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A simple message for a complex world: Introducing a new way to reach non-mobile IoT customers

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

What is the best way to present connectivity and security products to a customer base that’s expanding beyond the traditional mobile sector? The answer must be with a ‘keep it simple’ strategy…


When psychologist Abraham Maslow outlined his famous ‘hierarchy of needs’ in 1943 paper, he placed physiological needs at the base of his pyramid. These are the basic components for human survival: food, water, shelter. We must acquire them before we can go higher up the pyramid to safety, love, esteem and so on.

Should we add connectivity to the list of physiological needs?

It might sound flippant. But now that connected devices are so essential to our everyday lives, it is a valid question. In the 2020s it’s almost impossible to live a full life without a phone, laptop or tablet.

Now, the world of cellular devices is expanding beyond the personal. Connectivity is extending into sensors and modules. In other words, the ‘things’ that are transforming industries – from manufacturing to agriculture to healthcare. 

For service providers such as Thales, this represents a significant change. Our historic expertise has been in security. We’re the partner that makes it safe to activate and run these billions of devices. It’s why we operate under the slogan: “Secure solutions for a connected world.” 

However, we also know that the new era of eSIM, 5G and private networks is re-defining the fundamentals of connectivity. It’s changing the user experience, expanding the market opportunity and introducing unseen cyber threats. For this reason, the Thales MCS (Mobile Connectivity Solutions) division has developed a new unifying vision. 

It has three elements:

1.     New use cases

The arrival of 5G is transforming the reach and speed of mobile connections. Fast, low latency 5G penetrates further than previous cellular generations. It also makes it possible to deploy Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) boxes to provide high-speed internet access in homes and businesses.

In parallel, the emergence of the eSIM is making it easier to connect millions of remote devices. This is a process that starts with phones, but is already extending into the industrial space

This ‘new use case’ trend is developing at rapid speed. Take automotive. Since 2018, all new cars in Europe have – by law – been equipped with a cellular subscription which activates a call in an emergency.

This regulation demands ubiquitous cellular connectivity. And the same impulse is now extending to devices: smart meters, body cameras, soil sensors, health monitors etc.

2.    New cyber threats

More connectivity between humans or objects means equals more opportunity for criminals. Firstly, the data itself is more valuable than ever: we use our phones to shop, pay, start a car and store our own digital ID. Meanwhile, the attack surface is widening. More connected devices give hackers more access to these valuable credentials.

Let’s take the example of EV charging stations. Yes, they distribute electricity. But they also collect vehicle ID, send activity reports, ingest data from the grid about demand and supply and more. All of this activity can be targeted by attackers.

And it’s not just criminals that want to steal. Today, there are ‘hacktivists’ and even state actors whose mission is to sabotage and create chaos. 

This poses a challenge for specialist providers such as Thales. Our Trusted Key Management and Secure Element tech can store digital identities safely, while protecting the data exchanged “from edge to cloud”. We make it possible to inject “secrets” at the production stage to protect the identity and data until end-of-life.

Of course, the industry can never stand still. New quantum computers will undoubtedly pose a threat to current encryption methods. Industry stakeholders are already working on this. For example, Thales and SK Telecom have developed a post-quantum cryptography (PQC) SIM for SKT’s 5G Stand Alone commercial launch.

3.    Keep it simple

The last part of the MCS vision might be the most important of all. Creating a simple user experience is absolutely essential in a world with billions of connected devices. Let’s start with the evolution of the SIM. 

The UX of the physical SIM card is straightforward. It’s ‘insert and go’. The various steps – authentication, transfer of operator data, activation, termination – are all embedded in the process. With eSIM, process is much more open-ended: the manufacturer embeds the SIM, and only later decides on the type of subscription and the network partner.

This new workload puts pressure on providers to help eSIM customers to ‘keep it simple’. But there are already successful examples of this approach. For example, car giant Stellantis used Thales’s provisioning platform to reprogramme the eSIMs in one million vehicles remotely and without manual intervention.

As this market grows, the challenges will continue. We will see rudimentary industrial devices that do not have a screen or keyboard yet must automatically connect to a cellular network. A good example of a solution to this challenge is Thales ‘Instant Connect’. Usually, these devices lack cellular connectivity upon their initial power on. But Instant Connect pre-loads a cellular connection so it activates out-of-the-box.


Why did Thales launch this ambitious project to re-frame its mission?

We asked Rémi de Fouchier, VP of Strategy, Marketing & Innovation for the Mobile Connectivity Solutions business line to explain…

What is the big picture behind the new MCS vision?

Thales is a very technical company. We offer complex products and services. So historically, we have focused on the technical details of our connectivity portfolio in our communications. That was OK for a while. But now the market, and our customer base is changing, and we need to re-think how we communicate.

It’s like when a plumber comes to your house. You don’t really care about his tools. You want to know what he can do for you. So that’s how we are trying to think about our products. What are the pain points we can solve? How are we different?

We also want to simplify the message internally and externally. We have lots of departments, each with their own message. I think it’s time to change that, and start explaining things in plain terms. So we are re-drafting our comms now to reflect the three pillars.

Why is there such an emphasis on ‘keeping it simple’?

The customer base is changing. Thanks to eSIM we are starting to work with new customers from a range of new verticals. Some of the devices we are working with don’t have screens or keyboards. But there is still, of course, an end user. We have to simplify the experience as much as possible for these new customers.

Our Instant Connect service is a good example of this new thinking. It lets users ship their devices to any location and, on activation, the device will send a signal to the management platform to set up the right terminal connectivity. Basically, it’s “manufacture once, ship anywhere.”

How has the eSIM inspired your new MCS vision?

The move from physical SIM to eSIM is really disrupting the market for everyone. For a Thales point of view, we have a long history in the physical SIM space. It is important that we replace that revenue. 

It starts with the MNOs, who need a new platform for managing their devices. Bringing eSIM to the mobile device space is the obvious first step, and we are already working with Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel.

But want to target new volume markets too. This brings in the second pillar, which is the IoT space. We’re already seeing the impact of eSIM in the automotive sector, which buys 50 million eSIMs a year.

Thales has always focused on security. How is this approach changing is the current era?

There will be a heightened need for security in the phone as new services emerge. We already use our devices for a range of sensitive applications. But soon we will be storing our identities in digital wallets, and maybe even storing digital cash. We have to protect these features. 

But people are connecting more devices than just phones, and this is opening up new threats. Take the smart meter for example. It might not seem much of a security challenge, but its data might tell an attacker whether a person is at home or not.

On a more corporate level, there is the challenge of the new 5G private networks. Organisations of all types will be launching these projects. It’s crucial to help them secure the identity and encrypt the data of every device in a network. 

How has the new MCS vision been received?

It’s been really positive. I think there was a little bit of confusion before. When you grow, you create lots of departments and they can sometimes operate on their own. You then get a lot of messages, and they might be all different. It’s been a great exercise to simplify them to customers.