How Do IoT Devices Update Remotely?

How Do IoT Devices Update Remotely

The Internet of Things (IoT) has transformed our world. From smart home devices to wearables and beyond, connected gadgets are now embedded in our everyday lives. But with great connectivity comes great responsibility – keeping these devices secure and up-to-date is essential. Understanding how IoT devices update remotely is key to maintaining their functionality and protecting against threats.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of remote IoT device updates. We’ll look at the different methods used, from manual processes to automated systems, and break down the benefits as well as potential drawbacks. Read on to learn how to keep your connected things current and lower the risks.

Overview of Remote IoT Device Updating

IoT devices can be updated remotely in a few different ways depending on the specific device capabilities. Below is a comparison of the main methods:

MethodHow It WorksBenefitsDrawbacks
Manual UpdatingUser checks for and installs available updates manuallyMore control for userTime-consuming, relies on user initiative
Auto-Updating via CloudUpdates automatically pushed from cloudConvenient, constant protectionRequires stable internet connection
Updating via Mobile AppUpdates triggered through official mobile appEasy to use, widely accessibleExtra step, not all devices have apps

Generally speaking, remote updating provides major advantages for IoT devices. It allows functionality improvements and security patches to be delivered seamlessly without requiring physical access to the device. However, potential compatibility issues and other risks need to be considered.

Why Remote Updating Matters for IoT Devices

Keeping IoT devices updated is critical for two main reasons:

Improved Security – Like any software, IoT systems contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers if left unpatched. Remote updates allow security issues to be quickly addressed even after deployment. This helps protect devices from compromise.

Enhanced Functionality – In addition to closing security holes, remote updates also enable new features and other enhancements to be added to IoT systems conveniently after purchase. This brings additional value to consumers.

Without remote updating capabilities, IoT devices would have to be manually reprogrammed or even replaced entirely to gain new functions or security fixes. This process would be extremely costly and time-consuming.

The Risks of Outdated IoT Devices

Failing to update IoT devices regularly comes with significant risks, including:

  • Malware attacks – Unpatched vulnerabilities can allow malware like Mirai to infect devices. This malware can be used for DDoS attacks and more.
  • Data compromise – Hackers can potentially access device data like video feeds, files, credentials and other sensitive information.
  • Bricked devices – Severe bugs could render devices unusable if updates are ignored. This essentially bricks the device.
  • Compliance issues – Neglected updates could result in non-compliance with regulations like HIPAA healthcare standards.
  • Functionality loss – Bugs and glitches can build up over time, crippling device functionality if updates are not installed.

Only by promptly installing remote updates as they become available can these threats be avoided.

Manual Updating of IoT Devices

For IoT devices without automatic update capabilities, users must manually check for and install over-the-air updates. Here are the steps involved:

1. Check the Manufacturer Website

Most IoT device vendors will post update notifications and firmware download links on their support site when new versions are released. Check frequently for any available updates.

2. Download Update Files

Once an update is found, download the firmware or patch files to your computer. Make sure to get all required files as specified.

3. Connect Device for Updating

Follow manufacturer instructions to connect the IoT device to your computer, usually via USB cable. This allows the update to be transferred.

4. Install the Update

Use any update utility provided by the vendor to install the downloaded firmware on the connected device. Allow the update process to fully complete.

5. Test Device Functionality

When finished, test that the device is fully functional as expected. Report any issues to the manufacturer.

User has full controlTime-consuming manual process
No reliance on internet connectivityEasy to miss updates
Can troubleshoot issuesRisk of improper update installation

While manual updating gives users more control, it can be tedious and error-prone. But for IoT devices unable to update remotely, it is still essential.

Automated IoT Device Updating Solutions

Many modern IoT products come with remote update automation features built-in. These solutions make getting updates far more convenient compared to manual methods. Here are some examples:

Cloud-Based Updating

Popular consumer IoT vendors like Amazon, Google and Apple offer cloud services to automatically deliver updates to connected devices.

With this approach, the IoT device periodically checks the cloud service for any new firmware versions the manufacturer has released. If one is found, it is automatically downloaded and installed on the device in the background.

For the user, no effort is required. The IoT ecosystem handles the process seamlessly. But an active WiFi connection is required.

IoT Mobile Apps

Some manufacturers provide mobile apps to remotely check and update their IoT products. For instance, apps for smart lightbulbs let users view available firmware versions and trigger updates with the tap of a button.

The apps connect to the devices locally via Bluetooth or through an internet cloud service. They make updating simple while adding mobile control. But an additional app installation is needed.

DIY Automatic Updating

For open-source and DIY IoT systems, developers can build their own automated update functionality using free toolkits like balena and

These tools add a management layer that handles tasks like firmware pushing, monitoring and rollbacks automatically based on defined settings. This streamlines updating for custom projects. But specialized programming knowledge is required.

Advantages of Automated IoT Updating

Automating the remote update process provides some major benefits:

  • Easy and convenient – Updates happen in the background without user input needed.
  • Constant protection – Devices always run the latest firmware version with vulnerabilities fixed.
  • Wide accessibility – Mobile apps allow updating from anywhere with cell service.
  • Time savings – No manual monitoring or installation time required.
  • Reliable process – Automated systems are less prone to human error.

But potential connectivity and compatibility issues should still be considered. Overall though, automated remote updates are ideal for consumer IoT products when properly implemented.

Ensuring Your IoT Devices Stay Updated

Keeping all your connected IoT systems updated is key to maintaining optimal functionality and security. Here are some tips:

  • For devices with cloud updating, ensure they are consistently connected to your home WiFi for maximum uptime. Consider a mesh system if coverage is poor.
  • If devices have a mobile app for managing updates, install it on your phone and enable push notifications so you are alerted when new firmware is available.
  • Periodically check vendor sites for update notifications on any non-connected IoT systems and promptly update them manually when needed.
  • Stagger automated updates on smart home devices so that everything doesn’t go down at once if an update causes temporary downtime.
  • Track all installed firmware versions in a spreadsheet to avoid losing track, especially if you have many IoT products.
  • If an update appears to cause problems, restore using backups or do a rollback if possible through the management interface.
  • Monitor user forums and reviews for potential issues with new updates before installing them.

With vigilance and the right processes in place, you can effectively minimize IoT device headaches and keep your gadgets running their best.


Understanding remote update capabilities is a key part of any IoT system. While manual firmware updating still plays a role for some devices, automated cloud-based deployment of over-the-air updates has become the preferred method for enhancing functionality, squashing bugs, and blocking security threats.

When managed properly, remote updating allows consumers and businesses to get the most value out of IoT investments while avoiding the risks of outdated and vulnerable devices. As IoT expands into even more areas, secure and seamless firmware manageability will only grow in importance.

By taking steps to keep your smart gadgets and peripherals current using either manual or automated updating as appropriate, you can sleep soundly knowing your connected things have their defenses up. Don’t let your IoT become IoT (Internet of Threats)!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do IoT devices receive remote updates?

A: IoT devices receive updates through wireless connections or internet connectivity, allowing remote firmware and software upgrades.

Q: Are IoT updates automatic?

A: Yes, IoT devices can be set to automatically download and install updates, ensuring they stay current.

Q: What is the purpose of remote updates for IoT devices?

A: Remote updates enhance security, fix bugs, add features, and improve device performance without physical intervention.

Q: Can IoT devices update over cellular networks?

A: Yes, IoT devices can utilize cellular networks for remote updates when Wi-Fi or Ethernet connections are unavailable.

Q: Do all IoT devices support remote updates?

A: Most modern IoT devices are designed to support remote updates, but older or simpler devices may not have this capability.

Q: How do IoT devices ensure update authenticity?

A: Digital signatures and secure communication protocols are used to verify the authenticity of remote updates.

Q: Can remote updates be scheduled for IoT devices?

A: Yes, IoT devices can be programmed to update at specific times or when network traffic is low to minimize disruption.

Q: What happens if an IoT update fails during installation?

A: If an update fails, IoT devices often have mechanisms to roll back to the previous working version to prevent disruptions.

Q: Are there risks associated with remote IoT updates?

A: Risks include potential security vulnerabilities during updates, so robust security measures are crucial.

Q: How can IoT users control remote updates?

A: Users can often customize update preferences, delay updates, or manually trigger them through device settings or management platforms.

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