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Discovering the true potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) decades after its ubiquity was first considered by business and IT
The Internet of Things has been percolating for decades and now, as connections grow and connectivity expands, it is experiencing astronomical growth, finally touching the potential it promised many years ago. From smart meters to connected cars to intelligent healthcare applications, IoT is breaking boundaries and changing conversations as it takes interesting steps in new directions for the enterprise. According to Jose Sanchez, Head of Product Line Management Solutions at Thales, this is the time to be excited about what IoT can bring to the industry and company.
“It’s an exciting time for our industry and those that benefit from IoT capabilities,” he adds. “There are more than 35 billion IoT connections today, and the number is growing weekly. This growth is being largely driven by 4G, LPWA solutions such as LTE-M, NB-IoT and 5G as these technologies are expanding bandwidth and network capacity while reducing the cost barrier to entry.”
Another factor influencing the growth of IoT is the adoption of eSIM technology. Currently, this is changing the way wireless services are activated and maintained over long product lifecycles and changing the game for IoT. Most IoT solutions rely on seamless connectivity which is why it’s important to leverage the right technology to achieve optimised results. Thales recently launched the Cinterion® Connectivity Activation Solution that’s the world’s first all-in-one IoT connectivity activation and lifecycle management platform. It blends the capabilities of an IoT module, an eSIM, a secure digital device ID, and a device lifecycle management solution into a single product that can be deployed from any Mobile Network Operator (MNO), anywhere in the world.
“The Cinterion solution tackles the challenges of connectivity activation, subscription provisioning and MNO selection and works from the factory to the field, throughout the lengthy lifecycle of industrial IoT devices,” adds Sanchez. “Using the power and flexibility provided by the Cinterion IoT eSIM integrated into the latest Cinterion IoT Modules and Gateways and the Cinterion IoT Suite, it keeps systems connected and agile. Elastic enough to pivot to new plans as needed.”
Challenges to IoT success stories
What most companies need as they expand their smart grids and cities, as they connect cars and manage security, is trusted and secure IoT solutions and seamless connections. Companies want simple activation processes, reduced product variants, global provisioning, and sustainable futureproofing.
“If you look at smart meters and smart grids rolling out worldwide, a digital grid ecosystem is essential for emerging sustainable microgeneration systems,” says Sanchez. “The cost savings, improved productivity, and efficiency of smart grids is compelling – and the same is true for other industrial sectors across smart agriculture, manufacturing and more. However, poor connectivity is an issue, and manage large number of product variants is a challenge.”
Because cellular networks are constantly evolving, service fluctuations can occur and these require a service visit to fine-tune or change devices. Companies are looking for a far simpler process where they can switch carriers remotely when needed and without having to physically update each smart meter. Finally, another complication is that meters can last anything from 10-15 years, but carrier contracts are only five to six years. This can create problems for companies wanting long-term stability, but is also managed by Thales’ Connectivity Activation Solution that allows for the easy management of migration to new network operators, on-demand. It eliminates the need to engage with expensive and time-consuming manpower to manually update modules in the field whenever the contract comes to an end.
Reducing IoT complexity
“Managing SIMs for multiple devices and connections is incredibly complex,” says Sanchez. “You could streamline management by having meters with SIM card slots for easy exchanges but that still requires expensive service visits. Also, SIM cards have to be soldered in place to last up to 15 years, which makes updates even more challenging.”
A SIM with multiple operator subscriptions is also an option for reducing the pain point of SIM management and activation, but it does increase the cost of connectivity significantly. SIMs on roaming is also a possibility, but you can’t easily lock on to any networks while roaming. Furthermore, this approach is again costly and even banned in some countries for security reasons. The Thales IoT Connectivity Activation Solution blends four essential connectivity elements into one product. It offers an advanced Thales IoT eSIM; the on/off switch and security guardian; a high-quality IoT module, a cellular radio that enables connectivity; a digital ID injected into the IoT module during secure manufacturing; and an end-to-end lifecycle management solution that remotely manages connectivity and security updates for long-life applications.
“This solution removes the need to handle any physical SIMs during device manufacturing, personalisation, installation or updating,” says Sanchez. “It fully digitalises the process: Like consumer smartphones, the solution provides the same type of services for industrial IoT solutions in remote locations, globally. It also does so remotely, without Wi-Fi or tethering.”
The solution uses the unique global Thales bootstrap connectivity based on the Thales Instant Connect Technology, handling the remote provisioning of connectivity profiles during manufacturing, at device personalisation centres or at the time of installation. This allows the organisation to select the network best suited for the business and enables switching to a backup connectivity provider to ensure uninterrupted service without a service visit.
“During the long lifecycle of an IoT device anything can happen,” concludes Sanchez. “An operator may discontinue support; another network provider may become available – these aren’t issues with the Connectivity Activation Solution that introduces operational and commercial resilience. It’s a standards-based solution that’s paving the way towards flexible and futureproof IoT connectivity and capability, adding that little bit of magic to a powerful and highly relevant technology.”