There have been several predictions about the increasing number of connected devices but, regardless of the disparity, it’s clear the move is towards fully connected contexts.
Those contexts are made up of diverse devices, sensors and machineries. The present and future will consist of a large number of devices with widely varying functions and objectives, along with the different data gathered and used from each.
This volume and diversity creates several challenges for any type of organisation so device management capabilities remain a critical component for the robust deployment of IoT solutions in business and consumer-centric contexts. In order to explore the device management features and functionalities required to enable the IoT vision, Saverio Romeo, the principal analyst at Beecham Research, met Santhosh Nair, the general manager of Wind River‘s Helix Cloud. Here, Romeo reports on a conversation that explored device management in the Internet of Things and how the Helix Device Cloud, a device management system from Wind River, is positioned in the market.
Saverio Romeo [SR]: The Internet of Things vision is delivering a rich and diverse set of connected devices. How is that affecting device management?
Santhosh Nair [SN]: Connected devices are not a new phenomenon. For decades companies have had remote access to deployed equipment. Consumer and retail markets have been early adopters of IT for e-commerce, leveraging ubiquitous connectivity and mobile devices. In contrast, industrial equipment has been historically deployed in controlled, regulated environments: what we call critical infrastructure. Recently industrial companies have begun to take note of the new revenue opportunities that are possible through managed services. Device management has transformed from monitoring of, and access to deployed assets, to higher value added activities like telemetry, device health management, remote services and updates to asset lifecycle management. Today, most of our customers have their own IoT groups and they are more open to adopting public SaaS infrastructure to manage their assets.
SR: The device management layer was a key element of M2M (machine-to-machine) platforms. How has that evolved in the context of IoT platforms where the approach seems to be increasingly data-centric?
SN: Most IoT programmes today are driven by business goals to reduce or avoid costs, and to create new revenue generating services. The initial focus is on data collection, storage and analytics. As customers confront the realities of having critical enablement devices, such as gateways, located inside customer networks, they quickly realise there is more to IoT than just data collection. These edge devices need to be monitored, managed, serviced, and updated. IoT is a learning process. As you learn more about the devices, and push more intelligence to the edge, you discover there is a need to push updates. In some cases, there is also the need to be responsible for security protection. These are the things that Helix Device Cloud is focused on providing.
SR: What are the key features and functions of the connected device management solutions that Wind River offers?
SN: Wind River Helix Device Cloud supports telemetry, file transfer, OTA updates, and remote access and rules engines. Users access these capabilities through a browser-based interface. We have REST APIs that enable our customers to plug in applications that are specialised to their market/customer. Security, performance, and scale have been uppermost in our thoughts during our product development. We support multiple operating systems so that our customers can use one platform regardless of the devices they have already deployed or plan to deploy in the future.
SR: What types of connected devices do your customers manage with your solution? Can you give us some examples?
SN: With respect to Wind River Helix Device Cloud, we are focused on the industrial and healthcare markets – connected buildings, transportation, energy, industrial automation and connected health. A few examples include smart lights, building energy management systems, PLCs, meters, SCADA systems and mobile health monitors. We are also working with key players in the automotive and retail markets.
SR: Considering the increasing number of connected devices organisations have to deal with, scalability is becoming an important criteria of choice for device management platforms. How is Wind River responding to this need?
SN: Our cloud consists of services that handle the various functions required for IoT device management. Our services scale elastically as demand increases. The amount of effort this requires cannot be underestimated. It is one of the things that companies who build their own solution often underestimate.
SR: Which device management features and functions are most important to your customers today and during the next five years?
SN: Our customers often have a build/partner/buy strategy and they usually partner with us for device management and connectivity. At this stage, there is no typical customer so the requirements vary. Secure connectivity, encrypted data transfer, end-to-end integration, and time to deployment are important today. The ability to distribute and manage software updates seems to be a part of every requirements list. Our customers have a long term strategy of building specialised applications for their markets leveraging our API framework.
SR: Although the competitive environment of device management and IoT platforms is very rich, for some IoT adopters it is fragmented and confusing. How do you make your offering stand out from the noise and how do you see your platform evolving to respond to scenarios in which everything will be connected?
SN: Wind River has a long history in embedded software and highly reliable software solutions. We understand the industrial markets very well and have been partners with the key players in market segments like aerospace and defence, networking, automotive, industrial and healthcare. We have been a trusted partner for the last four decades. Now, with the disruption brought about by IoT, our customers are leaning on us to help them with this transformation. Being part of Intel’s Internet of Things Group, we have visibility into the evolving sensing and computing needs. This enables us to build relevant software solutions that will serve you well. By providing data forwarding and other extension points in the future, we can help integrate device information into the enterprise.
With the help of Santhosh Nair, says Saverio Romeo, we have examined the Wind River Helix Device Cloud. The Helix Device Cloud enables organisations to easily collect, manage, and integrate data from different devices and machines. It protects data with a secure, scalable and adaptable on-demand infrastructure. It provides an easy to use remote console in order to configure, monitor, and control devices of any type. The solution enables the customer to do that in a scalable way, from a small number of devices to thousands of devices. Finally, it also provides tools for analysing the data and developing new revenue streams. The Helix Device Cloud is an enabler of service-centric IoT solutions that can go beyond operational objectives. With all these features, the Wind River Helix Device Cloud strongly represents the new generation of cloud-based device management solutions, sharply focused on the data and easily adaptable to the plethora of devices that organisations will increasingly deal with.