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Low-level software often moves quite slowly and backwards compatibility is important. Embedded systems have to be maintained for decades. So knowing how do handle legacy code, proper dependency management, release management, and requirement management is quite important. Similarly the cost of bugs is usually quite high, because updates are hard. So writing testable code, testing and other QA activities are more important.

All of that stuff is changing though.

I would never ship a product today without remote signed upgrade ability.

All devices that plugs into a windows PC can use Windows Update for example to upgrade firmware. Any device that sits at a remote location probably ought to have a GSM modem in (adding only $1 to the cost of the device) for tracking uptime and firmware updates. Any device which offers an API to other devices should have 'provide firmware update' as part of that API.

Obviously security is a concern with updates, but by signing update files, and making sure downgrades aren't allowed, the security benefits of being able to patch vulnerabilities outweigh the disadvantages of the device manufacturer being able to produce evil update files.

Those who say that your lightbulb/toaster/USB hub don't need automated software upgrades are naive. Software on them will typically consist of many libraries totaling perhaps hundreds of thousands of lines of code. Security vulnerabilities will be found in that code, and even if the security of this particular device isn't of concern, it can be used as a jumping off point to attack other networked devices or for data exfiltration.

Where can I get a GSM modem and support components for $1 in BOM costs, let alone $1 for finished product cost (inc intentional radiator cert and distribution/channel markup)?

What about the $1-2/mo network charge? Or battery life considerations? I've got sensors that run for 2-3 years on a CR123a battery. That power profile isn't going to support a GSM connection.

Have a complete kit with free delivery for a dollar:

£0.96 | DIY KIT GSM GPRS M590 gsm module Short Message Service SMS module for project for Arduino remote sensing alarm https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/b4tPrIy0

Lots of providers are happy to provide worldwide service for free, as long as you pay $10 per gigabyte. I generally budget 1 check-in per day, of about 250 bytes, so a coin cell can easily power it for a few years with a total service cost for 2 years of just a few cents.

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