Why use Yocto and OTA Software Updates for IoT projects?
The rapid evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices calls for robust systems that can cater to the dynamic needs of the applications. A key aspect of IoT device management is the ability to perform Over-The-Air (OTA) software updates. This article discusses the Yocto Project, its significance in IoT, and how it can be utilized to perform OTA software updates. While Yocto is focusing on full image updates, the qbee agent is able to initiate those but also provides means of doing less risk prone and precise updates by just changing files, binaries, configuration or patching a system library. So we see an increasing number of companies demanding full firmware level OTA update capabilities but with an additional high precision, low risk alternative. This comes also in handy when fleets need to be individualized based on feedback from ERP or third party systems. But let's dive into Yocto.
What is the Yocto Project?¶
The Yocto Project is an open-source project that facilitates the creation of custom Linux-based systems irrespective of the hardware architecture. While it's not a Linux distribution itself, it provides a framework and tools to create one. Yocto is particularly valuable for embedded and IoT applications, as it offers the flexibility to customize the operating system tailored for specific needs. The following link explains how to integrate the meta-qbee layer into Yocto.
Why use Yocto for IoT Projects?¶
Customization: Yocto allows you to create a minimal, lightweight, and customized Linux image that contains only the required components for your IoT device, thereby reducing the system's footprint.
Cross-Platform: The Yocto Project supports various hardware architectures and platforms, enabling a standardized development approach across diverse IoT devices.
Reproducibility: The builds are reproducible, ensuring consistent software deployments across devices.
Community & Ecosystem: As an open-source project, Yocto has a vibrant community that continually enhances the ecosystem, offering layers and recipes for a wide range of applications and integrations. qbee provides its agent as an application/integration here.
OTA Software Updates: Why and How?¶
Security: As vulnerabilities are discovered, it is paramount to patch systems swiftly to ensure they remain secure. OTA updates facilitate timely patching of security loopholes.
Bug Fixes: Resolving software bugs without requiring physical access to the device.
Feature Enhancements: OTA updates enable the introduction of new features, improving device capabilities and extending its lifecycle.
Configuration Management: Remote modification of device configurations to adapt to changing requirements.
These 4 topics can be addressed on two different levels. One is the firmware level, meaning that a full image gets updated. The other one can be handled on the OS level with a tool like the qbee agent. This allows to quickly patch libraries or software while waiting for the next image release. In addition, it is of great importance to be able to deploy individual configuration on the devices (license keys, certificates or just parametrization) even for large fleets.
How with Yocto?¶
The Yocto Project itself doesn’t provide direct OTA functionality, but there are several tools and frameworks built on top of or alongside Yocto that make OTA feasible.
Rauc: The meta-rauc layer provides support for integrating the RAUC update tool into your device.
SWUpdate: Another robust tool designed for embedded system updates. The meta-swupdate layer integrates SWUpdate into a Yocto Project.
The qbee agent can support both update mechanisms. Please reach out to us if you want to learn more. Please also consult this detailed implementation of how to enable OTA updates with Rauc and qbee.
Implementing OTA with Yocto:¶
Select an Update Tool: Choose among SWUpdate, Rauc or any other tool suitable for your requirements.
Integration with Yocto: Incorporate the meta layer of your chosen tool in your Yocto build. For example, if you select rauc, include the meta-rauc layer in your bblayers.conf file.
Configuration: Customize the configurations based on network protocols, storage mechanisms, and other preferences.
Deployment: Once the Yocto image with OTA capabilities is built, deploy it on the IoT devices.
Manage Updates: Use the respective tool's dashboard or CLI to monitor, manage, and trigger updates on the IoT fleet.
Benefits of OTA in IoT:¶
Reduced Maintenance Costs: Physical visits to devices for updates are virtually eliminated.
Extended Device Life: Devices can be kept up-to-date with the latest software, ensuring they remain relevant for longer.
Enhanced User Experience: Users benefit from new features and improved performance without needing to purchase new hardware.
Efficient Resource Utilization: By excluding unnecessary components in the OS, and by applying differential updates, the usage of network and storage resources is optimized.
Leveraging the Yocto Project for IoT projects ensures a lightweight, tailored operating system that's optimized for the specific needs of the device. Integrating OTA capabilities further enhances the value proposition by offering dynamic update possibilities, ensuring security, longevity, and enhanced capabilities for IoT devices. Given the wide range of benefits, it's evident that both Yocto and OTA updates are indispensable for contemporary IoT solutions. If you want the best of both worlds you combine the full firmware updates with a lighter mechanism that can operate in a much more pinpointed way and also introducing parametrization and individualization of the fleet through dynamic, API driven and templated mechanisms. Here we recommend to take a look at qbee.io and the qbee agent that is available as being part of the Yocto layer. In addition, it can be the driving force that initiates the updates, for example with Rauc.