Scaling is critical

According to conservative research from various industries, there are at least a billion data gathering objects waiting to be connected to the internet today. And that number is growing at no less than 10% a year. From the early days of monitoring hundreds of satellites in orbit to updating hundred thousands of enterprise mobile devices today, the trend is clear – the growth in the number of managed devices is outpacing the number of staff needed to manage them by orders of magnitude. With a plethora of device management software out there, how do we evaluate one that could scale to handle the sheer volume of managed devices and the proliferation of device types?

This is the beginning of a blog series to share some valuable lessons Bsquare has learned about managing assets in the industrial sector.

Doing more with less

Take energy utilities for example. We see large utilities shifting their business model to be based on aggregating flexible energy demand from very large numbers of connected devices; having a picture of how those devices are performing and simplifying how they connect and exchange information between multiple control systems and processes is a vital part of scaling. The consequence of not addressing the concerns above creates risk to an organization’s growth, its revenue, the brand’s reputation, and not meeting contractual obligations like service level agreements.

In our experience, any scalable device management solution should address at least one of the following concerns:
• Day-to-day, operators expect to handle device operations remotely, in bulk, and only be alerted when issues arise that require their direct attention.
• Needle in the haystack – with so many devices to manage, it’s hard to figure out which one is acting suspiciously. How do you discover hidden security issues?
• How do you quickly resolve an issue affecting large number of devices?

We have built some powerful device management capabilities utilizing three key enablers:

Digital twin

A device manager needs to describe your object in the form of a digital twin. The digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical object in the digital domain, whose information is typically stored and updated in a device registry. A strong digital twin possess two distinct characteristics – 1) it should fully abstract the I/O of the device so that you are in full control of its physical setting and 2) the behavior of the device is described by a statistical model, also known as behavioral modeling. Let’s not forget that you should also be able to query a device’s state and/or receive notifications in coarse or granular detail. Advanced digital twin design allow you to analyze devices as a group and model their behavior as a collective.

Complex business rules engine

Any scalable device manager needs to be capable of monitoring telemetry of an individual device as well as the statistical performance of a group. A complex business rule engine is able to translate statistical insights into actionable logic. It allows you to stay focused on the big picture while notifying you of outliers hidden in the haystack. One example would be setting up a IP subnet filter to automatically provision or block any new device within the IP range from your device manager. You can also create a device group using the same IP subnet filter and analyze its data transmission volume to look out for potential DDOS attacks.

History

It’s cliché to say that we learn from history. But that’s precisely what a scalable device manager needs to power self-healing features for millions of devices. Analyzing historical data such as device state, telemetry, and prior failure information provides insight that could be matched against current fault data for root cause analysis. Furthermore, solutions effective in the past can be applied automatically to current issues that share the same root cause signature. Let’s not forget that we can use device history to restore device settings to its previous working state.

So remember that a scalable device management solution is supposed to help you do more with less. Innovate on features that keep your focus on issues that matter and make sure key enablers mentioned above are in place to support the long term scalability of your device management solution.

To read more about Device Management use cases please click here.

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