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John McDonald
July 09, 2020

What is Zero Touch Provisioning for the IoT?

what is zero touch provisioning internet of things


Zero Touch Provisioning for IoT

Data stream provisioning is a critical part of any remote asset management deployment. Zero Touch Provisioning, a term commonly used to define rapid IT network deployments, implies low-friction, software-defined data stream creation. Organizations that want to take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT) must be able to configure smart devices according to their unique business needs with as little friction as possible. 


Unfortunately, industrial IoT (IIoT) provisioning can be harder than expected. Zero Touch Provisioning is out of reach for most IoT deployments. To understand why, let’s define “provisioning” for commonplace IIoT devices.


One definition we like is as follows:


IIoT Provisioning is defined as configuring the IIoT device to interface with the customer's physical equipment (“Thing”) to collect, manage, and distribute the Thing data to the desired end user or system.


While this may not appear complicated on the surface, the HOW behind the configuration process can be challenging. Users often carry the technical burden of setting up their IIoT sensors, in addition to managing hardware, data protocols, communication layers, and more. 


Put simply, this is not Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP).


wellaware remote equipment monitoring


Zero Touch Provisioning scales the IoT faster

Ultimately, what the end customer cares about is getting access to the data from the Thing the IIoT device is monitoring. We believe users shouldn’t have to know anything about the actual IIoT widget to use it properly. After all, they are experts in optimizing their equipment, not IIoT infrastructure. 


Even companies that tout “simple device provisioning” still require users to set up data tables, register length and type, parity, stop bits, baud rates, etc. The list goes on and on.


Not only is this highly prohibitive for everyday users, but it also creates barriers to accomplishing the end goal - understanding the Thing itself! By forcing users into the realm of systems integration, they end up managing their equipment and the IIoT devices that are supposed to facilitate easy remote monitoring and control.


We’ve seen this happen time and time again, and so have all the major consulting firms that help customers pursue digital transformation with the IoT. Hardware provisioning complexity is one of the main reasons businesses don’t adopt and scale IIoT across their ecosystems. 


It’s a shame. Fortunately, we’ve discovered some ways to overcome this IIoT deployment problem for our clients.


zero touch provisioning enables iot scale

Zero Touch Provisioning allows IoT digital transformation projects to scale


How Zero Touch Provisioning Simplifies IIoT

Let’s go back to the definition of “provisioning” we shared previously.


“Configuring the IIoT device to interface with the customer's physical equipment (“Thing”) to collect, manage, and distribute the Thing data to the desired end user or system."


Now, what happens when we remove the first part of the definition? We’re left with ..."collect, manage, and distribute the Thing data to the desired end user or system.”


Sounds cleaner, right? We agree. So let's re-frame our definition:

Zero Touch Provisioning for the IoT means to rapidly collect, manage, and distribute Thing data to the desired end user or system.

The goal of a good IIoT provisioning framework should be to handle the complexity of “configuring the IIoT device to interface with the customer’s physical equipment,” the first part of the definition. In other words, Zero Touch Provisioning for the IoT should integrate machines and sensors so that clients can get their data faster and realize the benefits of having a remote asset management system immediately. 


why wellaware connect to internet of things


Our Approach to Zero Touch Provisioning

One of our clients’ favorite aspects of our platform is our Zero Touch Provisioning framework for our IoT devices. We’ve built an extensive digital Thing library that contains many of the machines and assets that our clients typically manage. If we don’t have a specific type of asset yet, our rapid templating framework makes developing new configurations trivial and fast. So, once an installer has connected a WellAware device to a Thing to be monitored and controlled, they only have to select the right template from a clean user interface. 


Rather than provision from the ground up, most configuration settings are implemented instantly upon selection from our robust library. In IT terms, this is called the “software-defined edge.” This, as opposed to the “user-defined edge,” means that our users no longer carry the burden of defining edge device properties to capture information. Our IoT devices will automatically load the appropriate application and ask for site-specific information, creating rich metadata and structure around the data streams for the Thing that has been connected.


wellaware zero touch provisioning for iot devices

Zero Touch Provisioning of WellAware IoT devices rapidly delivers data streams to user dashboards



That’s it!


Within seconds, asset data is visible in the user interface in the correct format with appropriate context. No one has to make any phone calls or tap technical support. Clients don’t have to spend any time in a device management console. There is the data, where you want it, how you want it, without all the fuss.


Seems too good to be true, right? We get that a lot. 


In reality, there is a tremendous degree of complexity behind the scenes. You just don’t have to worry about any of that. 


As a managed services provider, we offer Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) so that our customers can focus on what matters most to them - better understanding and optimizing the Things they manage to drive better business outcomes.


Need a better and faster way to get high quality asset data?


Give us a call.

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