Introduction to Over the Air (OTA) Firmware Update

Firmware is basically a set of instructions needed for certain devices to perform the tasks that they were made for. Unlike software, the firmware is not created to perform specific functions on the hardware, rather it is used to carry out the core functions of the hardware.

As firmware carries out the integral functions of hardware, firmware updates bring some alterations to the program. The updates are necessary to enable the corresponding devices to operate proficiently as well as to fix the bugs for better security. To update a device’s firmware, user just needs to install the update that is developed for the particular device.

This webinar focuses on the what, why, and how of over-the-air (OTA) firmware update.


During this webinar, we covered following:

  • Why does firmware need an update?
  • Methods for firmware update
  • Pros & Cons of both manual and OTA firmware update
  • Flow and process of OTA firmware update
  • OTA data partition & security measures

Why does firmware need an update?

While developing IoT devices, one of the most difficult problems to solve is how to update the firmware on the device that is in the market. Once the device is deployed, firmware updates play a critical part in its lifetime, particularly when devices have a long lifetime, or suppose the devices are deployed in some remote area or inaccessible areas or where manual intervention is cost-prohibitive or otherwise difficult.

The need for a firmware update may be to fix bugs in software, add new functionality, or to re-configure the device. However, during the firmware update process, we must ensure that the firmware image is authenticated and attempts to flash a malicious firmware image are prevented. The firmware image can be confidentiality protected so that attempts by an adversary to recover the plaintext binary can be prevented. Obtaining the plaintext binary is often one of the first steps to mount an attack.

Over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates involve remotely updating the code on an embedded device. The update is delivered wirelessly, i.e., “over the air,” and sent directly to the device, without the need to tinker with the underlying hardware. OTA updates are typically delivered through cellular data or high-speed internet.

Pros of OTA firmware updates

  • The biggest benefit of OTA IoT firmware updates is that you can continuously add new features, fix bugs, and improve product behavior, even after the device is in the end user’s hands. You can even try out experimental features with A/B testing, sending different versions to different groups of users.
  • OTA firmware updates are also generally cost-saving. You can manage the firmware across your fleet of devices from a seamless, unified interface.
  • Without having to recall the devices, the vendors can update the firmware on the devices to make sure that they are up-to-date, and the latest known problems are patched.
  • By using OTA updates, the need for in-person maintenance is eliminated, thereby cutting the cost significantly and removing the need to provide field services.
  • OTA updates can be used to add features that were not originally included with the devices, thereby increasing the value of the device, which can be used as a ‘paid upgrade’.


To learn more about the OTA firmware update, please watch the full webinar.


This webinar was presented by Decos, a cutting-edge technology services partner ready to meet your software needs in the healthcare domain. If you have any questions about this webinar or you seek advice on how to perform test automation on your project, please contact Devesh at We would love to discuss it with you!