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Pelion Device Management (August 2020)

Pelion Device Management

Firmware update for discrete components

An IoT device may have multiple components, including:

  • Several microcontrollers.
  • Wireless connectivity modules.
  • Embedded sensors.
  • Different partitions or packages in Linux-based devices.

A holistic software update solution lets you update all device components. This includes custom firmware images containing the main application firmware and also firmware updates provided by third parties for specific chipsets, which you typically use without modification.

Pelion Device Management's Component Update feature enables an IT operator to independently update not only the main component of the device (main MCU) but also any additional modules on the same device.

Each manifest file can target a specific firmware version of a specific module. For example, you can update a secondary MCU firmware from version 1.1 to 1.2, but only if the main MCU has already been updated from version 1.9 to 2.0. In this way, you can design a “chained” firmware update campaign that applies a sequence of updates to all relevant devices in the correct order.

Benefits include:

  • Device vendors can update and fix firmware for individual components; for example, with security fixes to generic components, or upgrades to improve compatibility with communication protocols.
  • Update campaigns can target separate elements on devices of a specific class, ensuring that only compatible updates are installed. This means that if one component update succeeds but then a second component update fails - as a result of power or communication failure, for example - the device can still operate sufficiently well to receive subsequent updates of the second component.
  • Reduced maintenance cost and network traffic during update campaigns, by targeting only components that need to be updated.

Available to all customers.

Resume firmware update after a power failure

In some environments, an IoT device can lose power frequently due to battery operation or a power outage in the area or building. In the case of smart streetlights, for example, the IoT device that monitors the light's operation many only receive power when the light is on.

In low bandwidth networks such as NB-IoT, firmware downloads can take hours or days. If there are power outages during this process, it can be difficult for the device to complete the download because the device must restart the download after each power outage.

The Resume feature allows constrained devices to resume the update from the point at which it the update process was interrupted, ensuring that each device can complete the process during its wake-up period. This feature is critical, for example, in the case of consumer device IoT deployments where power may be disconnected by the user at any time.

Benefits include:

  • Reliable update process that allows devices with frequent power cuts to complete firmware download in stages.
  • Reduced bandwidth cost by avoiding the need to re-send the full image when the update resumes.
  • Reduced overall update campaign duration, and thus reduced maintenance costs.

Available to all customers.

Defer firmware update installation

In many IoT scenarios, for example in the case of some consumer appliances, power is provided by a main outlet from which the user could unplug the device at any time. Device management operations should not interrupt normal usage when the device does have power and is in active use.

For example, you would not want to interrupt the operation of a hair dryer when it is in use, but it is reasonable to perform device management operations when the device is powered but the fan is not operating.

Installation of firmware updates is an operation that can interrupt a device's regular functioning. For instance, the installation might require the device to reboot.

Pelion Device Management lets the device firmware application defer the installation of firmware updates by invoking the Defer API in response to the firmware update initiation. The firmware update campaign then retries the update at a later time.

Benefits include:

  • Enables the device firmware application, which has more contextual knowledge about the immediate needs of the device, to control the installation process.
  • Improves the user experience of device end-users by enhancing control and convenience.

Available to all customers.

Factory production audit – detecting unauthorized production

Pelion Device Management provides a number of solutions designed to address different factory production setups. One of these solutions is the Secure Factory Service, which enables isolating a trusted server cluster (including an HSM for storage of secure material) in a secure server area and setting up workstations, which are only connected to a local network, on the factory floor.

When this solution is integrated into a production workflow, the Secure Factory Service captures statistics about how many devices are provisioned and the time it takes to provision each device.

These statistics are reported from the workstations to the server area, where they are collated and uploaded to Pelion Device Management. A factory production manager can then use the Pelion Device Management Portal to fetch the statistics and display in a table, for a specific time period, which matches the device production report received from the manufacturer.

Benefits include:

  • Factory managers can use the statistics during a subcontractor audit to ensure that the factory subcontractor reports the correct number of devices produced (thereby reducing the risk of the production of grey market devices).
  • Factory managers can monitor manufacturing statistics to track production performance across separate factories to ensure that SLAs are being achieved.

The Secure Factory Workstation service is available to selected customers.

Application access keys

Middleware applications that integrate with Pelion Device Management currently use a bearer token (also called API key) to access the REST APIs.

Developers can now create separate Application objects, which correspond to their middleware applications. Each of these applications can be configured with a number of separate access keys, each with its own expiry time.

Benefits include:

  • Multiple access keys can be created, attached to each application.
  • Each key can have a separate expiry, increasing the long-term security of the organization’s data on the platform.

Application access keys are available to all customers and replace the existing functionality, which is deprecated as of August 2020.

Device Echo

This feature was previously available to selected customers, and is now available to all customers. For more information, please see Viewing the state of device resources.

European region support

Pelion Device Management is now available in three regions - US, EMEA and APAC.

Having support in each continental region enables Pelion to address different customer needs.

Benefits include:

  • Reduced latency from relevant deployment.
  • User data remains in a specific geographic region for regulatory purposes.

All three regions are available for use by all customers.

Pelion Device Management Edge

Edge gateway provisioning tool

Pelion provides the Factory Configurator Utility (FCU) and Factory Configurator Client (FCC) tools for provisioning gateways during manufacture. These tools are effective at enabling the provisioning process on the factory production line; however they do require manual steps during their operation. This increases the elapsed time for each product on the production line.

The Pelion Edge Provisioning tool helps automate the factory flow. The tool lets you inject certificates onto the device from the gateway rather than from FCU. It also enables saving the enrolment IDs of all the dispatched gateways into a log file for use in the first-to-claim process.

Use cases include the manufacturing floor, inventory management and testing with production credentials. You can write custom post-install scripts to place the device credentials (generated by FCU) at a desired path on the filesystem of the factory workstation.

Benefits include:

  • Improved automation of the provisioning process for gateways and reduced costs.
  • Extensible to other form factors such as virtual machines.

The Pelion Edge Provisioning tool is available to all customers.

For more information, please see the Pelion Edge documentation.

Optimizing Kubernetes traffic over cellular for edge gateways

Cellular connectivity is expected to be a primary means of connection to gateways using Pelion Edge software.

Understanding and optimizing control plane data overhead is critical to limiting cellular data costs. Optimization of the kubelet/KaaS control plane data consumption requires tradeoffs for the latency of the control and feedback of the container status.

Pelion Device Management Edge now enables measuring and optimizing kubelet/KaaS control plane data usage.

Benefits include:

  • Optimization of device-to-cloud communications for data usage without impacting the Kubernetes operational model.
  • Compatibility with existing device management services, allowing KaaS to be applied to more resource-constrained devices.
  • Deployments can tolerate device downtime with less impact to the overall service.

Available to all customers.

Edge managed updates on Ubuntu core

Pelion Edge gateway devices typically use a Snap update process. The gateway must upgrade itself through either side-loading or package delivery, orchestrating and reporting results from the Snap update process.

To update a deployment of gateways, an IT operator creates a firmware update campaign in Pelion Device Management Portal, providing a software manifest file (listing details of versions, package names, version numbers and Snap channel), which the campaign subsequently delivers to the device.

Channels are established for each package to make a number of versions of a given package available. Pelion Edge reports the software inventory version number to the service as an attribute. This enables configuring update campaigns to target devices with a specific major version number. This can be used to ensure that the correct version is applied based on the current version of the installation.

The Snap daemon (package manager) installs and updates packages on the system. Gateway logs provide feedback on failed updates.

Benefits include:

  • Pelion Device Management provides additional controls to enable managing the Snap installation process to be effectively in a complex IoT deployment.
  • Pelion Edge gateways provide additional information to enable firmware update campaigns to coordinate the update process.

Available to selected customers.

TPM-based security for Edge gateways

PARSEC (Platform AbstRaction for SECurity) is an open-source project, which provides a common API for hardware security and cryptographic services in a platform-agnostic way. The API provides access to Trusted Platform Modules (TPM).

Pelion Device Management can integrate with secure elements (SE) via Platform Security Architecture (PSA) SE drivers, but in many cases an SE driver is not available for a specific TPM. By enabling support for the PARSEC API, the availability of drivers through third-party providers is increased significantly.

Pelion Edge provides an ideal way to deliver and manage containerized apps at the edge. PARSEC plays an important part in assuring the end-to-end security of this use case.

Benefits include:

  • Enhanced security. Arbitration by the microservice enables multiple applications to use the security capabilities of the device, while ensuring that the secrets for each application are isolated.
  • Compliance with industry security standards.
  • Future PARSEC development automatically benefits Pelion Edge.

Edge Gateway Reboot API

Pelion Device Management Edge provides an API that enables the gateway to be rebooted remotely. This reboot functionality has been extended to enable the gateway’s configuration, including the settings and status of individual container applications, to be preserved and reinstated once the reboot is complete.

When there is a request to reboot the device, all application containers are instructed to store their last known state, including any necessary environment settings. Containers that are required to run are automatically re-started.

Benefits include:

  • The state of the containers on the gateway is synchronized with the Kubernetes services in the cloud after the reboot is completed.
  • The identity of the gateway remains intact through the reboot.
  • Feedback is provided to ensure that the device reboots successfully and connects back to the cloud.

Available to selected customers.

Gateway capability discovery

A deployed device's capabilities are likely to change as a result of software updates and dynamically deployed applications.

Pelion Edge provides a uniform and extensible approach to gateway capability discovery.

Benefits include:

  • A well-known mechanism advertises capabilities separately.
  • A uniform and extensible capability advertisement scheme.
  • Dynamic behavior adapts on a capability-by-capability basis without any fixed view of how capabilities are combined.
  • Enable/disable features, such as remote terminal, gateway logs, container orchestration services and DeviceDB.
  • Support for new commercial offerings, such as scope-limited or time-limited feature access.
  • Discover Edge Gateway capabilities pertaining to premium features.

Available as a preview for evaluation purposes only.

Evaluation of Pelion Edge gateways using a virtual machine

Use a VirtualBox virtual machine to evaluate Pelion Device Management Edge without any specific hardware.

Supported features include:

  • Connecting the gateway to Pelion Device Management.
  • Connecting a device to the gateway (gateway already connected to cloud).
  • Updating the gateway application.
  • Containerized application deployment.

Benefits include:

  • Quick and painless product evaluation without hardware.
  • Development of protocol translators.

Available as a preview for evaluation purposes only.

Pelion Device Management Client

Support for i.MX RT 1060

Pelion Device Management Client supports the i.MX RT 1060. Support is integrated with the Device Management Client using FreeRTOS and the NXP SDK.

i.MX RT 1060 is a high performance Arm Cortex-M7 core running at 600 MHz. The platform is configured with 1Mb of on-chip SRAM and supports extensive external memory interface options, such as NAND, eMMC, QuadSPI NOR flash and parallel NOR flash.

Enhanced features for mesh networks

The next release of Pelion Device Management Client will provide a number of enhanced services when used with the Mbed OS Wi-SUN stack:

  • The base reconnection timer value, previously randomized between 10 and 100 seconds, is now platform-specific. Use the PAL_DEFAULT_RTT_ESTIMATE macro (estimated round-trip time for the network) to configure the value.
  • Optimized client recovery behavior based on expected network performance, including latency and bandwidth.
  • Wi-SUN FAN border router support. Use a router with an open source implementation with direct uplink connectivity (ethernet or cellular), or commercial routers.
  • Enhanced Wi-SUN FAN protocol stacks scale to large deployments.
    • Form a single mesh network with up to 5000 routers (depending on network configuration and traffic) behind one border router.
    • Enhanced reliability and recovery of devices within the network.
    • The Wi-SUN FAN stack is ready for certification.
  • Additional Wi-SUN FAN network and device management capabilities through Pelion Device Management and Device Management Client.

Available to all customers.

Pelion Device Management On Premises

On Prem - Standalone capability enhancement

Pelion Device Management has undergone a number of improvements to enable the solution to be deployed to either a cloud or on premises environment with fewer dependencies on other systems.

In particular, dependencies on OpenStack have been removed, so that it is now possible to deploy on Kubernetes cloud, bare metal, and so on. Similarly, there are no dependencies on a specific load balancer solution, and integration with AWS and Azure native load balancers has been demonstrated tested in cloud deployments.

Through a continued program of improvements, there have been ongoing reductions in hardware requirements for a given number of supported devices.

Benefits include:

  • Reduced cost of hardware and dependencies for a given number of devices improves the return on investment in dedicated hardware.
  • Continued improvements to reduce dependencies and requirements enable a wider range of deployment configurations and use cases.

Available to all customers.