Firmware Over-the-Air (FOTA) is a technology that allows manufacturers to wirelessly upgrade and update device firmware. FOTA-capable devices download upgrades and updates directly from the service provider, usually taking 3–10 minutes, depending on the user’s connection speed and the file’s size.
A device’s firmware is the software that gives basic machine instructions to enable the hardware to function and communicate with other software (typically apps) running on the device. It thus performs low-level hardware control, meaning the device won’t work without it.
Read More about Firmware Over-the-Air
FOTA was introduced to make upgrading and updating mobile devices more manageable and convenient for users. Watch this video to learn more about it.
Before we dive into FOTA, let’s discuss what firmware is first.
What Is Firmware?
Firmware is a specific class of computer software that controls a device’s basic hardware. An example would be the basic input/output system (BIOS) of a personal computer (PC), which manages the essential functions of a device. It also makes hardware parts with the operating system (OS). In simpler devices, the firmware also serves as the OS, controlling, monitoring, and manipulating the computer’s data functions.
Here’s a list of common firmware examples that get upgraded and updated via FOTA:
- BIOS in IBM-compatible PCs
- Code that makes a printer run
- Software that controls a heart defibrillator
- Software that controls the lights in an office building
- Software that controls the electronics in a car, such as the radio, the anti-lock braking system (ABS), the engine, and others
- Software that controls household appliances, such as microwave ovens, dishwashers, and other small appliances
Why Are Firmware Updates or Upgrades Important?
Firmware typically gets updated or upgraded due to three reasons:
- Security: FOTA is a means for device manufacturers to protect their products from vulnerabilities that threat actors can exploit.
- Feature updates: FOTA enables manufacturers to enable new features on devices consumers have bought. Hardware improvements can easily be made via FOTA, so manufacturers don’t need to send onsite technicians to every user’s place.
- Version upgrades: FOTA is critical to OSs with multiple versions, such as Android. Instead of sending various update or upgrade announcements, Google can simply list all version notifications on a single page and let users choose which to install.
What Does Firmware Over-the-Air Enable?
FOTA offers the following advantages:
- It lets manufacturers repair bugs in new but faulty units.
- It lets manufacturers remotely install new software updates, features, and services after a device has been purchased.
Where Do You Find Firmware Over-the-Air Announcements?
You can find firmware update announcements on a device manufacturer’s website support page, technology forums, or blog posts. These sites contain information from specific model upgrades to detailed implementation steps.
Today’s devices are primarily FOTA-capable and receive announcements for updates and upgrades via automated notifications. To install updates, users must ensure the device is Internet-connected and hit the UPDATE button. In most cases, they must read and accept an end-user license agreement (EULA).
What Are the Requirements for Obtaining Firmware Over-the-Air Updates?
Note that not all devices are FOTA-capable. That is especially true for older computers. But FOTA-enabled gadgets can receive the latest updates without connecting them to a PC. You’ll need to ensure the device meets the following requirements:
- Connected to a Wi-Fi or at least a 3G/4G network
- Has a battery that is at least 50% charged
- Is logged into an online account with its manufacturer
- Has almost 3GB of free memory
- Has authorized software installed
- An update- or upgrade-compatible device (not all upgrades or updates can be installed on a device)
Without FOTA capability, it would be very time-consuming and take so much effort for manufacturers to release security, feature, and version upgrades.
- FOTA allows a manufacturer to upgrade and update device firmware wirelessly.
- FOTA-capable devices download upgrades and updates directly from the service provider, usually taking 3–10 minutes, depending on the user’s connection speed and the file’s size.
- FOTA lets manufacturers repair bugs in new but faulty units.
- FOTA lets manufacturers remotely install new software updates, features, and services after a device has been purchased.
- To download and install FOTA upgrades or updates, your device needs to be connected to a Wi-Fi or at least a 3G/4G network, have a battery that is at least 50% charged, be logged into an online account with its manufacturer, have almost 3GB of free memory, has an authorized software installed, and is compatible with the update or upgrade.