Device COntext: What device types are on your network?

The basics of device context

Device context, also known as device typing, is the ability of a network  to determine what types of devices are on the network. Is it a phone or a watch or a laptop? An android or an Apple? an iPhone X or an iPhone 12?  Device context is leveraged by to networks operators to better secure the network, optimize the user experience and provide better user support. For example, a network operator may want to know how many support engineers it needs for different operating systems. Device context can provide that information to the operator.

What has changed?

The last 10 years has seen the industry go through a “darkening” of the network as OS makers have implemented a variety of measures to improve user privacy. In terms of user privacy, these are welcomed changes. However, there have been secondary effects including making it very difficult for network operators to discover what types of devices are on the network. Historically, things like the hostnames, mac address, mac address range and HTTP user agents enabled operators to determine OS version and in some cases even model types of devices. However, the recent release of iOS15 with host name encryption, mac address randomization and the introduction of the private relay function essentially eliminated the use of these features for device context. Thus, while a network operator can tell an iOS device from an android device, they cannot determine if the Apple device is an iPhone X vs. iPhone12 vs. Apple watch vs. another iOS device. Similar changes are either implemented or expected to be implements on Android and windows devices. Thus the only reliable way to determine device manufacturer and model is via physical layer data. 

The Levl-iQ Device Context Solution

LEVL’s device context engine provides near real-time performance, quickly establishing a device’s make, model and OS version. In contrast to solutions that only use network data, LEVL-IQ uses a combination of physical layer information and machine learning to establish a device’s context. As a result, the LEVL solution is more accurate, faster, and future proofed as compared to other solutions. This unique capability also enables automated learning of new device types as they are seen on the network. No other solution today can accurately differentiate between an Apple devices that run iOS. As an example, no other solution today can accurately differentiate between an Apple devices that run iOS (Apple Watch vs. an Apple iPhone). This provides network operators increased insights on their current network operation and on what their future needs may be.

Figure 1: LEVL’s easy to understand dashboard show a variety of devices on the network with the make, model and OS discovered using the LEVL-IQ device context engine.

Find your answer to Device COntext and identity issues

LEVL can help you maintain and enhance network services while making it easier to maintain user privacy. Reach out to learn more.