Just think about how modern logistic companies operate. IoT devices track fleet vehicles, keep track of warehouse stock, and also play their part in production lines to create products. When it comes to production lines, IoT sensors and devices measure the machines and production performance. Moreover, these sensors and devices also measure inventory and help the production line know how fast they should go according to the analyzed data. IoT devices even notify drivers when they should get ready for pickup. This is all made possible with IoT Gateway or Smart Gateway devices. There is a lot of occurrences that we can’t see with the bare eye. Devices use different protocols to communicate with multiple devices over several networks, like Bluetooth, WiFi, Z-Wave, and Ethernet, etc.
Things get a little overwhelming, but smart gateways are available to solve various challenges of the old model. Security is one of the biggest challenges and we must find a way to secure those IoT gateway devices. In this article, we will find out how to make these devices secure. But before, that, we would like to share a brief introduction to Smart or IoT gateway devices. We will also see how these devices work.
An IoT or smart gateway device is used to bridge the gap of communication between the Internet of Things devices, systems, equipment, sensors, and the cloud server. IoT gateways systematically connect the cloud and the field to provide local storage and processing solutions.
These devices also offer the ability to control field devices autonomously according to the data input via sensors. The edge systems have an edge gateway that sits at its intersection between the local intranet and the external internet. Therefore, it is an important network connectivity access point, both outside and inside the device ecosystem.
As the requirements and capabilities of devices increase, it becomes impossible to make them communicate with systems directly. Some controllers and sensors are not compatible with energy-intensive protocols, such as Bluetooth or WiFi.
A few devices collect data that is invaluable and overwhelming in the raw form. These devices connect to several private and public networks. A smart gateway executes various significant functions from filtering data to encrypting, managing, processing, and translating protocols.
If you assume an Internet of Things ecosystem, the gateway stands between the sensors and devices to establish communication with a cloud server.
Smart gateways assist in ridging the space between the IT infrastructure and operations within the business. They accomplish this thing through optimization of the system performance via operational data that they collect for processing in real-time at a network edge or in a field. IoT gateways are well-capable of performing various enhancements on both IT and OT silos. Take a look at the following information.
High Scalability: IoT gateways can collect intelligent information from the cloud or datacenter, and then move it into the network edge or field.
Lowering Costs: The IoT gateways come with the benefits of high storage, memory, and processing power. Therefore, the end-point devices are not required to do this at all.
Quickest Production: A more advanced and accelerated production line may decrease the time to market the product significantly.
Reduction in Telecommunication Cost: There is less machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. It results in smaller traffic and network, which reduces the telecommunication cost.
A smart gateway also mitigates risks with its capabilities. These gateways have the strength to isolate sensors and devices that are not functioning before causing greater issues for production lines.
With an increase in sensors and device numbers, the communication numbers also grow that occur over various private and public networks. Communications among the cloud, the gateway, and the ‘things’ must be highly secure to avert unrestricted access or possible data tampering. It will normally occur through the PKI infrastructure.
The ‘things’ that connect are provided an identity that’s a combination of a Digital Certificate (or cryptographic keys). As a result, it allows the communication for encryption. It can be a little handful for managing without the IoT gateway help.
Assume that we have equipment that manages all device certificates. You require a gateway for assisting in the mediation of devices on-boarding (identity provisioning and certificates installation). We will go through more details about this thing below.
Assume that your devices have become vulnerable or you get a notification from the sensors that the warehouse temperature is very hot. If you don’t have a smart gateway, you will have to fix the problem manually since your sensors and devices are very small to accomplish these tasks themselves. If you have the gateway, it will receive the data. Then, the configured gateway sends firmware updates across all devices whenever it detects that the warehouse temperature is hot.
We have three core security principles; authentication, integrity, and confidentiality. You have to make sure that communications between devices and gateway must meet each of these principles while communicating in the external and internal networks.
It is also important to know that a gateway is often more prone to attacks due to a couple of reasons. The first reason is that gateways have greater processing power that they can utilize to operate intensive applications. Additional power means there should be better software. However, better software usually means that the hacker has more chances to exploit it.
The second reason is its location. The edge device location of the gateway between the intranet and the internet is the entry point for the threat vector. However, we can secure the Internet of Things gateway by following the below-listed steps.
The initial step requires us to provide an identity to the gateway device. We can do this by utilizing the Digital Certificate X.509. External entities that want to connect to the smart gateway can now perform gateway identity verification that is enabling NTLS or HTTPS protocols. Commands issued to the field sensors or devices would now come from the trusted device.
Since the gateway is vulnerable to physical tampering, we can extract and clone private keys. It will leave the gateway device susceptible to spoofing and even MITM attacks. For its prevention, we can use additional security measures, like embedding a TPM device into the gateway with the help of a PUF. It would help us store Digital Certificates’ private keys securely and make sure that they will always stay with the gateway.
After enabling strong gateway device identity, you must now think that how to ensure strong sensors and devices identity in a field. Since a few of them are probably not able to establish a connection with the internet, it will become difficult to provision identity via SMS (certificate-management-service).
Instead of that, you can utilize your gateway as the trusted mechanism for securing the things connected to your gateway device. The gateway device works like a proxy between the field device and the platform.
Now, your devices and gateway are secure. Therefore, the communication occurring in the intranet is protected. You have the security, authentications, and confidentiality that make your Internet of Things ecosystem end-to-end secure with the PKI infrastructure.
Now that you understand what a smart gateway is, you must be convinced about using the gateway in your IoT ecosystem. Once you have convinced important individuals in the business about the perks of IoT gateways, there is a new task ahead.
Next, you must make sure that you invest in the right gateway device. Remember that the selection of the gateway can make or break your project. Therefore, you must be careful when selecting the gateway. There are a few critical considerations that you must keep in mind about the gateway device. Let’s take a look at some of the key factors to consider.
Strong security is essential to the communication channel. In addition to that, IoT payload transmission encryption also holds immense importance.
There must be a feasible plan for situations when the speed of the network connection becomes low or you will be charged by an amount of the data that moves through the gateway towards the cloud. We advise you to use protocols, like UDP, MQTT, CoAP over TCP.
What if your internet connection completely goes down? There is no guarantee that you will always be experiencing smooth internet connectivity. The gateway software must mitigate this thing by going without the connectivity. It must also utilize data queuing and caching if the connection breaks down for long.
Your smart gateway will unavoidably needOTA (over the air) updates. So, it requires an operating system, such as Linux that supports this.
The gateway device needs to persist in unexpected power cycles, like power outages or power overloads. At least in such states, the gateway must offer minimum functionality, while still establishing a connection with the cloud to make sure that it restores itself.
By their look, IoT gateways are very identical to routers and modems. But unlike routers, the Internet of Things can incorporate data from a device that links with several network protocols, such as WiFi, Bluetooth, cellular, Ethernet, and more. Internet of Things Industrial gateways also provide additional industrial interfaces as compared to routers to communicate among field applications. Moreover, the design of physical Internet of Things gateways makes them a perfect solution for difficult industrial environments.
With long-life components and rugged housing, gateways can last more challenging environments. Such challenging environments include extreme temperatures, humidity, and vibration. Therefore, gateways are different and much better alternatives to routers with many additional features.
To create a better understanding of the differences between a router and a smart gateway, we must study the complexities in the architecture of IoT gateways. Therefore, take a quick look at the following significant information in this regard.
The hardware of the smart gateway consists of a controller or microprocessor that depends on the memory and processing speed required. It also depends on the connectivity module (Bluetooth, WiFi, cellular, etc.), circuitry, and sensors.
The operating system is the software that runs the programs, including the gateway hardware on the gateway device. You can choose from operating systems, such as RTOS, Linux, and Java, etc. This selection depends on your gateway’s application.
The abstraction layer enables the software to develop and control without hardware assistance. It adds agility and flexibility to the design of the application and makes the evolution and software updates easier.
It is the layer that works as an interface between sensors, modules, and the device. Integration of specific stacks depends on the application requirements.
IoT gateways must track all sensors and connected devices it is communicating with. The layer manages and tracks the settings, properties, and configurations of connected devices and sensors within the ecosystem.
We can select the Internet of Things protocols as per the frequency and amount of the cloud communicated data. Gateways can connect through cellular modules (3G/4G/5G), WiFi, and/or Ethernet. However, the underlying layer of the protocol is usually TCP IP.
Smart gateways use to manage data through connected devices and sensors. The layer of data management controls the streaming, data storage, and filtering. Moreover, it also helps in controlling data traffic for minimizing delays to make sure device fidelity.
A smart gateway incorporates customized software for managing specific application requirements. This layer interrelates with other layers to manage data requirements securely, efficiently, and efficiently to the Internet of Things application.
Apart from the above-listed parts and components, the architecture of an IoT gateway includes more elements. Those include cloud connectivity management, gateway data transfer, security, and Firmware OTA (over the air) updates. The Internet of Things is flourishing and it will soon be an integral part of all businesses.
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