IoT Blog
IoT Blog

The Growing Need for Business-Critical IoT Connectivity

by Robin Duke-Woolley, Founder and CEO, Beecham Research Ltd
When we talk about the Internet of Things (IoT), it can often be tempting to focus on the “Thing” or device aspect of the IoT and forget about the “Internet” or connectivity part. After all, devices are tangible and easy to differentiate from each other. Connectivity services are more abstract and can often appear to be commodities (even when, as is the case with the IoT, they are not). 

In addition, when we experience a connectivity interruption in our personal lives on a mobile handset or computer, it is usually not that much of a problem as long the interruption is short and temporary. But when you have an IoT application that connects to remote devices in order to gather and process data, even a temporary interruption can cause major problems. And as these IoT-data-driven applications become more critical to organizations’ operations, so do the connections that deliver data to these applications.

Yet, as we discuss in our recent report, -- Business-Critical IoT Connectivity Solutions: Key Management Challenges -- achieving the business-critical connectivity that organizations increasingly need for their IoT applications comes with a host of challenges. These challenges include traditional Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards that do not address the needs of IoT device manufacturers and application owners, having to work with multiple vendors to gain always-on connectivity, high connectivity Total Cost of Ownership (TOC) and Bill of Material (BOM) costs, and the complications associated with scaling connectivity globally to a large number of devices. Fortunately, both new embedded SIM (eSIM) solutions and new services designed to deliver the always-on connectivity IoT applications need are addressing these challenges, enabling organizations to move forward in using the IoT to digitally transform the way they operate. 

Traditional SIM Cards Are Not Designed for IoT Connectivity

Traditional SIM cards have contributed significantly to the success of the mobile handset market. They are easily and widely accessible for purchase, provide extensive network coverage, and inherently offer high network security. 

However, these SIM cards are not ideal for connected IoT devices. For example, it is hard for IoT device Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and IoT application owners to find a good place in their supply chain to install these SIM cards into IoT devices. Installing them during the manufacturing process requires little manual labor, but forces the manufacturer to keep a wide variety of SIM cards in inventory. In addition, issues can arise if a device needs to connect to a different network (and needs a different SIM card) after it has been shipped out from the factory. 

Meanwhile, though installing a SIM card in the field helps ensure that a device has the SIM card it needs to connect to best network in its area, manually procuring and installing SIM cards this way is time-consuming and slows IoT project deployments, while increasing these projects’ costs. 

Moreover, however a traditional SIM card is installed, the IoT application’s owner is locked into the wireless carrier that owns the SIM card for connectivity – making it difficult to switch to other carriers that may offer better pricing or coverage in the future.

Scaling Globally, Managing Vendors, High Costs Also Present Challenges

The difficulties with using traditional SIM cards described above are just a few of the challenges organizations face as they try to achieve cost-effective, business-critical connectivity for their IoT devices and applications. For our Business-Critical IoT Connectivity Solutions: Key Management Challenges report, we conducted a survey of enterprise IoT users and product manufacturers that identified other challenges as well. 

In this survey, we found:

80% say they consider scaling IoT projects globally to be quite or very challenging
78% say they consider reducing IoT project TOC and BOM costs to be quite or very challenging
69% of the respondents said they consider managing multiple vendors during IoT project development and deployment to be quite or very challenging

eSIMs and New Services Address IoT Connectivity Challenges 

Fortunately, new IoT solutions and services have been introduced that help organizations address these IoT connectivity challenges. For example, new embedded eSIM card solutions resolve many of the problems associated with using traditional SIM cards for IoT connectivity. In particular, eSIMs enable provisioning over the air, allowing an IoT device’s manufacturer or IoT application’s owner to remotely assign their devices to a network operator. They can also change this network assignment to another operator, as needed. 

This over-the-air provisioning capability allows IoT device OEMs to insert an eSIM into their device’s circuit board during the manufacturing process as they would any other component. Then, after the device is shipped out, the OEM or the IoT application’s owner can provision the device for the best network for where it is located. This benefits OEMs, as they no longer have to keep on hand a large number of different operators’ SIMs. Instead, they just have one eSIM with a single SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) number, allowing them to streamline their production processes and reduce their inventory management costs. 

eSIMs also benefit IoT application owners, who no longer have to manually insert a SIM card into their devices when they are being deployed in the field. They can instead remotely assign these devices to the network operator offering the best mix of coverage, performance, service, and cost for their IoT application.

New IoT connectivity services, like Sierra Wireless’s Smart Connectivity service, also help enterprises overcome their IoT connectivity challenges. These services purchase connectivity wholesale from multiple networks, then aggregate this connectivity into a single service. In addition, some services, like Sierra Wireless Ready-to-Connect solutions, bundle together their connectivity service with modules, gateways, and routers, further simplifying IoT deployment. 

If, like Sierra Wireless’ Smart Connectivity service, the service has relationships with hundreds of partner networks in more than 190 countries, it can identify and connect a device’s SIM to the strongest network in the area in real time. This can help prevent service disruptions. In addition, in the case of a network outage, Sierra Wireless’s SIMs can automatically switch to using the next strongest available network in the area. Such services also often include cloud-based management platforms that provide a unified view of an organization’s SIMs and devices. 

Always-On Connectivity Accelerates IoT-Driven Digital Transformation

New eSIM solutions and IoT connectivity services make it easier for organizations to achieve cost-effective, always-on connectivity for their devices no matter where they are deployed around the world. This helps minimize global IoT connectivity scalability problems, lowers TOC and BOM costs, and reduces the need for organizations to manage multiple vendors. 

With eSIMs and IoT connectivity services reducing the cost and complexity of always-on IoT connectivity, one of the key barriers organizations have faced in adopting the IoT is being overcome. In doing so, organizations are finding themselves increasingly empowered to use the IoT to transform the way they do business, and thrive in today’s increasingly connected economy.

For more details on how organizations are addressing their growing need for always-on connectivity, read our report, Business-Critical IoT Connectivity Solutions: Key Management Challenges.

And Start with Sierra to learn more about how our Smart Connectivity service, Ready-to-Connect devices and other solutions enable you to use the IoT to accelerate digital transformation.