Buyer’s Guide To Industrial IoT SIM Cards by Sam Colley

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Your IoT Deployment Success Depends on your IoT SIM Cards

With hyper-scale connectivity around the corner, business will change as we know it. We’re hearing a lot about industry 4.0 and the next global industrial revolution; it will be rearing its head in no time and now is the time to take advantage of it.

The huge financial benefits that can be gained from business process automation are there for the taking when it comes to industrial-scale IoT deployments. Successful IoT deployments are strategically integrated into business models and improve the bottom line. 

With this new paradigm shift and technological breakthrough that SIM card technology has provided, there are new horizons for many enterprises looking to increase productivity and operational efficiencies through the power of IoT SIM Cards.

However, there are roadblocks and challenges with IoT deployments. The system’s architecture is critical, and matching this with business goals should be part of your fundamental analysis. Enterprise-scale IoT deployments should start small then scale quick. 

With Industry 4.0 here to stay, proof of concepts, lean product development and iterative testing are just a few of the examples of what large-scale enterprise IoT deployments will have to consider and build on if optimized connectivity is to be realized.

The purpose of IoT is to make your processes more accurate and efficient, increasing your productivity and profit. IoT allows businesses to run for 24 hours a day, and having fewer people to do a job can increase the potential of automation across enterprises.

Before any of this is to happen though, you must have the connectivity in place and this is where you need to decide on what IoT SIM Card is right for you.

Knowing Your Connectivity

Choosing What SIM Card Technology To Go For

Depending on what, where and when you will be looking for connectivity will determine what type of SIM card will be for you. For IoT and M2M devices, the most reliable connectivity methods are cellular networks. 

Consider the following:

1. Network Coverage

There are many benefits to IoT SIM cards when it comes to coverage. 

The options range from one country with a single price or a global network with a global tariff – the choice is firmly in the hands of you, the customer. You’ll want to avoid high roaming costs for sure and choosing a SIM card such as a Multi-Network is a smart choice because these SIM cards will allow you to connect to the best network operator at all times.

Supporting enterprise-level IoT deployment means reliability is crucial. Combining embedded SIMs, or eSIMs, with eUICC software allows for enhanced connectivity and true scalability. In short, traditional SIM cards can only hold one profile and work on the network that it has been programmed for, whereas eUICC technology allows users to remotely add or ‘provision’ SIM profiles Over the Air (OTA) without needing to swap physical SIMs. The ability to configure multiple SIM profiles on an eSIM makes eUICC one of the catalysts for reliable, continuous IoT connectivity.

Traditional SIM cards are still fit for purpose, however for future proof solutions it’s recommended to consider eSIM technology.

2. Network Reliability

IoT SIM cards do offer a better user experience and simpler implementation if you’re looking for network coverage that is both global and reliable. One of the ways that you can offset not having 100% uptime, all the time, is by OTA (Over the Air) provisioning and remote management. Traditional SIMs are challenged by this because of their data roaming costs which are usually very high. The cellular connectivity provided by Multi-IMSI SIMs means that this problem is a thing of the past.

For Multi-IMSI SIMs to update OTA, it required inter operators agreements when outside of the home nation. There are a few ways that OTA updates can happen and they are through the Edge, Gateway to Cloud and Edge to Gateway. 

The Edge OTA is a remote server that directly handles updates from firmware and software, whereas the Gateway to Cloud OTA is an internet connected gateway to manage a number of IoT devices and finally, the Edge to Gateway OTA are only when devices are connected in the network.

Choosing how to update will depend upon your needs, how many devices are connected and the network available for connectivity. It’s worth noting that not all IoT devices are stable and have access to the internet, therefore, a backup or a number of backup options are available with OTA provisioning. 

New approaches to edge layer connectivity raise questions when designing the network architecture and should be part of your fundamental analysis as well as mapping network touch points and endpoints to really understand the scale for your IoT deployment. 

Management platforms such as Pod IoT Suite allow for this type of workflow to be automated and make sure you have IoT/M2M connectivity that is resilient and reliable.

3. Network Security

Making sure your network security has minimum risk of being compromised is mission critical to IoT deployments. Having your virtual and cloud networks secured should be part of your security framework and using encryption protocol VPNs can prevent malware from impacting your organization. 

Configuring every device can be complex, especially at enterprise level with 1000s of devices available. Having a root of trust available for every device is critical. Establishing a unique, immutable and unclonable identity so that devices can be authorized in an IoT network is highly recommended.

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Getting Closer To The Edge

Edge cloud storage can be used to steer data away from data storage centres and non-steered roaming solutions connect to the best networks available. You are less likely to lose connectivity and can even create data caps to prevent data usage exceeding a chosen limit.  

Edge computing is becoming widespread for IoT deployment and industrial IoT. There is less risk of your data being hijacked this way as it’s not on a public internet and reduces the risk of attacks to data being a barrier to business operations. You only send the data you need to and can save money this way; a great example is offshore oil rigs using edge computing.

A major consideration in the security space now will be how to adapt to 5G. With more bandwidth and faster connection speeds, the opportunities are there but so are the risks and threats of cyber security. 

Zero touch provisioning plays a crucial role for network security and lifetime security of your network.

4. Device & SIM Management

Managing your devices and SIMs are all possible remotely through platforms such as Pod IoT Suite. Management platforms work remotely to manage your devices and connectivity. For large-scale IoT deployments, this process has to be fully automated and standardized because device numbers can run well into the tens of thousands. Bootstrapping your devices and connectivity form the ground up will put you in the best position to manage your deployment effectively and efficiently.

No more tedious management of individual SIMs, the days of complex inventory logistics are long gone, high roaming charges are a thing of the past and flexible contracts are here to stay. With the SIM technologies available to us today, platforms have empowered users with end-to-end control of their connectivity.

Remote access to devices and SIMs have provided necessary profile management in real time; users of such platforms are now able to switch MNOs and remotely provision, a feature possible with the use of eSIMs and eUICC technology.

eUICC is very popular in the automotive space for many reasons and they’ve been benefiting from remote management for years. The interoperability available between IoT ecosystem vendors, from SIMs to operating systems of UICC SIM, has increased the adoption and performance of remote device/SIM management.

The Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC) does more than a SIM, yet there is no SIM without a UICC. The universal integrated circuit card has historically been a static element of a SIM card and every SIM card has a UICC associated with it, allowing migration to another physical SIM but no longer being associated with the original SIM. 

eUICC solutions are different depending on what vertical it’s being used in. Payment terminals, vehicles, consumer electronics, smart metering are a few examples. The management platforms and eSIM technology are now enabling machine to machine (M2M) communications which have been a great for automotive telematics, in-home health care systems and fleet management systems.

Industrial-grade IoT SIM cards withstand pressure from harsh environments, the IoT analytics available can monitor trends over time and allow you to make smarter business decisions.

If you’re looking to harness the true power of SIM technology then eUICC is an option to consider. They come in different shapes and sizes and have multiple profiles that possess a richer operating software capacity, capable of connecting to any network globally with an OTA software update. This revolutionary technological advancement will be what brings IoT connectivity to billions of people and realize the ambitions of Industry 4.0, all possible through a single point of access for users. 

Cisco predicts that by 2021, there will be 27.1bn networked devices serving 4.6bn users globally. Management on such scale requires well thought out web based platforms and secure connectivity.

 

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5. Data Processing & Storage

Finding the right data combination is crucial for optimal IoT connectivity. Choosing the data format protocol and transport of that data is a key consideration and should be mapped out prior to deployment. 

The network architecture of eUICC is designed for no data to be transferred between the channels or profiles. For ensuring the legitimacy of the data transfer, it requires a central authorisation and certificate authority. 

Secure data transport can happen between installed devices or encryption on all devices and SIM providers a private APN (access point name) accessible through a VPN (virtual private network) to allow a secure tunnel for data to be transfered.

The protocol, 3GPP AKA (Authentication and Key Agreement) is what allows IoT SIM cards usable for IoT devices. This global standard has evolved SIM technology and solutions to lower the complexity of provisioning, decreasing device cost and infrastructure. 

The Subscription manager data preparation (SMDP) secure credentials. SM-SR subscription manager secures routing. This is a catalyst for SIMs coming from different providers. This opens up choice to the customer and MNOs will stipulate either SM-DP for preparation of a profile.

For M2M communications, data can be aggregated across all connected devices, allowing all of your devices data usage that may be underused or overused to be levelled out and still withdraw data from the same pot. This makes your data usage and allocation, efficient and optimized and reduces the chances of overspending. Customized data plans are recommended if you are not sure of the fixed volumes of data you require, a pay as you go tariff would be better.

Excessive data storage can be a problem for many IoT deployments but using a SIM Card that uses a low power battery and storage is a solution. LPWAN (low power wide area network) offers ultra low latency costs for 5G and cellular connectivity, making this an attractive investment for many enterprises looking for scalable and efficient data processing solutions. The CATM1 comes into its own when using low battery devices for cellular connectivity.

Industrial SIMs have up to a 17-year-old data retention capability and increased storage capacity if required. As well as being super resilient in harsh weather conditions and withstanding extreme heat pressures whether that’s at -40c or as high as 105c. Traditional SIMs could only ever withstand heat pressure from 25-85c.

6. SIM Card Scalability

 

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With remote management and SIM technology flexibility, the scalability of your business can become much more streamlined. Over the last few years, roaming clauses and network guidelines have adapted to this new disruptive way of mobile connectivity. 

Large-scale M2M & IoT deployments are using eUICC. Adopting this new type of IoT SIM card requires serious consideration if you’re looking to harness the potential of what a fully automated and connected IoT ecosystem can bring to your business.

The technology has come on leaps and bounds but still in 2020 it has yet reached it’s true potential. GSMA v1 and v2 were not very interoperable between SIM and platforms, which proved expensive for users and an overall bad customer experience. Now platforms have to be certified with GSM and have certified locations so that the SIMs can work and swap profiles from different MNOs.

The impact of eUICC

eUICC has brought radical change to GSM connectivity over the last 20 years. The difference between eUICC and traditional SIMs are the number of profiles you can host, made possible by the Machine Identification Module (MIM) available with IoT SIM Cards.  The hardware is also more complex than the classical SIMs, it requires at least 515kb of memory to run it’s operating software compared to that of single profile SIMs in the range of 64-128kb of memory.

Now with eUICC cards, you can be supported with multiple profiles and have higher computation complexity. It has done away with the need to migrate profiles and host multiple UICCs on a single SIM. For devices that require global connections or require multiple service contracts eUICC is the perfect use case. It has cost effective connectivity and if you’re looking to connect to thousands of devices in remote places, across different borders, eUICC is the enabler. 

Switching over 100 SIMs in one go was once unthinkable at a low cost and it’s now a very real case. eUICC total migration process is undertaken by a single entity in a centralized location.

The outgoing profiles on eUICC SIMs allow for decommissioning of MNO profiles and provides customers with the choice to switch an and when they want, improving the overall IoT connectivity customer experience.

This provides a number of risks for MNOs who are looking for new ways to keep customers locked in because of the fear they can leave at any time. eUICC has many benefits and one for them is the democratization of the SIM space, finally putting you in the driver’s seat and incontrol of your connectivity. More MNOs are opening up to the use of eUICC and starting to generate incoming provisioning profiles and having carrier sets on the devices.

The ability to add IoT connectivity to existing devices that do not have an eSIM functionality is now possible with eUICC. This feature can save you in engineer and technical costs, increase productivity of your workforce and automate workflow. Let the algorithms within the operating system do the work for you and search out the constant low cost carrier fees. 

Avoid the risks of implementing multi-vendor agreements and choose eUICC. Achieve true automated scalability from your platform and remotely access 1000s of devices. The IoT ecosystem will compound with developments in the next few years with developers building through APIs and Industry 4.0 will be reaping the rewards.

The supply chain simplicity of this technology allows for many features and benefits, not to mention the cost savings. Local subscription and local market needs can be met with this solution. 

A more simple, connected ecosystem for IoT has been a long time coming, and now we finally have it with eUICC. With IoT & M2M growing exponentially, eUICC SIM cards are the future proofing the industry can rely on.

7. Embedded SIMs, eSIMs & Cellular Connectivity

Increased demand for cellular technology is on the rise and according to Ericsson Mobility Report there will be 25bn IoT connection by 2020. The ability of eSIMs and eUICC allow connectivity to be fitted into old and new devices and appliances, thus, increasing the lifecycle of SIM products and access to connectivity from the ground up.

 

What are Embedded SIMs

Embedded SIMs are buried within the motherboard and not removable. They are reprogrammable chips and come in a number of different sizes, they are not removable and soldered into devices. The remote SIM provisioning allows for a change of network providers who beam details to a new SIM without the need to swap physical SIMs. 

Embedding SIM circuits into the circuit board and configuring remotely is the best for network regardless of location, this is hard to argue with considering the remote and rural locations that devices will be operational. Traditional SIM cards are obsolete for IoT now. 

As with traditional SIMs only storing one profile there are few options to get around this, where erasing and installing a new profile can be done remotely with embedded SIMs. A great solution for those with limited engineering and technician capabilities in remote locations. Embedded SIMs have found traction in the automotive, wearables, healthcare, and energy sectors.

The difference with original SIM technology and embedded SIMs are:

  1. Reduce ordering and manufacturing costs 
  2. Real time subscription changes
  3. Constant and consistent security
  4. Reducing in running costs

What are eSIMs

eSIMs are a wider catalyst for more IoT connectivity and embedded SIMs will stimulate business innovations, unleashing new opportunities and profit. The interoperability of networks and providers is still a consideration but one that is moving in the right direction.

eSIM allows enterprises to enjoy all the legacy SIM services such as roaming services, local breakout services and SIM applets with multi international IMSI services. The eSIMs are a key innovation.

This technology does have the potential to increase IoT deployments through speed and efficiency. Module software embedded SIM technology is expected to contribute to the upcoming mass rollout of cellular IoT connectivity.

8. The Differences in SIMs

Size and type of SIM depends on device purpose, functionality, and space available to host a SIM or chip, there are 2 different types of SIM technology and four form factors. They are:

  1. Standard SIM (1FF) – 85.6mm × 53.98mm × 0.76 mm (3.370″ x 2.125″ x 0.029″)
  2. Mini SIM (2FF) – 25mm x 15mm x 0.76mm (0.984″ x 0.590″ x 0.029″)
  3. Micro SIM (3FF) – 15mm x 12mm x 0.76mm (0.590″ x 0.472″ x 0.029″
  4. Nano SIM (4FF) – 12.3mm × 8.8mm × 0.67mm (0.484″ x 0.346″ x 0.026″)
  5. Chip SIM (MFF2) – 6mm × 5mm × 0.9 mm (0.236″ x 0.196″ x 0.035″)

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What To Do Next – The Challenges & Changes Ahead

The challenges and pitfalls await for sure but with proper planning and meticulous articulation of your software architecture needs, the potential of IoT SIM Cards can finally be realized.

The workplace is digitasing and the recent events of COVID-19 are forcing us all into new ways of working and the new normal will be here before we know it. 

The innovative applications that can be created are in the imagination of the most creative, however, increased levels of complexity will be the new unknown. 

Strategic planning is needed to get ahead, business leaders have to come together to understand what goals can be achieved with IoT applications and what measurements will be tracking performance and what team will be leading on the implementation.

IoT rollout is a complex offering, it’s not a simple task but with software stacks standarding the rollout process IoT connectivity can be bootstrapped and solutions ready to go out of the box. It won’t be a one size fits all approach either but it’s definitely easier than ever to connect right now.

Map out your exact journey that your IoT deployment will likely take and roadmap it to understand what components will be needed to make it reality. 

The IoT ecosystem is evolving into a new space, with up to 1bn cellular connections at work and a predicted 20bn by 2024, this space will not sleep. The multi-network connections needed once devices have been manufactured will have to be in place, the autonomy, availability, bandwidth and mobility challenges are all there to be considered.

10 years from now the space will look very different. There may be over a trillion connected devices by 2035 connecting everything from rural environments to building smart cities.

The SIMs have been around since the dawn of the consumer market and what was great for mobile phones is not so great for IoT deployments. Traditional SIMs increase costs and become inflexible. They were never designed to be updated over the air, they were never designed to change mobile networks as and when you wanted to and if you wanted a replacement then you’d have to pay for a new one.

Learn more about how we can help you with your IoT SIM cards

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Sam Colley

Pod Group CEO

An expert in telecoms, Sam drives growth through the development and implementation of a global sales strategy, targeting key high potential markets, particularly in the USA.

Posted: July 05, 2020