Barbara minimises the impact of obsolescence on your IoT installations

The viability of your business should not be dependent on poor obsolescence management by your suppliers, so Barbara offers a "rescue" solution for those industries that have historically been victims of vendor lock-in.

Written by:
Alex Cantos

In Barbara IoT, this is a situation we often see: the vendor does the IoT deployment, supports it for a few years and then the product goes into obsolescence and the customer has only two options: reinstall the entire fleet with a new product -supposedly better, evolved-, or accept an obsolete product, which will not be updated with new features or security patches.

Too often, the customer chooses the cheapest option and is left with an obsolete system that quickly becomes a limitation to their business. It is not for nothing that many refer to IoT as the Internet of "Broken" Things because of how quickly new devices become unusable. What we are used to as users of mobile phones, watches or smart bracelets -and that we usually solve by buying a new mobile phone or bracelet-, for the industry can reach worrying dimensions (deployments with thousands of nodes), resulting in an unaffordable cost and even compromising the viability of the business.

At Barbara IoT we believe that innovation should not be at odds with responsible obsolescence management, and we attack this problem from several angles:

  • Using open technologies and open communication standards
  • Performing regular corrective maintenance on devices with new features and security patches
  • Offering a "rescue" solution for existing fleets of heterogeneous and/or obsolete devices

Open platforms and standards

The industrial universe is full of devices from different manufacturers, speaking very different protocols -many of them proprietary-, which have traditionally been isolated. Having "open" technologies provides the flexibility and agility needed to connect all these devices in the same IoT network that allows us to boost our business.

Some of the advantages of using open technologies and standards are the following:

  • Technological independence: Not depending on third parties and their life cycles or proprietary standards provides degrees of freedom.
  • Transparency: Open source software is usually available, so it can be more easily audited, improved or adapted to our needs.
  • Good adherence to standards: Open technologies are usually very faithful to standards, which guarantees their interoperability from minute zero.
  • Obsolescence management: Open technologies are supported for a long period of time and, in case of obsolescence, they are generally replaced by others that offer an easy migration option.
  • Lower investment: By not having to pay development or execution licenses, it is usually cheaper to face a large development using open standards than proprietary ones.
  • Cybersecurity: Vulnerabilities are generally detected and patched more quickly in open source technologies. Open access to source code allows many users and engineers to review and test it, making it more secure than proprietary software, which is more opaque.

Periodic maintenance

We are used to our mobile applications being updated while we sleep, but we accept as normal that our industrial IoT devices are never or rarely updated after installation. Shouldn't they follow the same policy?

Sometimes, this lack of updates is a consequence of the need to connect the devices to a PC via a cable in order to update their software. That is why at Barbara IoT we believe it is essential that any IoT device is ready to receive "Over-The-Air" (OTA) updates, i.e. updates sent "over the air". These types of updates and configurations sent over a telecommunications network provide device manufacturers, system integrators and IoT solution operators with the means to implement new functionality over time and also fix any vulnerabilities in the device.

With OTA services we can update devices individually or as a group with a single click, enabling their continuous improvement even after they are in the hands of end users, which increases the scalability of the system, allowing the rapid correction of security holes and saving maintenance costs.

But pushing these types of updates is not easy, as it involves a number of skills, such as managing different versions of the firmware so that an error in the update doesn't "crash" the device, or that the update doesn't use all available bandwidth, and, of course, that urgent upgrades are done at the right time. All of this becomes more complicated as the number of devices connected to a single enterprise network increases.

Our Barbara OS and Barbara Panel products take all these considerations into account:

  • Version rollback: A failed update can be easily rolled back so that the device remains on the previous stable version and is not locked.
  • Version checks: The OTA source is always verified so that devices only accept updates from a trusted and verified source that has not been modified in transit to the device.
  • Code compatibility: For devices that support multiple architectures, we first confirm that the image received is suitable for that architecture before starting the upgrade process. Otherwise, it would be impossible to recover those devices.
  • Secure communication: All updates are done through encrypted communication channels.
  • Partial updates: This reduces bandwidth consumption and device processing time.

Solutions for heterogeneous parks

A heterogeneous fleet of devices offers many maintenance problems, among which we could highlight: different use cases for each device, different life cycles, different communications standards, etc... Some devices are not even remotely accessible, so if we add to this staff displacements, the bill increases considerably. Moreover, many of them are probably no longer supported by the manufacturers and are in "end-of-life", so their functionalities are no longer updated, nor are possible problems or vulnerabilities corrected.

At Barbara IoT we believe that the viability of an industry should not be subject to the mismanagement of obsolescence by its suppliers, so we offer a "rescue" solution for those industries that have historically been victims of "vendor lock-in".

Our solution is open and flexible, and allows to integrate under the same umbrella all sensors, actuators and industrial equipment installed, both modern and old, and move their data to any cloud. Once in the cloud, the data can be processed to obtain a complete view of the assets in the field.

Barbara offers IoT nodes with controllers for most industrial protocols, including:

  • Modbus
  • Wireless M-BUS
  • MVB
  • OPC-UA
  • IEC-102 & 104
  • DNP3
  • Siemens S7
  • A/D inputs/outputs
  • And many more...

In addition, our modular system allows you to quickly add support for new protocols. With Barbara IoT, you can become independent of device, network and platform manufacturers. Remember that we don't store your data, we just transport it securely to the platform of your choice.

If you need help to rescue your fleet of obsolete devices or undertake a new installation with the flexibility that Barbara IoT provides, we are at your disposal.