03/16/21 2:23 pm

How are over-the-air (OTA) programming updates handled for IoT devices? The updates have to be secure, up-to-date and downloaded in an efficient and timely manner. Mars International uses the cloud-based Ciqada platform to ensure safe, timely updates on all IoT-based devices. Ciqada is Mars’ fully integrated internet of things solution. Ciqada provides device management abilities, end-to-end security, cloud management, and technical product support. 

Below we’ll detail how Ciqada ensures safe, efficient OTA firmware downloads, show the process works, and how Ciqada coordinates with Linux and microcontroller systems.

IoT, OTA updates on IoT devices

Advantages and Dangers of including OTA in your Product

Including OTA in your products can offer some advantages, as well as, some dangers. Let’s take a look at them below:

Advantages

  • IoT devices are distributed over a wide geographical area
  • Most IoT devices aren’t serviceable directly by the end-user
  • It allows the product to evolve due to market demands
  • Addresses security exploits
  • The user and product requirements change over time

Dangers

  • The device needs to be protected from uploading updates from unverified sources so hackers don’t obtain it
  • Ensure the device doesn’t ‘brick’ and is recoverable
  • Ensure the device has the ability to downgrade a failed version  

Firmware Updates

Firmware updates for Linux-based IoT devices are in the form of Linux iOS packages. So, how does it work? It begins with IoT devices sending their software information to Ciqada. From there, Ciqada will determine if the new software update is available for the devices. Ciqada then sends instructions to the IoT device to download and install the updated Linux Package. Ciqada tests to ensure the integrity of all firmware upgrades while providing device management capabilities.

The Ciqada platform communicates with Linux-based IoT devices, exchanging information and guiding the Linux package manager for upgrades and downgrades. Essentially, the IoT device sends metric data to Ciqada. Ciqada then verifies the firmware version and, if needed, sends instructions to upgrade the firmware version over OTA. The IoT device then requests an update to firmware from the Ciqada firmware OTA repository, and the Linux package manager applies the update.

Ciqada ensures the firmware update is safe and needed while coordinating the process with Linux. This is a unique, OTA solution to firmware updates and provides a desirable measure of protection and efficiency.

Microcontroller-based systems

Microcontroller manufacturers provide tools to apply the firmware. For example, SAM-BA software provides an open set of tools for programming internal and external memories.

As for OTA updates, they can be applied using a bootloader. The bootloader can perform checks such as package integrity, package checksum, and determine if the package version is correct. Custom bootloaders also can recover from any failed OTA firmware installation issues.

IoT devices, OTA updates on IoT devices

How does Ciqada provide OTA firmware updates for microcontroller systems? Ciqada interacts with microcontroller systems in a way similar to its interaction with Linux. The IoT device sends metric data to Ciqada, which verifies the device firmware version. If needed, Ciqada will send instructions to upgrade the firmware version over OTA. The IoT, like the Linux system, then requests the firmware update from the Ciqada firmware OTA repository. This coordination is crucial in providing security and ensuring the right firmware update is executed.

The custom bootloader then verifies the integrity of the firmware and applies the update. If the new firmware fails the integrity check, the bootloader optionally reverts to the old firmware. This is a protective failsafe, ensuring the integrity of updates.

OTA on Hybrid IoT Devices

Mars uses composite Linux packages to handle OTA for hybrid IoT devices. The OTA for hybrid IoT devices uses a composite Linux package that contains both Linux package and microcontroller firmware. Ciqada determines where a firmware update through OTA is needed. The Linux package updates the software and also manages the microcontroller update.

The process is as follows: The IoT device sends metric data to Ciqada and downloads the latest firmware from Ciqada. The mobile device connects to the hybrid IoT device and instructs the device to apply the firmware update.

Key Takeaways:

  • OTA offers advantages to your product, but there are also some dangers to look out for.
  • The cloud-based Ciqada device management platform can help ensure safe OTA updates for Linux and microcontroller systems.
  • Ciqada tests and validates updates and data while coordinating Linux and microcontroller systems.
  • Ciqada connects iOS apps and Android Apps to the same system.

Want to Learn More?

Check out our YouTube video for more information, or contact Mars International and find out what the Ciqada platform can do for you.