Millions of transactions with vending machines, gas pumps, kiosks, price checkers and retail point-of-sales stations occur daily from internally run embedded systems. Embedded systems are used actively in the home, medical facilities and in the industrial sector. Embedded systems are also a part of machine-to-machine (M2M) interfaces like processing equipment, controllers, sensors and robotics/automation equipment.
Embedded and remote devices are often overlooked, but they are rapidly coming to the forefront. In 2009, there were about 75 million embedded devices with active cellular communication capability and there will be over 400 million embedded devices and M2M connections by 2014. Additionally, M2M devices capable of 4G wireless communications are predicted to reach extremes of 40,000 this year and 12.6 million in 2015.
The expanded growth of the value of embedded devices amplifies the necessity of remote device management solutions. These devices must be managed the same as other IT assets regardless of traditional enterprise IT management solutions. Software on embedded devices must protect data, safeguard customer information and meet enterprise standards for network, device and data security, all while reducing downtime occurrences.
Uptime is important for embedded devices, but guaranteeing uptime is challenging. Embedded systems should function 24/7, limiting routine maintenance time as they are installed in equipment or locations physically distanced from support and service.
These challenges paint a clear picture of how embedded devices should be used simultaneously with remote management systems.
Implementation and Features
Monitoring and management features capable of maintaining uptime are extremely valuable. Listed below are essentials to remotely managing embedded devices:
Secure and automated, two-way communication
Two-way communication in remote device management solutions can access status reports, utilize data and diagnostic information from embedded systems and supply security updates, software patches and other alterations. A necessity of proactive management is two-way communication’s capability to alert administrators of performance issues before problems occur.
Visibility into an embedded device doesn’t suffice; support staff requires repair accessibility. Remote access allows administrators to troubleshoot, removing the necessity of physical contact with the device. Remote access reduces downtime with centralized tools for quick problem resolution.
Device health information
By maximizing usage of device health information, organizations can reduce time lag between problems happening and discovery time. Remote management alerts administrators when errors occur, so they can identify and resolve the error quickly. The management system also collects, stores and reports information regarding utilization and uptime, unauthorized access attempts and other historical data used for configuring, managing and securing the device.
Remote device management solutions are not replacements of security safeguards into embedded devices; they only augment and strengthen security. Embedded devices must have native protection to prevent hacking, secure data and provide authentication for communication and data transfer. Management solutions strengthen these protections by allowing administrators with the capability of remotely locking down devices, selectively or completely wiping data, blocking communications and data transferring and additionally disabling the device.
Remote management solutions are of more value when compatible with multiple devices and being able to integrate with and complement previous enterprise management solutions. The management solution is not necessarily device specific – the solution used to support embedded devices could also manage other assets, like smartphones, PDAs and handheld computers, kiosks, POS terminals, industrial controls, etc.
Device management solutions uphold network standards, leading operating systems such as Microsoft Windows Mobile, Microsoft Windows and Embedded CE and multiple smartphone and device platforms providing value through leveraging of an organization’s investments in management capabilities over multiple assets. The value of leveraging will grow dramatically as organizations are forced to manage increasingly large and diverse populations of embedded, mobile and wireless devices.
Support and integration with enterprise management solutions currently intact, like Microsoft Configuration Manager 2007, can advance legacy investments. Planning by specifying management solutions capable of supporting heterogeneous environments prevent administrators from suffering during usage of individual management solutions for each device requiring support.
Embedded devices surround us with growing capabilities, and the installed base is projected to expand into tens of billions. With limitless potential, organizations must prepare to manage their embedded devices with population growth. Vending machines, kiosks, industrial controllers, medical devices and other embedded systems appear differently from laptops or PDAs, but the same managing IT assets must be applied. Embedded devices must have remote management capabilities embedded with them to efficiently allowing systems to be maintained reliably, efficiently and securely.
Mark Gentile is founder, president and CEO of Odyssey Software.