How to update IoT devices - comprehensive explanation

May 16, 2024

The technique of remote updating the software of an Internet of Things (IoT) device without requiring physical access to each device is known as IoT device updating. This is essential to keep IoT devices secure, functioning, and compatible with the latest developments. Software patches, over-the-air (OTA) updates, and firmware updates are some ways this can be achieved. Bug fixes, new features, and keeping devices updated with the latest technologies all depend on these upgrades. IoT device remote updates are becoming increasingly important these days with the growing number of IoT device users.

We examine the importance of remote updates for IoT devices in this overview, including how they can improve performance and guarantee security. We will also look at the difficulties in implementing remote updates and highlight excellent practices, highlighting the important role that these practices will play in determining the direction of IoT deployment and management.

Why is updating IoT devices important?

Customers frequently ignore security concerns related to IoT devices because they believe there won't be any bad outcomes. But there's always a chance that device access, data integrity, or secrecy will be affected. Manufacturers regularly release updates to resolve vulnerabilities.

Regrettably, a lot of people disregard these updates, frequently not realizing the dangers they bring to their devices and the network as a whole. According to the Ubuntu poll, 40% of users have either never deliberately updated their gadgets or do not know how to update IoT devices.

Consider an infrastructure for a smart city that optimizes municipal operations and improves citizen services by integrating IoT devices like traffic sensors, lamps, and environmental monitoring systems. These networked gadgets work well at first, giving real-time data for pollution control, energy efficiency, and traffic management.

On the other hand, the manufacturers upgrade their software over time to fix security flaws, enhance data quality, and add new features. The infrastructure of smart city security becomes more susceptible to operational inefficiencies and cyber dangers if these changes are not implemented.

For example, obsolete traffic sensor firmware can result in incorrect traffic flow data, which would create delays and congestion. Streetlight control systems that are not patched may be vulnerable to remote manipulation, which could lead to energy waste or faults in the lighting system. Additionally, outdated environmental monitoring software may be unable to identify increases in pollutants, endangering the sustainability of the ecosystem and public health. The once-efficient infrastructure of smart cities runs the risk of malfunctions, security lapses, and subpar performance without routine updates.

How do iot devices update remotely?

It is not always possible to update an IoT device by using physical access alone. Although this method works well for handling one or two devices, it becomes costly and unworkable when hundreds or thousands of devices are involved, all over the world. In these kinds of situations, remote updates made possible via Over-the-Air (OTA) techniques become the go-to option.

OTA updates

Over-the-air (OTA) updates are remote IoT software update devices without needing to contact each device physically. These upgrades are essential for boosting functionality, ensuring that IoT devices stay up to date with security patches, and improving software stability. Device metadata, such as model, year, or location, can target individual devices or groups of devices for upgrades using OTA updates. They make it unnecessary to intervene manually, allow configuration changes to be made remotely, and offer comprehensive logs and analytics to track the update process. OTA updates are essential for preserving the security, functionality, and health of IoT deployments.


How do iot devices update remotely?

Edge-to-cloud (E2C) updates are a type of remote IoT software upgrade that doesn't require a gateway or other intermediary device. Instead, the IoT device connects directly with a remote server. Usually by LAN or Wi-Fi, the IoT device has built-in internet access that allows it to communicate directly with a distant update server.

The IoT device receives the update packages straight from the update server and installs them. This technique makes it possible to update individual devices independently, ensuring that problems with one update don't impact the fleet as a whole.


How do iot devices update remotely?

Updates from a remote cloud-based server are received through an Internet-connected gateway that oversees a collection of local devices in a system known as Gateway-to-cloud, or G2C updates. The updates are focused on the gateway, ensuring that it remains current with newer software applications, the host environment where the applications are run, and the firmware of the gateway device. This technique is frequently used in systems like automated teller machines (ATMs), remote energy monitoring systems, and other financial services applications to improve system security. G2C updates are useful because they enable the gateway to manage processing and communication responsibilities effectively, keeping the entire system updated and safe.


Edge-to-gateway-to-cloud (E2G2C) systems updates are sent from a cloud-based server to a central gateway through which IoT devices communicate. The gateway serves as a dispatcher by obtaining updates from the cloud and distributing them to the IoT devices. This technique is applied to autonomously updating equipment, such as industrial management sensor systems and field-based sensors that measure temperature, humidity, and weather.

Designing remote updates for IoT devices

Customers who purchase devices with outdated software, leading to failures, become the focal point of cybersecurity and IoT-related narratives.

The ability to obtain an IoT device remote update has many advantages, but it also creates security issues. The following aspects should be considered when designing a remote device update manager:

Software integrity check-ups

Cryptographic code signing is essential for secure IoT device upgrades. Without it, there is no way to verify that the update code is from a trusted source and has not been tampered with in transit. However, with cryptographic code signing, the update server signs the update package using a private key. The IoT device can then verify the signature with the corresponding public key, confirming the integrity and authenticity of the update.

Communication channels security

To achieve secure deployments, communication channels must be encrypted with TLS. Updates should be carried out securely with protocols such as HTTPS polling to prevent opening ports on the device.

Automatic recovery from corrupted installations 

In the event of an unsuccessful update, the system should be able to roll back to the prior stable version effortlessly. This is facilitated by the device's dual A/B memory partition configuration, which ensures recovery even if the update deployment is incomplete or corrupted, such as due to an unexpected power loss during installation. Furthermore, it is significant that the update process be atomic, ensuring that software updates are either completely implemented or not at all.

Integration with hardware security

Using hardware support for device authentication provides an additional degree of protection. Hardware security modules (HSMs) and Trusted platform modules (TPMs) secure keys within hardware, making them tamper-proof and immune to theft. By establishing an OTA update mechanism that only interacts with these keys for functions such as signing and decryption rather than directly gaining access to the keys, cryptographic operations on the device are strengthened, improving overall security.

Challenges updating IoT devices

Updates for IoT devices don't always proceed as planned because of several potential problems. Some of the most common problems arise during the updating process:

Devise update management

Despite its seeming simplicity, keeping a proper record of assets and figuring out when updates to IoT devices will be available can be challenging.

Once a detailed overview of deployed devices and their update requirements is compiled, the work shifts to prioritizing, thoroughly testing, and delivering updates without interfering with customers or your business.

Connectivity issue

Since unstable connections might result in unsuccessful updates, which can cause the device to become useless (also known as "bricking"), it is imperative to maintain a steady connection throughout the update process. It is imperative to do connectivity checks before applying updates. 

Context-aware updates

It's essential to schedule upgrades to minimize interference with the device's main features and workflow. Partial updates allow you to save processing power and speed up the process.


The update system must be scalable to handle increasing numbers of devices and network traffic without experiencing any major bottlenecks. This scalability guarantees that the update process will continue to function smoothly and continuously even if the number of devices and network traffic rises over time.

Strategies for mitigating IoT device update challenges

Thankfully, solutions are available for resolving issues related to remote IoT device updating. Let's examine a few typical fixes for update problems.


Finding problems is essential before implementing gadgets in large quantities. Testing devices, including sensors and modems, rather than depending only on vendor specs. This more comprehensive testing strategy lessens the chance that users may be disappointed when promised features fall short of their expectations. It also lets you select components based on which ones best suit your particular use case.

Tests should be carried out in the real deployment sites. Before expanding deployment, testing devices on an active cellular network allows you to find new operational efficiencies and proactively solve problems that might not arise in a lab setting.


IoT cloud platforms offer ways to deal with unsuccessful firmware upgrades, such as the ability to factory reset if a rollback isn't possible because of corruption or the option to roll back firmware to the most recent working version.

Still, this feature usually only really pertains to "high-power" devices, like Linux-based systems. The device often handles the recovery process on its own for smaller devices. The device decides to start a rollback on its own, independent of the cloud.

Remote monitoring and management

The key to efficiently managing IoT devices is remote monitoring and management, or RMM. Organizations may get real-time insights into their devices' performance, and health, and update their status with RMM features integrated into IoT platforms.

Proactive monitoring is made possible by RMM solutions, which enable businesses to spot possible problems early and take quick action. Additionally, enterprises can improve device security and dependability by remotely initiating updates, troubleshooting problems, and deploying patches. This thorough approach to device management guarantees the seamless operation and continued resilience of IoT systems despite possible disturbances.

Redundancy measures

Redundancy measures are an essential defense against updates that fail to function as intended. Organizations can guarantee device recovery in the case of malfunction or data loss due to updates by implementing redundancy mechanisms like dual partitions or backup systems.

Dual partitioning allows devices to smoothly move to a backup partition in the case of an update failure, guaranteeing ongoing functionality. This redundancy strategy reduces downtime and maintains device dependability even in the face of update-related difficulties.

Processes for IoT device updating management

The following procedures steps simplify and improve IoT update management, leading to IoT devices that are safe, efficient, and up-to-date:

  • Setting objectives: Establishing specific goals is made easier by knowing what needs to be fixed or improved in IoT devices. A well-planned strategy specifies backup plans, user communication, and update frequency.
  • Create an updated development: The update is created by knowledgeable professionals and includes new features, security patches, and bug fixes. It is ensured that the update functions flawlessly with a variety of setups by testing it on a variety of device kinds. 
  • Design and development: Expert developers draft the update and apply the required modifications. To guarantee the update's dependability and compatibility, they thoroughly test it in a variety of settings.
  • Deploying the update:  Device capabilities determine which methods of physical access, over-the-air (OTA) updates, or others are used. Version control and an orderly distribution procedure serve to prevent misunderstandings and guarantee that every device receives the appropriate update.
  • Monitoring update performance: To ensure continual optimization and dependability, system performance and stability must be maintained over time by ongoing monitoring to evaluate the impact of updates and resolve any problems.

IoT device remote updating security risks

To prevent IoT security risks with unauthorized access and tampering during the update process, update channels must be kept secure. Secure communication protocols and encryption are essential for preserving update packages during their transfer from the server to the IoT devices. Strong authentication procedures ensure that only authorized updates are approved and deployed on the devices, enhancing overall security.

Potential security vulnerabilities

IoT devices with outdated firmware or software may have security holes that hackers can take advantage of to access sensitive data or the system without authorization, potentially compromising sensitive information and causing breaches.

For example, a known operating system software bug that permits unwanted access to private data represents one type of potential security risk for IoT devices. Hackers may exploit this vulnerability to take over the device, jeopardize user privacy, or launch attacks on other networked devices if it is not fixed with timely updates. This kind of security flaw underscores the importance of updating IoT devices frequently to patch known vulnerabilities and enhance their overall security posture.

Functionality loss

If updates are not installed, IoT devices can fail, affecting the usability and performance of the device. Updates can also provide new features and fix problems.

A smart home security camera that misses important firmware upgrades is one example of an IoT device that loses functionality. Without these updates, there's a chance the camera won't be able to accommodate new security measures, creating security holes that hackers might exploit to remotely turn the camera off or gain unauthorized access to its live stream.

Incompatibility issues

If upgrades are not deployed on time, older software and firmware versions may eventually become incompatible with newer hardware components, resulting in errors, corrupted data, or total data loss.

A smart thermostat that does not receive firmware upgrades to support new communication protocols is an example of an IoT device that becomes incompatible due to a lack of updates. Consequently, the thermostat may cease to function with the latest upgrades for the smart home automation system, leading to connectivity issues and making it impossible to remotely manage the thermostat or integrate it with other smart devices in the house. This mismatch can disrupt the smooth operation of the smart home ecosystem, highlighting the importance of regular updates to maintain IoT device compatibility and functionality in networked environments.

IoT device remote update use cases by industries

IoT device remote update use cases by industries

Here are some actual instances of effectively implemented remote update IoT devices, along with the effects on user experience, security, and device performance:

Smart home devices

The ability of technology to transform modern homes is exemplified by smart home products, including lighting systems, security cameras, and thermostats, which can be updated remotely.

Remote upgrades on these devices have had a significant impact. They greatly enhance device security, reliability, and user experience by automatically applying bug patches and new features without requiring human intervention. The continuous flow of updates ensures that the smart home ecosystem stays current and functions at its best, providing consumers with convenience and peace of mind in effectively controlling their homes.

Industrial IoT sensors

Industrial IoT sensors are essential for optimizing industrial operations. One example is the remote firmware upgrades used in manufacturing facilities to monitor environmental conditions, equipment performance, and predictive maintenance.

On these sensors, timely remote updates have a significant effect. Remote updates improve the accuracy, security, and usefulness of the sensors by enabling them to change with demand, integrate new algorithms, and fix vulnerabilities. This guarantees the continued dependability and efficiency of industrial operations, empowering companies to make wise decisions and increase output.

Connected vehicles

One notable development in automobile technology is connected vehicles, best demonstrated by over-the-air (OTA) software upgrades for contemporary cars from automakers like Tesla, BMW, and Volvo.

Remote updates have significantly improved the driving experience by enabling vehicle owners to obtain the most recent performance upgrades, safety advancements, and infotainment system upgrades without having to visit a dealership. They also guarantee the dependability of vehicles and their security from new online threats. The smooth assimilation of remote updates into the automotive ecosystem highlights the development of connected cars and their capacity for continuous improvement.

Wearable devices

Personal health and fitness tracking have been changed by wearable devices, as demonstrated by software updates for smartwatches, fitness trackers, and other wearables from firms like Apple, Fitbit, and Garmin.

Remote upgrades have a big effect on these devices. Remote updates ensure wearables keep providing accurate health and fitness tracking by making it easier to provide security patches, new features, and bug fixes. Moreover, they improve the overall user experience by preserving device operation without requiring manual intervention. The incorporation of remote updates into wearable technology highlights the devices' capacity to change and grow to satisfy users' demands.

IoT device remote update future applications

Improvements in remote update technologies and approaches to meet the changing demands and difficulties of the IoT world are probably in store for the future of IoT device remote updating. The following trends are anticipated to influence IoT device updating in the future:

Automated update management

By streamlining the process of releasing updates at scale, automated update management solutions will ensure that patches and new features are delivered on time to a variety of IoT device fleets.

The use of over-the-air (OTA) update techniques is an essential part of automatic update management. OTA approaches predominate when updating IoT devices since they enable updates to be sent from a central platform to each device without requiring physical contact.

Edge computing

Remote IoT software update devices can be distributed and installed by edge computing devices, such as gateways or local servers. By doing this, the update processing is delegated from the central cloud, frees up network capacity, and expedites the delivery of updates.

AI updating strategies

By integrating machine learning algorithms with artificial intelligence (AI), proactive update scheduling and predictive maintenance based on device performance data can be achieved, enhancing device dependability and optimizing the update process.

The system dynamically adjusts the update schedule to avoid disruptions during peak usage hours or periods of high network traffic using machine learning algorithms.


To sum up, remote updates for Internet of Things devices are a major technological development that provides unmatched efficiency, security, and comfort. Remote updates guarantee that IoT devices stay current, dependable, and secure without requiring human involvement in everything from smart household appliances to industrial sensors and linked cars. Future improvements in remote update technologies and methodologies for IoT device upgrades appear promising, as the growing number and importance of IoT devices in our connected world continue to drive this trend. It will be necessary to adopt these trends if we want to make sure that IoT installations are successful and effective going forward.