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Should SCOTA Supersede FOTA?

Posted: December 1, 2010

By Ilana Bogomolny, Senior Product Manager, Red Bend Software

FOTA – Updating of Firmware Over the Air – is a successful mobile technology that is routinely used in millions of mobile phones and devices to introduce new features and provide performance improvements. In comparison, SCOTA – managing Software Components Over the Air – is a relative newcomer. SCOTA, however, has already become a common feature in operators’ requirements and device specifications, with early adopters among some of the leading device manufacturers.

Red Bend customers who are implementing, or planning to implement, SCOTA on their mobile devices expect to use it as the only software management process for the entire device software stack. Therefore, the question arises whether devices that support SCOTA should still use FOTA to update firmware, or whether SCOTA can and should absorb FOTA functionality, making SCOTA the sole software-managing mechanism.

With FOTA, the entire firmware is updated, from the OS kernel and middleware to the top of the built-in application stack. FOTA uses the OMA DM (Open Mobile Alliance Device Management) enabler called FUMO – Firmware Update Management Object.

SCOTA enables more granular and flexible management of discrete software components. With SCOTA, one or more piece of software can be changed without requiring an update to the rest of the device. SCOTA’s popularity will increase with the proliferation of app stores as there is now a need to update software components so that consumers can have access to the latest applications, without needing to replace devices. SCOTA uses the OMA DM enabler called SCOMO – Software Component Management Object.

The main advantage for a single, unified mechanism on the device for managing software components, as well as for the device firmware, is that it enables dependencies to be defined between software components and the firmware version they require. When such a dependency exists and a new or updated software component requires a firmware update, it becomes possible to implement a single, holistic update operation handling both the software and firmware components by the same mechanisms. The result is a seamless update and a properly working device no matter how the consumer wants to personalize it.

Merging FOTA into SCOTA also makes it simple to transition the management of some software components that are embedded in the firmware image and updated via FUMO to be handled as individual entities managed via SCOMO. Operator-branded applications packs are a good example.

Of course, for devices where only FOTA is required and where component management of any kind is not planned, there is no advantage in replacing FOTA with SCOTA.

For OEMs and operators that have already implemented FOTA (FUMO) and are introducing SCOTA (SCOMO) on their device, it only takes a few steps to make sure that firmware updates are managed through SCOMO. Looking toward the future, the OMA DM SCOMO standard is almost ready to handle firmware updates. There are a few enhancements that need to be made to the SCOMO standard if it is to fully supersede FUMO as the FOTA enabler. The good news is that planning has started for the next version of the SCOMO standard, so certain features will be promoted to enable the FOTA-SCOTA merger.

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