Under the Spotlight: IoT SIM Cards

‘SIM cards for the Internet of Things (IoT)’ is a title that probably means more than we think – both in terms of what it represents now, and what it may represent in the future. IoT has been augmenting aspects of our daily lives ever since it was first introduced – linking billions of devices, machines, systems, and people – and sharing valuable data between them. The need for reliable and cost-effective IoT SIM cards is growing, and following the upward trend and growth projections for the wider IoT solutions market.


When we compare IoT SIM cards with their more traditional counterparts like you would find in your mobile phone, the results really hammer home the fact that IoT SIM cards are much more reliable, secure, and fit for use in an industrial or business IoT solution than SIM cards from traditional cell service providers. According to recently published articles, IoT devices are being used by almost 94% of enterprises worldwide. With a wide range of possible applications, IoT SIM cards are expected to be an integral part of the internet and networking community.


IoT SIM Cards vs. Regular SIM Cards

The best way to understand the difference and advantages of an IoT SIM card, is to compare it to the widely known and commonly used ‘Regular’ SIM card. So listed below, you’ll find the main points of comparison between IoT SIM cards and regular SIM cards:


Network Connectivity

IoT SIM cards are designed to meet the very specific and very complex needs of a modern-day enterprise’s smart devices. The provision of a reliable internet connection that keeps the devices ‘always online’ and ready for data sharing is one of an IoT SIM card’s notable advantages over a standard SIM, and this is made possible through the ability to switch between multiple cellular networks. For uninterrupted connectivity, IoT SIMs offer flexibility as they can be configured to switch between networks depending on thresholds and variables set by the business across global locations. In most cases this key functionality rules out the need to purchase multiple SIM cards that are suitable for specific regions, or the threat of roaming charges.


Secure Networking 

Enterprises can really benefit from the adaptable security settings IoT SIM cards offer. Whether it’s having a central dashboard to manage all IoT SIM cards used within a given IoT solution, end-to-end encryption, the freedom to change security and privacy preferences (all the way down to the individual user level, including when credentials need challenging and verification), or even managing access to secure networks among multiple carriers – it all makes IoT SIM cards a more secure option for data exchange through smart devices.  The IoT SIM administrator or manager is also able to restrict certain SIMs and users from accessing unauthorized sites and apps, and even completely shut a SIM card down remotely if needed.  Having the ability to add certain security layers can also give project owners peace of mind, and better control over all connected devices.


Remote Connectivity and Access

Connecting devices locally is one thing, but connecting devices across multiple geographic locations (including across international borders) takes connectivity to a whole new level. Connecting IoT devices using robust multi-network coverage is a task that can only be handled by IoT SIM cards, because it’s only possible when a user’s SIM card is able to connect to multiple carriers worldwide. The IoT SIM card makes IoT solutions achievable and more cost effective for global operations.  Another key feature of the IoT SIM card is the user’s ability to manage and control their IoT SIM cards remotely and perform actions in bulk. Delivered via some form of management dashboard or hub, this functionality allows users to see which devices are connected and where they are located, to ping them for new updates as needed, and to turn connectivity on or off in specific situations.  All of this ability means that there will be very little need for projects to have someone on-site in remote areas, in turn cutting down costs for the business.


Data Usage and Cost Management

IoT SIM cards make managing data use and transparency of costs across connected devices easier. Comparing this aspect with regular SIMs, an IoT SIM user can easily reallocate their data budget across their whole fleet of SIMs as and when they need to – as opposed to paying a standard rate for each SIM’s data budget whether they use it or not.  This means that you aren’t forced to pay over the odds for SIMs that don’t use all their data allocation, or pay extra fees for SIMs that go over their data allowance. 


Example Use Cases for IoT SIM Cards

Pod Group knows that IoT SIM cards have a wide range of applications – too many to list in full – but here are some tried and tested scenarios for the effective application and use of IoT SIM cards.


Cellular Failover

As enterprises move towards automation and use of more smart technologies within their business, they become more reliant on internet connectivity for information provision and the success of operational processes.  One of the biggest challenges businesses face is the potential disruption of critical business processes when their internet connection fails.  Adding a cellular failover option allows systems to stay connected even when the primary connection goes down, but only enables the use of data through IoT SIM cards in such emergency situations. Cellular IoT devices like IoT SIM cards are designed to handle cellular failovers while hardwire-based internet infrastructures are highly susceptible to natural disasters, especially in rural areas. The ability to handle unforeseen situations like a connection outage is part of what makes IoT SIM cards dependable, and the smart choice for business.


Smart Electronics and IoT Devices

IoT is revolutionizing our day-to-day interactions and the way we gather and transmit data.   IoT has allowed enterprises to empower field operatives along with global teams, giving them the ability to share real-time data and critical information from remote locations.  IoT SIM cards allow businesses to customize device access (including for smartphones and wearables), giving the business the flexibility to change settings and meet their needs – along with control over what data is sent, received, and consumed over a period of time.   Businesses are now able to monitor indoor and outdoor devices with ease, and in addition address the challenges seen regarding moving vehicles and logistics tracking.


IoT Industrialization

IoT has reshaped industrialization from its traditional ‘working hard’ state, to an evolving existence of ‘working smart and working efficiently’.  When referring to IoT industrialization, because there are a wide range of possible applications that themselves are only focused on industrial use, ‘industrial IoT’ (or ‘IIoT’) is often considered a separate field of study, with it’s own dedicated research areas for global development. IoT SIM cards have enabled us to create better communication channels for workers, machines, supply chain operatives, and senior leaders who work within industrial sectors. With industrial IoT innovation, machinery and internet connectivity often go hand in hand, as new automated processes improve the quality of work being produced and reduce the cost of labor. If problems arise, emergency measures can also be put in place quicker, and the problems can be picked up quicker too. And through it all, a myriad of reports can be transmitted – irrespective of distance and travel time – to the people that need them. IoT SIM cards have been a great help in the innovations that have shaped both the modern industrial landscape, and the future of industrial IoT.


Home Automation & Utility Services

With our increased demand for finding easier ways to do everyday things, people have welcomed many smart devices into their homes to assist with and automate many of our routine domestic tasks. Many subscription-based home monitoring services such as security, fire, and access alarms are connected to the provider’s database using IoT SIM cards installed in the devices.  Using SIM cards designed specifically for IoT use allows providers to access their devices remotely for tech support and maintenance, and keeps these devices connected even if the power or the WiFi connection fails on site.


Another successful use case for IoT SIM card deployments within domestic & business settings involves the energy sector, and the installation of smart meters.  With these meters consumers are made more aware of their own energy consumption, giving them the chance to save where they can and also lessen the burden of having to remember to send meter readings to their energy supplier.  The use of smart meters in businesses and homes has provided both suppliers and consumers transparency in the use of energy, and better billing practices. 


Alarms and GPS Tracking

Building alarms and GPS tracking have been in use for a very long time, even before they were introduced for wider consumer use.  These technologies are now very commonplace in domestic and business settings, and are often embedded in emerging technologies in some form of cross-industry application.


Key institutions and establishments like schools, hospitals, workplaces, and retail shops are often equipped with alarm systems that can immediately contact authorities (police department, fire department, etc.) if the need arises. IoT devices and IoT SIM cards can play a major role in security and logistics projects of any size. 


Agriculture Sensors

Farms are no longer dependent solely on manpower and hours of strenuous labor to achieve their objectives. IoT has empowered the farming industry and given them data insights that could only previously be gathered through experience.


Livestock tracking and communication have become a convenient method for keeping animal activity levels, food intake, general health, and whereabouts in check. These industrial livestock farming devices use IoT SIM cards to keep farmers up to date with their animals’ data, and other important pieces of information that need to be passed on to keepers or livestock veterinarians.


On the other side of the agriculture industry, farmers rearing crops are helped by technologies such as soil monitoring – fertilizer toxicity can easily be assessed using sensors connected to smart devices. Even geographically-remote farms and land are being brought ‘closer’ to cities thanks to uninterrupted and fast networking solutions, using IoT SIM cards in farming-focused devices to collect and transmit information back to a central hub.


Transportation and Logistics

What benefits can the many plus-points of IoT bring to businesses and logistics teams – no matter if they’re operating locally or on a global scale? Well, the answer to that question can be seen in what is one of the biggest markets for IoT solutions and IoT SIMs – the transportation and logistics industry.


Transportation and logistics businesses depend on having reliable and fast communications at every step of their processes. Sudden or unexpected changes to schedules and plans need to be reported without delay – which in turn adds transparency for stakeholders and end-users. Along with their own complex communications systems, transportation companies and logistics businesses also have a constant need for tracking and monitoring – something which puts IoT SIM cards and IoT solutions at the forefront of their support systems. 


Healthcare Monitoring

Remote patient monitoring has been making waves in the healthcare industry since before the 2020 pandemic.  With both global and local restrictions placed upon the movement of people and limited face-to-face appointments the demand for – and application of – remote healthcare monitoring has increased dramatically. 


Most remote health monitoring setups were initially developed to care for patients with chronic diseases – like diabetes, COPD, or serious heart conditions – providing a safe and convenient way to monitor patients’ conditions. Today, technologies such as telemedicine are changing the way patient monitoring and support is being delivered around the globe. Keeping everyone involved in the care of a patient in touch with one another is essential for the various doctors and other medical staff to work together effectively and keep a patient’s condition stable.


Depending on how a given health institution sets up their solutions, doctors, nurses and the emergency services can exchange crucial information like vital signs, prior medical history – as well as X-ray imaging or blood test results – so that they can quickly come up with a diagnosis and a plan of action.


How IoT SIM cards Have Changed Over Time

Just like any other modern device that is used for connectivity, IoT SIM card designs are always being refined and worked on to make them more adaptable to new advancements in technology and new application opportunities.  Some updates are tangible and physical, relating to the way devices are shaped and sized. Here is a summary of the various different sizes of  IoT SIM cards which have been commonly used up to the present day:


Mini-SIM (2FF)

One of the most influential SIM card designs was the Mini-SIM (or ‘2FF’) which was often used for vehicle tracking by specialized sensors. This IoT SIM card measures 25mm x 15 mm, and comes attached to a full-sized (or ‘1FF’) card that can be cut down into a mini version. Nowadays devices are designed to accommodate mini SIMs and these SIMs are also often referred to by suppliers as a ‘standard’ or ‘regular’ SIM.


Micro SIM (3FF)

The next generation of IoT SIMs was the ‘Micro-SIM’ (or ‘3FF’) version. Its predecessor was almost double the size of this one, as the Micro SIM measures around 15mm x 12mm x 0.76mm in size. Common applications for Micro SIMs include usage in tablets, and in health monitors requiring instant connections and reporting. The Micro SIM first saw widespread use in the original Apple iPad, but later on, smartphones adopted this new card as well – with the iPhone 4 the first one to use a Micro (3FF) SIM card.


Nano SIM (4FF)

Even slimmer than the Mini and Micro SIM cards, the Nano SIM card (or ‘4FF’) measures 12.3mm x 8.8mm x 0.67mm in size – so modern wearable and portable devices can easily accommodate a compact IoT SIM card such as the Nano SIM. This SIM card is designed with a rim around the contact area to avoid possible short-circuiting. With smart devices getting smaller in size, a Nano SIM means there’s no need to worry about connectivity or the danger of losing a device. 


Embedded SIM (eSIM or eUICC)

The next step in IoT SIM development is smart devices with ‘embedded’ SIMs (or ‘eSIMs’). This is by far the smallest of all SIM cards seen thus far, measuring just 6mm x 5mm. An eSIM is an integrated part of the device in which it resides, and is not a removable part as we’ve seen with the SIMs mentioned above. This makes an eSIM tough and resilient, and means there are no concerns about wear or damage to the SIM’s connecting points. 


Private LTE and IoT SIM Cards in Combination

IoT and Private LTE are two wonders of the modern world in their own right, but when combined, they can really change that world for the better. IoT SIM cards are one of the major use cases for Private LTE networks and with good reason. Secured IoT SIM cards or eSIMs are equipped with Private LTE as per the requirements of the user, to provide them with unlimited access and connectivity to any point in the world.


With the onset of cellular data and networking, there are fewer and fewer truly ‘remote’ places in our world – and today safety and security are also prioritized above all else. The world is progressing at a fast pace these days, and we are bound to keep up with it. IoT SIM cards and IoT affiliated devices – all backed up with strong networks like Private LTE – are just some of the things that help us keep pace.

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