Firmware-over-the-air (FOTA) is a Mobile Software Management (MSM) technology that enables the operating firmware of a cellular device to be upgraded and updated wirelessly over the network (“over the air”).

FOTA-capable devices can download updates from service providers or manufacturers in 3 to 10 minutes on average, depending on file size and connection speed. This saves businesses the time and money spent sending a technician to have each one of their cellular devices physically upgraded or updated.

In a well-known example from 2016,Tesla used FOTA to update each of their cars with the ability to self-park. Without FOTA, each car would have had to either be recalled or visited by a Tesla technician for these updates to be installed.

FOTA is particularly useful when it comes to IoT systems, especially those with large numbers of connected devices that require frequent updates. For example, updating hundreds of sensors measuring soil moisture levels across a large farm would be a near-impossible task using the traditional method, in which each sensor would have to be retrieved, connected to a computer or handheld device, reprogrammed with the new update and placed back in field, creating unnecessary costs and performance disruption.

Ensuring that IoT systems can support FOTA allows devices to be updated and tested in real time even when the devices are already in the hands of the business or enterprise.

This can be crucial if there are new security protocols that need to be implemented in days rather than months, and also provides a much more convenient user experience..

FOTA also makes it easier to release new updates in phases, targeting a select group of beta users or devices before rolling an update out to a full fleet of deployed devices..

The seamlessness and efficiency of FOTA technology can help IoT managers to scale operations cleanly, ensuring that each connected device within the network will automatically receive the latest update available.