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Integration of FOTA (Firmware-Over-The-Air) Module with Solar Energy Harvesting Platform

About the Customer:

Our customer is a Subsidiary of one of the World’s largest Independent Power Producer (IPP) (of Clean and Renewable Energy). They were actively seeking a robust solution to enhance the efficiency of their field deployed Solar Tracking Systems.

Business Challenge:

During the evaluation and PoC stage, a need to remotely update the Field Gateway Device (  Master Controller) software  was realized. This remote management of the software of the Gateway device was necessary to facilitate the following:

  • Regular Security Patch updates.
  • Update the devices with new version of the software (with latest bug-fixes and feature enhancements).

During software updates of the system, the customer  also wanted to ensure the following:

  • Minimal to Zero system downtime.
  • No impact on the normal operations of the solar harvesting deployments.

In order to meet these requirements, it was decided to integrate FOTA  (Firmware Over-The-Air) update feature with the IoT-powered Solar Energy harvesting System.

Embitel Solution:

Once the scope of the project scope was defined, our team started the ground work for FOTA (Firmware update Over The Air) implementation.

The Technology roadmap for FOTA Solution Development roadmap comprised of the following:

  1. Development of Bootloader for firmware reprogramming of the application device (Field Gateway Device/master controller).
  2. Design and Development of the cloud based FOTA image hosting server, which includes:
    • A web server,
    • The application server and,
    • The database server.
    • Development of Server Interface (GUI).
    • Integration of communication stacks ( MQTT, HTTPS) for  secure data exchange between server and devices.

    Following is a representation of the FOTA cloud server architecture:

    FOTA Integration
  3. Managing the scheduled release of FOTA (Firmware update-Over-The-Air).It was decided to schedule all the batch processes of the FOTA update after sunset evenings. Reason – this ensured uninterrupted generation of energy by the solar panels.This would also ensure that the FOTA updates are implemented without affecting the normal operations of the Solar Harvesting systems and lead to minimized system downtime.
  4. Implementation of FOTA Event Tracking and reporting , to keep track of successful instances of firmware updates. This feature helped in tracking if the firmware image flashing has failed or download is incomplete.

The Impact:

Integration of such a well-defined and robust FOTA update mechanism helped us deliver the following business value-adds:

  1. The Field Gateway Devices are always powered by the latest version of the firmware software. This ensures system security and also enables the devices to deliver a consistent, reliable/fail-safe performance.
  2. The future scope of the enterprise IoT-based Solar harvesting system can be extended anytime to support new feature enhancements and functional improvements through a simple FOTA update.
  3. Enabled a simplified, one-click resolution of critical bugs in the application software.
  4. The controlled and scheduled FOTA release mechanism at non-peak hours helped in minimizing the loss in revenue and performance associated with system downtime.

Tools & Technologies:

  • Python: Server Side scripting.
  • Postgress SQL: The database server.
  • Django: Server -side Web framework.
  • Nginx: Web Server.
  • Communication Protocol (Server and Devices):
  • MQTT Protocol: For command exchanges between the cloud server and the field devices.
  • HTTPS: Secure transmission of OTA updates from server to the application devices.

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