Many people know the difference between firmware and software, however, not all of them understand what is firmware update, why it is necessary for a device or hardware, and its importance. Let’s find out below.
A firmware update is the process of updating or improving the software or code that is embedded in a specific electronic device, such as computers, wearable devices, smart home systems, IoT devices, or smartphones. Remember the firmware is in charge of controlling specific components of a device, for example, a microprocessor, memory cards, chips, or sensors.
Updating a firmware usually requires downloading the new firmware from the manufacturer’s website or server. Then, the device automatically runs the new version for being installed, and thus, it replaces the old version.
It is not common to frequently update the firmware of a device. It could take months or years to have a new firmware. This doesn’t mean they are difficult to develop, it is because firmware tends to be really stable, and since it controls small components of a device, it doesn’t require a lot of changes throughout the years.
However, there are devices that receive frequent firmware updates. Why? Because they constantly interact with new devices and require modifications to guarantee their connectivity and stability. For instance, products like modems, printers, pc-integrated and dedicated graphic cards, among others.
Importance of firmware
Electronics product design is crucial for the correct performance of a device, but this is not enough, the firmware plays an important role in how every component of the hardware communicates with each other, controls specific functions, gathers data, and sends it to a software or over the internet.
There are several reasons that explain why firmware is important: Device control, stability, security, performance, and compatibility.
A firmware guarantees a device or component of a product can be monitored and controlled, for example, a temperature sensor or motion sensor. If you don’t have a firmware that can control this sensor, you won’t be able to gather data from the environment.
Having a stable firmware is a must to ensure that your device doesn’t present sudden crashes or issues that affect the user experience (see IoT with python). Imagine buying IoT motion sensor products that can’t alert the user of any suspicious movements around his house at night because the firmware isn’t stable, the user won’t be able to get reliable information.
Another reason for installing firmware in a device has to do with its performance. The firmware allows the device to work properly, to store data, and to communicate with ease with other devices.
A firmware also is important because it allows communication or integration with new devices that enter the market, as well as applications and software.
Benefits of firmware updates
Firmware can be updated, and it is necessary for many reasons. When you update a firmware, you are improving the performance of your device, or probably adding new features, fixing bugs, extending the compatibility with more products, and enhancing its security.
Let’s say a microprocessor has been presenting problems to work properly under certain circumstances, such as high temperature of the device, or when it has been turned on for a long period of time.
If the firmware development company identifies these issues, they can release a firmware update that helps the microprocessor to respond better to high temperature situations, or to a long usage of the device (IoT examples in daily life).
On the other hand, with the growth of IoT devices in the market, there are now new systems that connect with different products, and they probably use new protocols, technologies, or interfaces. In this case, it would be necessary to check if the installed firmware in any of those devices is compatible with the new technologies, and make sure they are easy to connect and work together.
Another example is one that we commonly experience at home. If you have a router that provides you with wifi, sometimes it needs updates for ensuring the stability and performance of the router.
From time to time, there are changes in the networks and frequencies on which the wifi is provided, and the hardware can get blocked because of constant use, or sudden changes in the frequency. This is a good example of firmware updates.
If we talk about laptops, there are advanced pieces of hardware that ensure a great performance for tasks such as gaming, programming, or video editing. This hardware also needs regular updates to ensure the stability and performance of the technology when new software or games are installed.
Why are firmware updates necessary?
No one wants a product that is obsolete, then, companies constantly look for new ways to maintain their products updated. And a way to do that is through firmware updates (see IoT business models examples).
Companies try to do their best to add new features to their hardware that weren’t activated in previous releases. Thanks to firmware updates, they can add new functions. How? Maybe the technologies included in the device already have a lot of potential, and the company is constantly working on new ways to give the best use to the microprocessors, chips or sensors.
There are many possibilities when you update the firmware of your device. It can work faster, save energy consumption, or gather information in a different way that helps the hardware save resources (IoT failure examples).
It is also necessary for updating several IoT devices at once that are connected to a same network, by updating the firmware, companies protect such devices against potential cyberattacks (see scaling IoT).
We hope you understand now what are firmware updates, why they are important, and the benefits they bring to any device. If you want to update the firmware of your device, or you are thinking of developing a new product for the market, you can contact our firmware development team. We will gladly help you with any questions you may have.