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The first step in IoT device management is device provisioning; getting your devices and sensors configured safely and efficiently in your network to upload their data securely.
IoT device provisioning is one of the first steps you must take when developing your IoT network. Think of it as setting up a mobile phone when you first buy one; you take it out of the box and turn it on. You select the language, connect to the WiFi network, activate the device on the mobile data network and an array of other steps. IoT devices work in a similar way on your enterprise network to ensure they work safely and as intended.
The term provisioning for a device means to evolve a device to a state in which it can be handed off to an end-user for their specific use in a functional manner. Provisioning means providing or making something available, so your mobile phone becomes user friendly or the IoT device is connected to the network so it can start tracking the equipment characteristics.
Provisioning is carried out across the IT world in a multitude of ways, and is the process of setting up IT infrastructure. According to redhat.com, “it can also refer to the steps required to manage access to data and resources, and make them available to users and systems.” From server provisioning to user and service provisioning, there are a lot of tasks that need to be carried out for each of these processes.
IoT device provisioning occurs when you enroll the new device or sensor onto the system and then get them configured to send data to the system and authenticate it onto your organisational network, for example onto your ERP system. Think of it as a roll call for all your devices, making sure they are safe and on your checklist! Included in this provisioning is installing device certificates and tokens on the sensors, relaying the sensor data from the equipment to your system and then updating your ERP to show the sensor on its appropriate piece of equipment.
Authentication is also part of the provisioning process, as this ensures only secure and trustworthy devices are added to your network. Authentication includes verifying only devices with the correct certifications and credentials. These credentials, such as certs and keys, know the server URL and can connect to it to enroll itself.
The device or sensor then needs to be set up in order to communicate with the servers or whatever platform it is connected to in order to send the data it is monitoring. The device also needs to actually monitor this equipment in a functional and appropriate way.
Each device needs to be added to your ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system and whatever IoT platform you are using, and then linked to the equipment it is monitoring. These platforms should be linked, or else ensure your IoT platform is able to display the necessary equipment and environment alerts that these devices monitor if something uncharacteristic of the machine starts occurring. The device can upload this data that triggers the warnings or outcomes in a multitude of ways; either the sensor directly adds the data to the platform, or the sensor first sends this data to an edge gateway and it then uploads the data.
The device communicates with either the platform or edge device with a secure connection like TLS/SSL certificates or else with tokens which need usernames and passwords. There are a myriad ways you get these tokens and certificates onto the actual device, but the most common and error-free way is to develop an automated process that creates a unique certificate whenever a new device comes onto the system. That way, the manufacturers don’t have access to the device and it’s quicker for you to provision the device.
Ensure you have a device installation procedure within your ERP so you can track which devices went on what assets, otherwise if you run into issues and you can’t figure out if the device is broken or if it’s simply on the wrong asset, you could run into issues.
The key is to start small with IoT projects to first of all test them, as we encouraged in a previous article.
Then you can gradually add devices to your network as you see fit.
When you do want to begin bulk uploading devices to your system as the IoT project develops, keep the following points in mind:
• Overwrite or flash the device firmware with a generic configuration onto your hardware.
• Ensure you authenticate secure and trusted networks in your system so new devices can connect and automatically update their configuration files from a server.
• Also do this with a gateway by preconfiguring it to connect devices that contain certain safe and secure certificates.
• Develop a cloning function that imports the device IDs in the IoT platform system.
Device provisioning is the first of many steps when developing an IoT platform, but it doesn’t have to be insecure or complicated when you follow each step thoroughly. If you would like more information on how we manage devices and provision them safely through the Davra platform, please reach out to us today.
Brian McGlynn, Davra, COO
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