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How businesses can best prepare for IoT connectivity opportunities

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way we live, work, communicate and do business. In fact, a recent report from IDC stated that worldwide IoT spending was valued at $52.76 billion in 2019 and is forecasted to pass the $1 trillion mark in 2022, reaching $1.1 trillion by 2023. Even though there is still significant uncertainty around Covid-19 and its impact on the IoT industry, there is enough evidence to suggest that the ongoing pandemic will only accelerate the rate of change.

Connectivity is often an afterthought for many businesses when building IoT solutions. But with cellular technology playing an increasingly important role in delivering seamless and secure user experiences, now is the time to establish an understanding of the benefits that innovation in the sector promises to deliver.

In this article, I will explain how eSIM / eUICC technology has the potential to unlock seamless end-user experiences, global scalability and commercial flexibility for IoT projects.  I’ll also explore the potential for 5G to act as a catalyst for IoT innovation and the longer-term benefits that it’s likely to deliver. Finally, but most importantly, I will discuss how businesses should approach IoT data security and minimize the significant threat that it poses across the value chain.

Unlocking the potential of eSIM / eUICC

It has become increasingly clear that traditional SIM cards can often restrict opportunities for IoT connectivity and flexibility, especially for large scale deployments. With businesses locked into one mobile network on a standard SIM card, the only way to change networks is to change the SIM itself. In reality, this process is either operationally impossible or prohibitively expensive. This is especially true for globally distributed IoT devices, or those devices that are difficult to access in the field.

This is where the concept of eSIM / eUICC comes into its own. Many people use these terms interchangeably, but they have different meanings. UICC, also known as a Universal Integrated Circuit Card, is a small plastic card that houses the SIM, plus other data, and ensures users can access the mobile network. eSIM is simply an embedded SIM card and has the ability to store and accept multiple network profiles and change from one to another remotely based on a set of defined rules. To keep things simple, I’ll use the term eSIM when referring both to the physical card and the technology for storing and provisioning multiple profiles remotely.

It all sounds great, but in reality, the technology is still nascent and there are challenges to overcome. Profile swapping is not as simple as flipping a switch, with agreements necessary across the chain and complex API integration required. There are also additional costs, such as the SIM itself and fees for management and network swapping, to factor in which could make adoption uneconomic for small deployments. This is why working with an expert provider, with the right expertise and platform is essential.

At Wireless Logic, we believe there will be three key reasons why IoT businesses will be evaluating eSIM technology today:

A commercial and operational safety net – The ability to switch network operators at the end of a contracted period if costs or services are not satisfactory.

To deploy a product globally – Connect to the best network profile wherever in the world the device ‘wakes-up’. A seamless end-user experience that can even create new ongoing revenue streams for OEMs and solution providers.

Globally mobile IoT products – Automatically switching to local networks, leveraging cheaper connectivity rates and avoiding expensive or unexpected roaming charges.

We believe that the rise of eSIMs represent a shift in the way the IoT ecosystem will operate. Accompanied by the right eSIM managed service, IoT businesses can unlock value with a streamlined user experience for managing connectivity, enabling devices to be deployed easily and flexibly. It’s critical to consider partnering with a provider that offers a simple and intuitive solution with reliable 24/7 support for connected device functionalities. These types of managed service platforms are the future of IoT as they help to manage multiple networks and navigate additional complexities.

Unleashing IoT innovation with 5G

5G is the latest generation of cellular connectivity and is set to transform economies and societies across the world. With 5G services initially focusing on consumer offerings, it is only recently that the industry has seen developments from operators in the IoT space. This commitment to innovation will go a huge way towards improving the performance, reliability and scalability of IoT connected devices in the long term.

With the commercial success of IoT based on its performance, 5G will open a new set of applications, such as autonomous vehicles and private LTE networks, in addition to enhancing existing application capabilities.

Speed is just a small part of the benefits that 5G will bring. In fact, innovation is more likely to come from benefits such as ultra-low latency, processing data on the edge and the ability to handle huge numbers of connected devices. Amongst other advancements, we’ll see 5G replace or augment fixed line services, deliver real-time remote healthcare and improve safety and efficiency within the industrial IoT.

The full capabilities of 5G are not yet available in most markets, but it’s likely that we’ll see these being adopted at scale from 2022.

Keeping your data and reputation secure

Ever since the inception of IoT, security has been an increasing concern for the industry and its product development, with 23 percent of businesses in a recent report stating they had a lack of confidence in IoT device security. As a result, security standards are increasingly being put into place, including Secure by Design, defined by the UK government for consumer IoT manufacturers. Not only has this emphasized the need for robust security on IoT platforms, but it has also driven IoT providers to evaluate the security of data at every point in its journey.

At Wireless Logic, we believe that the best approach to IoT security starts with having the right mindset: a business is only secure as its weakest link. We regularly come across businesses that are left vulnerable to potential threats due to trivial oversights, such as weak passwords or data being accessible from a public IP address. As a result, organizations need to consider adding multiple layers of security across their solution, from using private APNs and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to securing the end device through firmware updates and secure passwords.

In addition to deploying the latest security measures, we have found that investing in the right people and processes is just as important. Well trained staff armed with IoT security processes can significantly reduce the risks that stem from unprotected devices. We also recommend businesses working with partners that are processing their data safely and securely. This is where industry standards can help. By requiring partners and suppliers to be ISO management systems accredited (such as ISO27001), companies can have the confidence that data is being managed appropriately.

Preparing for future developments

The IoT industry and connectivity is evolving at a rapid pace. Businesses need to stay updated and consider the implications on future developments to ensure their products, customers and employees aren’t left behind. It's critical that organizations get ahead of the game so that they can take advantage of the technology to deliver a better end user experience and a more profitable business model.

Even though the adoption of eSIMs and 5G networks isn’t relevant to all businesses, both technologies have the potential to add significant value to the right IoT projects. A robust approach to IoT security however, is a must for all companies. As we’ve seen with many businesses, a major data breach can cause irreparable reputation damage that can be avoided.

Oliver Tucker, Co-Founder and CEO, Wireless Logic