Connect and manage your fleet with nRF Cloud Device Management

Connect and manage your fleet with nRF Cloud Device Management

The Internet of Things (IoT) is developing along technologies, ecosystems and business cases. Machines traditionally considered stand-alone now have connectivity: a washing machine, for example, is advertised with remote control and monitoring features, providing notifications to your phone on a finished washing cycle. This helps you to remember to move the laundry to the dryer.

But does this kind of basic use case and user experience improvement realldy return on the investment?

In this blog post, we will examine the reasons for connecting devices through simple examples, talk about the value and options that connectivity can provide, and how nRF Cloud Device Management can help you with this. In subsequent blog posts we will dive deeper into different aspects of nRF Cloud Device Management with practical examples.

The world is integrating around you

Consider the connected washing machine that interfaces with the user through a mobile phone app. There is the improved user experience aspect of notifications, service reminders, easier user interface, and so on, but there is also data that can be collected. Beyond the immediate benefits of notifications, service alerts, and a more intuitive user interface, data points such as temperature, washing frequency, run time, laundry weight, and error codes give valuable information for maintenance services, future product development, and targeted marketing strategies. If a machine needs servicing, usage data can be a significant aid in troubleshooting. The next time the user buys household appliances, they might favor the same brand since they already have the application on their phone, cultivating additional brand loyalty.

The washing machine example demonstrates the variety of reasons why there are connected “things”. At the core of IoT is the idea to affect the way of working, improving efficiency and making life easier. Connected device integration is at its best when the user does not even notice the device’s presence. Smart garbage containers enable need-based emptying based on the fill level of the container. All the user needs to do is open the lid and throw away their garbage, while the smart container automatically sends data indicating its fill level to the service provider.

IoT is all about the data. Thinking further about the smart garbage container, the basic use case (fill level-based emptying and automatic scheduling of the garbage truck visit) does not seem significant. However, using only fill level data, you can predict fill levels, adjust the triggering thresholds, and monitor your service response times. Further innovation could introduce features like pest alerts, fire alerts, temperature-based early emptying (to prevent odor issues), and tracking for mobile containers.

Effective device management is crucial for maintaining the flow of data within IoT, and devices that operate without direct user interaction introduce additional considerations. Unlike appliances like washing machines that users can troubleshoot themselves, devices like smart garbage containers require robust firmware and management systems to relay operational status. Alerts for low battery levels or "last seen" data ensure that operators are informed about the functionality of each device. This allows for quicker maintenance and uninterrupted functionality.

Integrated solutions with nRF Cloud Device Management

Implementing IoT technology does not mean that the garbage container manufacturer or truck operators need to start their own IoT development. A third party can provide a packaged IoT solution that can be integrated into future manufacturing or added to existing containers.

The primary product can be the fill level data rather than the IoT device itself. Many industries already have established management tools for their processes, so the solution might be to integrate the data into an existing “Garbage collecting scheduler” system.

nRF Cloud Device Management enables this sort of multi-vendor setup by decoupling device management from the application service. This lets integrators use off-the-shelf products and separately manage data operations from garbage collection. The key business consideration is whether the data on container fill level represents a large enough market to have a dedicated company to manage it.

We should recognize when we can apply the same technology to a variety of use cases, whether the case is monitoring garbage containers and portable toilets, filling firewood storage, water tanks, and vending machines, or monitoring parking lot occupancy.

Figure 1: Illustration of responsibility areas for a separate operator providing garbage container fill level data to a garbage truck operator

nRF Cloud Device Management

Device management can be divided into four main areas, enabling complete lifecycle management from manufacturing to retirement:

  • Device Onboarding- Injecting and managing credentials for cloud connection, as well as connecting those devices to a cloud service.

  • Device configuration - Optimizing devices' functionality for different use cases.

  • Device firmware updates - Keep devices secure and functional.

  • Fleet monitoring - Ensuring that all devices are working as expected, as well as debugging issues.

nRF Cloud also supports the collection of application data, providing a complete platform to build your application services on top. nRF Cloud abstracts the devices to REST/JSON interface and unbinds the connectivity enabling the devices to connect and provide the data in their own phase. Using the full suite of services allows businesses to focus on their core applications.

Now, we will explore the features and benefits of nRF Cloud.

Device onboarding

Nordic Semiconductor provides a unique capability for remote provisioning nRF91x1 SiPs (nRF9161, nRF9151 and nRF9131). These SiPs come with a unique ID and Root of Trust, allowing for secure over-the-air provisioning. nRF Cloud Security Services includes secure device identity and secure provisioning services for device authentication and connection to any cloud. nRF Cloud Device Management is closely integrated with Security Services enabling auto-onboarding of devices directly to nRF Cloud.

nRF Cloud Security Services allow you to manage device credentials over the entire lifecycle. A common use case is key rotation to ensure data integrity. If you choose to separate your device data from nRF Cloud or your devices are not connected to nRF Cloud at all, you can still configure device connectivity and credentials. You can provision a new service deployment to a subset of your devices to balance load or achieve better response times. At the end of a device’s lifetime, you can wipe configurations to prevent further device use.

See our DevZone blog Scalable cellular IoT deployments with nRF Cloud remote provisioning for more information on the Provisioning Service.

Device configuration

Remote device configuration allows for runtime optimizations to be deployed to groups of devices. For devices that do not involve direct user interaction, such as smart garbage containers, sensor thresholds, measuring intervals, and communication intervals require adjustment for optimal user experience and battery life.

nRF Cloud Device Management provides a device shadow feature with desired and reported values, abstracting away the connectivity. You can use the shadow to send new configurations to the device. Also resetting the device to factory settings is possible as latest full configuration is always available for the device.

Figure 2: Overview of device shadow and configuration

Device firmware updates

Firmware-Over-The-Air (FOTA) is a key capability of nRF Cloud Device Management. Keeping device firmware updated with security patches is essential for maintaining device security and data reliability. FOTA is often seen as a maintenance burden with the connected devices, but in fact it can enable agile product development and shorter time-to-market by allowing deployment of bug fixes and new features after release.

Figure 3: Overview of device FW update

Fleet monitoring

The goal of monitoring is to provide system transparency and information on device issues. nRF Cloud’s alerts and logs features enable devices to generate alerts visible to the service technicians along with the device’s last connection time to ensure that devices are connecting as expected.

Alerts: Devices can send categorized alerts related to their operation, such as low battery alerts.

Logs: The device's logging level can be adjusted using nRF Cloud. This helps technicians diagnose issues like frequent device reboots.

Last connected: The last connected timestamp enables monitoring of connectivity and data transmission. If a device has not connected for a long time, the service technician can narrow down potential causes related to firmware version, operator, location, and more.

nRF Cloud equips service technicians with tools to better investigate root causes of issues.

Figure 4: Alerts popup to service technician triggering timely study and further actions

Collecting data

Device data falls into two main categories:

Operational data: Valuable for product development and managing the connected device’s system. In the smart garbage container example, signal strength data from different container types can inform future container design.

Application data: Allows for delivery of the service product, such as garbage container fill level.

The same data can sometimes serve both categories and having both available for further processing enables you to find correlations and learn about the managed devices.

nRF Cloud Device Management allows your device to transmit application data over their nRF Cloud connection enabling optimized connection handling for the device side.


nRF Cloud Device Management enables you to maintain and monitor your device fleet over the full lifecycle, manage device configuration on the fly for optimal UX and battery life, and deploy new firmware, bug fixes, and security patches. Integrating nRF Cloud Security Services provides easy and secure onboarding without needing to handle keys on the factory floor. nRF Cloud Location Services supports optimized positioning for your business case. In combination, nRF Cloud services provide a full IoT platform to build your own business on connected devices.

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