The IoT, or the Internet of Things is already everywhere, and we can argue that going forward, interconnected things will be the center of everything in the world.
Many companies are now racing to implement their next version of IoT deployments, but a key issue remains how we can connect all the different elements: devices, sensors, routers, servers, and so on in a single network, an issue we call ‘IoT connectivity’.
Cellular connectivity via SIM cards remains one of the most popular IoT connectivity solutions being used by many different IoT system owners, mainly due to the wide availability of cellular networks all over the world, allowing for global IoT cellular connectivity.
To power IoT cellular connectivity, a dedicated IoT SIM card is needed, which has some unique differences when compared to the standard SIM cards we have in our phones. Here, we will discuss all you need to know about these IoT SIM cards.
Understanding IoT SIM Cards
An IoT SIM card, as the name suggests, is a variation of the traditional SIM card that we use in our smartphones and tablets. However, a unique thing is that they have additional features that are specifically designed for IoT implementations, especially in three key areas:
- Durability: IoT devices are often deployed in remote areas with very harsh conditions like extreme temperatures, risks for impacts, high pressure, and so on. So, the IoT SIM card has to be more durable than our standard SIM cards.
- Remote Access: An IoT device might be deployed in a location that is very difficult to reach, so it’s very important for IoT SIM cards to enable remote access and troubleshooting.
- Security: Since IoT devices might carry sensitive data, data security is very important. Typically an IoT SIM card will use a single IPSec or VPN to ensure encryption for all IoT devices.
In practice, however, there are many more differences between a regular smartphone SIM and an IoT SIM card, as we will discuss below.
Regular SIM Cards VS IoT SIM Cards: Differences
- Data coverage and contract
IoT deployments might require international, regional, or even global coverage the bigger the network grows, and an IoT sim card must be able to accommodate this need. So:
- A regular SIM card is typically bound to just one network provider in one country, while an IoT SIM card is capable of connecting to multiple networks per country without needing the owner to switch physical SIM cards.
- It’s also very important for IoT SIM cards not to charge roaming charges (at least, it should be reasonable) with global connectivity.
- Due to the versatile needs of data transmission, typically a pay-as-you-go scheme is needed rather than a fixed volume or included data plans offered in regular SIM cards.
- Versatility in contract terms, so IoT network owners should be able to pause, cancel, and reactivate the contract at any time.
- Durability and Form Factors
Both regular and IoT SIM cards offer mini, micro, and nano form factors, but newer IoT devices might also offer eSIM, which is essentially a smaller chip that is soldered onto the device. eSIM in IoT implementations opens the door for a wider range of device design and use cases. For example, provisioning (connecting a brand new device) to the network is now much easier to perform.
Durability, as discussed, is an important issue in IoT deployment, and typically the IoT SIM card meets industrial-grade certification for humidity, corrosion resistance, endurance against extreme temperature ranges, and chemical exposure
- Management and Control
Many IoT devices don’t have displays and user interfaces, so we can’t access settings directly on the devices. With that being said, IoT SIM cards must offer a management/control software where the user can control or at least view information related to data volume used, costs, and activity of the devices.
The availability of this management software would be dependent on the network provider. Truphone for Things data plans, for example, offer a management portal where you can monitor and control hundreds of IoT devices anywhere in the world.
Regular SIM cards typically assign dynamic IP addresses to the device, that will change each time our smartphone establishes a data connection. There are exceptions to this rule, for example, corporations might have purchased private APNs with static IP addresses.
In IoT implementations, however, the use of static IP address (that is private) and VPN is the norm, allowing owners to access the specific IoT device remotely when they are deployed anywhere in the world. This will also prevent unauthorized users from accessing the device when they don’t possess the right credentials for the IP address.
- Unique Features for IoT
There are some other important features of the IoT SIM card that are specific for IoT deployments, such as:
- Allowed APIs for automation of processes and also for providing crucial information to the application. This can significantly improve the productivity and efficiency of the IoT device.
- Low power technologies to improve battery life without compromising coverage range and speed/bandwidth.
- Dedicated 24/7 customer support with a rich IoT-oriented knowledge base.
Which IoT Devices Use IoT SIM Cards
A wide range of IoT devices are now using IoT SIM cards (both in the form of physical micro/nano-SIM cards and eSIMs), and virtually there are endless applications for the technology.
Here are some common examples of different IoT devices utilizing IoT SIM cards:
- Smart home appliances: smart lighting, smart thermostat, and other appliances like video doorbells and alarms might use IoT SIM cards when they can’t access the home Wi-Fi (i.e. they are located relatively far from the house).
- Wearables: Apple Watch, smartwatches, and various other fitness trackers are using IoT SIM cards and eSIMs.
- Sensors: agricultural and marine sensors have transformed the industry, along with other industries implementing smart sensors like healthcare.
- Vehicles: IoT SIM cards allow businesses to track locations in real-time, and can also power automated vehicles.
Whether you are in need of a physical, removable IoT SIM card or an eSIM, Truphone can be your partner in providing your IoT SIM card needs. Truphone IoT sim cards can securely provision and store multiple UICCs from different operator profiles, so you can switch between networks and locations seamlessly. Truphone’s IoT data plans also offer global coverage, while also supporting remote bootstrapping with centralized activation.