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Understanding Firmware Updates: The Whats, Whys, and Hows

The gears and devices we use today are fated to become irrelevant or outdated with the advent of newer technologies. To cope with the advancement in the technology landscape, either you need to switch to the newer devices that are packed with the latest technologies or you need to update the device firmware to use those technologies without spending on the hardware.

Look around, how many gadgets or appliances do you see? Five? Ten? Fifty? Maybe even more. Devices and gadgets have become ubiquitous and we have started to rely on them heavily, may it be for work or for assistance in our chores. However, do you know what those devices rely on to accompany us with our tasks? Hardware and firmware. What is important for these devices to function properly is trouble-free hardware components and firmware that ensures the device performs its designated tasks.

While hardware design and development is the first phase in creating our devices, the firmware is what ensures a proper functioning of the hardware components. More often than not, our devices are running multiple programs at a time, which will eventually degrade the system performance and will slow the pace of operations. The obvious solution that people consider in such cases is to replace the old, worn out hardware with new parts. The other and the better way out is to update the firmware that the system runs on. Firmware updates are far more cost-effective and simpler when compared to replacing the hardware.


So, what is a firmware?

Firmware or microcode is basically a set of instructions needed for certain devices to perform the tasks that they were made for. In simpler words, it is the programming that is responsible to run the machine. 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.

Most of the devices that we are using today can be referred to as a computer-like system on its own. The manufacturers of these devices make continuous improvements to the programs (firmware) that is responsible for efficiently running the device.


Why do we need firmware updates?

As firmware carries out the integral functions of hardware, firmware updates bring some alterations in the program, which 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, the device user just needs to install the update that is developed for his particular device.

Some of the upsides of updating to the most recent firmware are:

  1. A firmware update will upgrade your device with advanced operational instructions without needing any upgradation in the hardware.
  2. By updating the firmware, you will be able to explore new features that are added to the device and also have an enhanced user experience while interacting with the device.
  3. A firmware update will optimize the performance of firmware or device driver, enhancing the performance of the processor.
  4. It will have a significant impact on the improvement of instruction times, out of order execution, branch prediction, and speculative execution time.
  5. A few issues may have developed in the system over time due to software updates; these issues can be handled with driver updates by providing service fixes.
  6. Users can prevent their gears from becoming obsolete by adopting the additional functionalities and capabilities that come with the firmware update.
  7. Optimizing device drivers will also help you quickly decode algorithms and thus utilize the hardware to an optimum level.
  8. The logic operation of most of the appliances we use resides in EPROM (Electronically Programmable Read Only Memory), which can be easily upgraded in case of firmware update.
  9. Regular firmware updates will reduce the need for expensive repairs or bug fixes.
  10. After updating the microcode, all the device peripherals will work better together, eliminating the delays, and thus enhancing the overall performance.


Things to keep in mind before applying a firmware update

Before updating the firmware, you need to make sure that the update is for the exact device model that you own. If you apply an update that is intended for a similar-but-different model, your device would be at a serious risk of becoming non-operational. In such cases, the old microcode will be overwritten with the new programs that are incompatible with your device model, so installing such update will brick your device.

How to find the updates?

Usually, the manufacturer of the device releases the updates. You can get to know about the updates available for your device by adopting any of the following ways:

  • The best and the most convenient way to get informed about the firmware updates is by registering your purchase with the manufacturer. You can either fill the registration card that comes with the device or register it online using the manufacturer’s website. Once you are registered, the manufacturer will alert you whenever there is any major update available for your device.
  • Another way to get to know about the updates is to visit the manufacturer’s website occasionally and look for updates for your device model. You can also get to know about minor updates, which can fix petty issues.
  • Moreover, if your device is too important and you would like to explore every single detail, you can join social media pages that are dedicated to that device. This is a sure fire way to keep your eye on every single change or update that is made available in the market.


As we journey into the future, several compelling trends are significantly reshaping the landscape of firmware updates.

  1. The Rise of Universal OTA Updates: Gone are the days when over-the-air (OTA) updates were limited to smartphones and computers. The Internet of Things (IoT) revolution has extended the reach of OTA updates to an array of devices, including smart home appliances, wearables, and even vehicles, making it possible for virtually everything to remain up-to-date.
  2. Fortified Security Measures: With cybersecurity threats becoming increasingly sophisticated, firmware updates are emerging as a frontline defense. Developers are leveraging these updates to patch vulnerabilities, fortify devices against malware attacks, and enhance security protocols to protect against potential breaches.
  3. The Age of Edge Computing: Firmware updates are adapting to the era of edge computing, ensuring that devices at the network’s edge can process updates locally. This not only reduces latency but also enables real-time implementation—a critical requirement for applications like autonomous vehicles and industrial machinery.
  4. Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD): The adoption of CI/CD pipelines in firmware updates is ushering in an era of rapid development and testing before deployment. This agile approach ensures that updates undergo meticulous scrutiny, guaranteeing their quality and functionality.
  5. AI-Driven Customization: Firmware updates are increasingly harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to create personalized user experiences. Devices analyze user behavior to make data-informed decisions, tailoring updates to individual preferences and needs.
  6. Blockchain-Backed Authenticity: To address concerns about update authenticity, blockchain technology is being integrated into firmware updates. This creates immutable records that users can verify, ensuring the legitimacy and security of updates—a critical feature for security-conscious consumers.
  7. Remote Diagnostics Empowerment: Firmware updates now encompass remote diagnostic capabilities. Devices are becoming self-aware, capable of identifying issues and requesting updates or repairs proactively. This significantly reduces downtime and maintenance costs.
  8. Predictive Maintenance: The landscape of firmware updates is shifting from reactive to proactive. Devices employ predictive analytics to anticipate maintenance requirements and proactively request updates or repairs before critical failures occur.
  9. Ethical Considerations and Data Privacy: In an IoT-driven world, firmware updates are embracing ethical concerns surrounding data privacy and consent. These updates are being designed with a strong focus on user consent and data protection, aligning with evolving regulations.
  10. Sustainability-Centric Updates: Sustainability practices are making an impact on firmware updates. Devices are now being designed with longevity in mind, with updates that optimize performance and extend product lifespans. This sustainable approach plays a crucial role in reducing electronic waste.

Finally, firmware updates are evolving from being mundane tasks to serving as the lifeblood of modern technology. These trends are set to reshape how devices receive and benefit from firmware updates, ensuring that our digital experiences remain secure, efficient, and relevant. As we eagerly anticipate the future, it is evident that the journey of firmware updates promises to be an exciting ride into uncharted technological frontiers.


Wrapping Up

Digital services are undergoing frequent changes because the process of progress is a never-ending one. New products are introduced to the market and are packed with newer technologies and better functionalities. By merely updating the firmware, your existing devices will become capable enough to compete with the newer products, giving you the latest functionalities on the same hardware.

eInfochips has developed expertise in all the areas of firmware development. The products that we have developed for our clients have helped them earn appreciation and accolades in their respective industry. If you too wish to join their list, get in touch with our team.

Picture of Riya Savjani

Riya Savjani

Riya Savjani was an Inbound and Corporate Marketing Executive at eInfochips. Being a Computer Engineer, she enjoys exploring and experimenting with futuristic technologies. She is a writer who is fascinated by the business world, so she tries her best to summarize how enterprises can leverage trending technologies. When not writing, you will find her binge-watching her favorite shows.

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