In 2017, it was estimated that more than 9 billion Wi-Fi-enabled devices were in use.
That’s more than one device for every person on the planet, including children and babies. And the number has only grown since that time.
Whilst easy access to Wi-Fi has made our browsing habits much easier to satisfy, it has also had a huge impact in other areas of technology. One of the benefits has been the ability to make use of over-the-air updates. But what is an over-the-air update exactly?
Read on as we take a look at everything you need to know about over-the-air updates.
What Are Over-The-Air Updates?
Over-the-air updates are exactly as they sound.
They remove the need for a piece of technology to be plugged into another device in order to be updated or upgraded. Instead, the update is pushed out over-the-air via wireless data transfer. It means that the technology being upgraded doesn’t need to be accessed manually or taken to a service center.
Improvements, upgrades and bug fixes can be applied without any need for the end user to do anything.
What Devices Use Over-The-Air Updates?
There is a wide range of devices that can make use of over-the-air updates.
The minimum requirement is some form of wireless connectivity. This could be Wi-Fi, cellular connection or Bluetooth. Some smart home products are now using their own proprietary wireless standards to send their updates.
Any product that has this type of connection can benefit from the use of over-the-air updates.
Smartphones and Tablets
The most likely place that you will have come across over-the-air updates is on your smartphone or tablet.
When you update your operating system, the new version is sent out over-the-air to your phone, meaning that you don’t need to connect it to another device in order to make the upgrade. This wasn’t always the case; Android phones did not offer over-the-air updates until 2009, and Apple was even later to the party, with the release of iOS 5 in 2011 being their first over-the-air update option.
Prior to this, if you wanted to update your operating system, you needed to download it to a laptop or desktop. You would then need to physically connect your phone to your computer in order to transfer the new update to your phone.
Laptops and Desktops
Those of us of a certain age still remember installing new versions of Windows or OS X via CD-ROM.
As internet speeds and bandwidth increased, these physical disks become obsolete, with users able to download the operating systems directly. Before Wi-Fi, these were not technically over-the-air updates. But as developments in Wi-Fi allowed us to cut the cord, the vast majority of us now install our OS upgrades directly over-the-air.
Internet of Things
The explosion of smart home gadgets and the Internet of Things means that there is now a whole range of gadgets that make use of over-the-air updates.
Everything from smart plugs to Alexa will upgrade their firmware over-the-air, often without any intervention from the user at all. As we learned earlier, many manufacturers of IoT devices are beginning to use their own specific standards to do so.
It means that your home may be full of gadgets that are constantly updating themselves without you even knowing about it.
Over-the-air updates are not just limited to consumer devices.
The technology has meant that many pieces of scientific equipment are now able to update themselves over-the-air. This has been particularly beneficial in fields such as healthcare, where equipment no longer needs to be returned to be updated or upgraded. This can all now be done over-the-air, with the minimum amount of disruption or downtime.
How Secure Are Over-The-Air Updates?
Any device that is connected to the internet is at risk.
The security of over-the-air updates is often most dependant on how secure the device is itself. Smart home gadgets with factory-set passwords are not that impregnable, whereas healthcare equipment with proper security in place can be very secure.
In addition, over-the-air updates allow devices to install patches that can remove any vulnerabilities that may have been discovered. This actually makes the devices more secure.
What Are the Advantages of Over-The-Air Updates?
As we have already seen, over-the-air updates mean that you no longer need to attach your device to another machine in order for it to update.
Aside from the convenience for users, over-the-air updates allow manufacturers to extend the lifetime of their devices as they are able to continually update them. This means longer laster products for consumers.
Over-the-air updates also mean less disruption. You don’t have to go crawling under the table to update your smart plug. All you require is a tap on your smartphone.
What Are the Disadvantages of Over-The-Air Updates?
The most obvious disadvantage of over-the-air updates is the security risk.
But these risks would apply to internet-enabled devices even if they didn’t offer over-the-air capabilities, so there is no increase in risk. And as we have seen, the ability to quickly apply bug-fixes and patches can help devices to become more secure.
You should always aim to use strong passwords with all internet-enabled devices to minimize the risk of hacking and other problems.
Looking for High-Quality Sensors?
If you’re looking for high-quality sensors for the healthcare market that offer over-the-air updates then you’re in the right place.
We offer a wide range of sensors that cover temperature, humidity, pressure, carbon dioxide, light, water leaks and more. And our OTA series all come equipped with over-the-air upgrade capabilities. It means your sensors can be constantly upgraded without lifting a finger.
They include Wi-Fi compatibility as well as onboard visual and audible alarms. They can also provide alerts via SMS, voice call and email and transmit their data to the SensoScientific cloud, storing it safely and securely.
If you would like to know more about the sensors that we offer, or are looking to make a purchase then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.