast. If you’ve worked on technology projects in the past, you know this happens frequently. The typical reasons IT projects run long include: poorly defined scope, scope creep, immature technology, or poor project management. IoT projects often suffer the same fate as typical IT projects but have the added complexity of device firmware. Changing software can be done fairly quickly but devices have embedded systems. Firmware is not easily updated and when you encounter issues, it can really set your project schedule back, particularly during the early pilot stages.
Here Is An Example To Illustrate The Impact Firmware Can Have On An Actual Project:
We worked on a project where our client made a strategic decision to update firmware “Over-the-Air” (OTA). In theory, this was the ideal strategy; however, the decision was made at the outset of the project, long before the first prototypes were even designed. When production started, the same team actually deferred programming the OTA capability into the devices for about a year to speed up the time to pilot (yes, this stuff actually happens). Without OTA in place, the only way to accomplish a firmware update was to send technicians to a pilot site, remove the IoT circuit boards from each device one at a time, plug each IoT circuit board into a test fixture, run the update and then reinstall the IoT circuit boards in the devices. And, because we were only at the pilot phase of the project, there were a lot of firmware issues we uncovered that required updates
The impact on the project timeline was significant. From the time a firmware issue was identified, a fix developed, and a technician sent onsite, it could be anywhere from four to six weeks. The time impact doesn’t include the expense incurred to send people all over the country to do this work. There is no doubt that firmware and underestimating the complexity of devices themselves are game-changers in the IoT timeline equation.
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