The Internet of Things (IoT) is already a massive industry, and it’s growing day by day. By 2020, the global IoT market for manufacturing already had a value of $175.3 billion, and the general market for IoT systems is poised to hit $1.4 trillion by 2027. Clearly, there are plenty of companies who want in on the exciting opportunities that IoT systems present. 

The IoT concept is very simple. IoT systems consist of a network of digital devices that connect to the internet. Some IoT devices are sensors that gather information about their environment, while others are actuators, which allow the system to perform an action based on data gathered by sensors. 

So, what good is IoT for manufacturers? Well, IoT sensors could tell you when machines are overheating, while actuators could shut the machine down automatically and send an alert to your employees’ IoT devices, such as smartphones and smart watches. 

Manufacturers can also create IoT systems to monitor air quality. IoT sensors can determine the levels of various chemicals and pollutants, then provide alerts or activate air purifying systems. In short, IoT can affect nearly every part of manufacturing to improve both safety and productivity. 

If you’re a manufacturer using IoT, or at least considering it, you’ll want to understand the IoT Device Lifecycle Management (DLM) process. A DLM regulates how you roll out and maintain devices in an IoT system. 

The IoT device lifecycle has three basic stages: beginning of life (BoL), middle of life (MoL) and end of life (EoL). Having a clear understanding of each stage allows you to avoid wasting money and resources, decrease downtime during manufacturing, and improve security for deployed devices. 

The DLM process is a necessary part of using IoT for manufacturing. Understanding DML lets you get the full benefits of IoT for productivity while reducing costs and major inconveniences along the way.

1. Beginning of Life (BoL)  

The BoL stage involves everything you might need to do before you roll out the device in your manufacturing process. BoL starts with determining the costs in both money and resources required for development and then matching those costs against your budget. 

You’ll need to perform research to determine compatibility between new devices and your current system. Compatibility can be complicated. Protocols that IoT devices use to connect to the network can vary, and not all hardware is compatible. Imagine if you spent a lot of money rolling out a new IoT system in your company only to find out that the devices can’t connect to your existing network. That’s exactly what happened with the 3G shutdown a couple months ago, when various devices that were made to be compatible exclusively with the 3G network were suddenly unusable. And while it was theoretically possible to make those devices compatible with 4G, the extra configuration and cost made it a difficult option for most companies to consider. 

You’ll also need to plan for how your system will ensure data security when collecting data from sensors and transferring it to the cloud or to another device. Most IoT devices get attacked within five minutes of connecting to the web, so IoT security is a primary concern in every stage of the DLM process. Failing to address security could result in serious data breaches or even a complete system shutdown. Ensuring security in the BoL stage means you won’t have to make big, costly changes later. 

Ultimately, the greatest threat to security comes when you’re allowing remote access to your devices and data. For example, IoT sensors in production equipment can let you monitor production rates remotely, but you don’t want unauthorized users to be able to access that production data. Nabto provides secure, end-to-end, encrypted remote access to IoT devices and data.

2. Middle of Life (MoL) 

MoL is the deployment and maintenance stage of the IoT DLM process. The Nabto platform allows you to easily connect IoT devices to your network and monitor them from one place.  

The process of creating an IoT infrastructure—properly configuring IoT devices and connecting them to the IoT network—is called provisioning. As part of the provisioning process, you’ll need to configure network authentication to allow new authorized devices to join the network and keep unwanted devices out. 

After you connect your IoT devices to your network, you’ll need to maintain those devices and provide updates when necessary. For example, you might discover a security vulnerability in an IoT device due to a software defect or poorly configured access controls. In that case, you’ll need to provide an updated device to solve the issue. This maintenance stage could last for months or years, depending on the lifespan of the device. 

It’s worth mentioning that as the IoT market began to explode, a lot of companies entered the IoT space with the belief they would be able to get recurring revenue through subscriptions and various value-added services during the MoL stage. The hope was that the recurring revenue might offset or overcome the cost of hosting IoT devices. Those revenue streams haven’t materialized, and these companies are left holding the bag for hosting all these IoT devices. If that’s an issue you’ve experienced, then you understand the need for a predictable and efficient pricing model for IoT platforms like what Nabto offers.

3. End of Life (EoL)

The final stage in an IoT DLM process, the EoL stage, comes when an IoT device or system is no longer relevant to your company and needs to be removed or replaced. You might be able to reuse or recycle some parts of certain IoT devices to save money, but there’s a point at which IoT devices will have outlived their usefulness. 

The hardest part of the EoL stage is when the EoL IoT devices have been a critical part of the production process. Replacing them takes a lot of planning. Your goal will be to minimize downtime and the impact to your employees’ productivity during the transition. 

The best way to do that is to reduce the time it takes to integrate the new IoT devices. Nabto’s P2P connectivity feature allows you to simplify the process of integrating new devices by bypassing firewalls. Nabto also improves the efficiency of your current IoT network by enhancing P2P communication between devices. 

P2P connectivity means devices can communicate with each other directly, without needing to connect to or transfer data through a cloud database. Since P2P bypasses cloud storage, it also allows you to avoid issues with cloud security throughout the DML process. 

A complete understanding of the complete DLM process—from BoL to EoL—will help you get the most out of your IoT devices and the IoT system as a whole.

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