PARTNER CONTENT: To remain competitive, businesses have an ongoing need to enhance customer experience, unlock cost savings and improve ROI. Most IoT initiatives are motivated by one or more of these imperatives. The recent excitement about artificial intelligence and machine learning is reigniting interest in the potential of wireless IoT to realise performance benefits for businesses of all sizes.

However, for enterprises offering IoT products or services or adopting IoT to manage their own operations in multiple countries, sourcing appropriate wireless connectivity remains complicated. Wireless coverage is intrinsically fragmented by country and by operator.

Establishing technical and commercial relationships with multiple MNOs is not an option for most enterprises who typically have limited experience of telecommunications. Deploying different SIMs on a market-by-market basis is prohibitively expensive and significantly slows down time-to-market and negatively impacts margins, undermining the IoT business model.  

Partnering with a specialist managed connectivity provider can remove a lot of complexity for the IoT vendor or systems integrator says Frédéric Mathieu, Managing Director, Americas, BICS. With multiple commercial operator relationships in each country, and access to network technologies from 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G to NB-IoT and LTE-M, a connectivity partner can help connect devices anywhere in the world under a single agreement.

Multi-IMSI eSIMs will be a key feature of future global IoT deployments. The IMSI – international mobile subscriber identify – is used by mobile operators to identify individual devices connected to their networks. In the multi-IMSI approach, profiles for multiple operators can be stored on a single eSIM. SIM for Things, the multi-IMSI eSIM solution from BICS, incorporates an intelligent applet which enables connection to the optimum network available to the device in whichever country, or even specific locality, it is in. The whole process is carried out remotely and without any physical intervention with the device. Multi-IMSI eSIMs deployed on devices anywhere in the world can be managed by the user in real time from a common portal.

Power management
Power consumption is a critical factor in the design and operation of many IoT deployments, especially those that rely on batteries because the connected devices are isolated from mains power. Communications components are usually one of biggest drains on battery power. As a result, many such devices are designed to remain dormant for long periods, only occasionally “waking” to transmit packets of data. For long dormancy periods, re-registration is often required for each transmission. From a power conservation perspective, it is important to minimise the time it takes for a device to register to the network to get online.

This need to re-register each time can have benefits. Each time the applet will connect to the most appropriate available network: connecting to the strongest available signal can, in itself, save power. By reducing the number of profiles maintained on the eSIM in a particular territory, BICS SIM for Things has been designed to minimise re-registration time and to achieve faster “rotations” when a device switches between networks.

This ability to switch networks in order to maintain contact is important for many IoT applications. Being reliant on a single network in any country could undermine an application due to the inevitable variations in signal strength across an operator’s coverage area. Mathieu notes that BICS’ ability to access seven different US networks is seen as important for IoT applications in a market where the spectrum allocations and their respective transmission characteristics vary more widely between different operators than in most other markets.

As well as being important for nomadic applications such as container tracking in the freight haulage sector, this rotation capability is also relevant to static use cases such as smart meters and remote sensors. This approach, and the SIM for Things applet, are use-case agnostic.

With more than one operator partner per territory, Mathieu notes that the applet BICS runs on the eSIM will take care of connectivity once the devices are in the field, regardless of the network or country.

Analytics for insight
As the number of connected devices and systems grows, the volume of data generated can become overwhelming, making it difficult to process and extract valuable insights. All this transmitted data needs to be effectively interpreted if desired business objectives and cost savings are to be realised.

Integration with business processes should be the objective for most businesses if the captured data is to be fully exploited to optimize operations. Direct and secure connections to AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud with end-to-end security and strong Service Level Agreements will be increasingly important going forward.

The roll-out of 5G has also driven interest in the concept of private 5G networks with use cases envisaged across ports, large industrial sites, campuses, stadia and factories. A multi-IMSI SIM solution such as BICS’ SIM for Things can keep devices securely connected both inside and outside of private networks and facilitate seamlessly switching between them.

Partnering with a managed connectivity provider, especially one that can offer a white-label self-service platform, enables IoT device vendors, systems integrators or connectivity module providers to consider moving up the value chain and transition to offering IoT as an “as a service” business model.

Even MNOs, who are increasingly relaxed about outsourcing the management of their physical networks, can leverage the reach of an already established roaming and connectivity enabler to expand their international footprint and become global suppliers for IoT. They can enhance their roaming portfolio for traditional business and consumer mobile users at the same time.

 Frédéric Mathieu