IoT, or the Internet of Things, has gone from being a mere concept just a decade ago into a reality where there are more than 10 billion actively connected IoT devices in 2021, and the number is still expected to grow for the years to come. IoT deployments are simply everywhere from smart homes to smart factories and even smart cities, and global IoT connectivity is just around the corner.
The demands for IoT are getting bigger, and many businesses are now looking to expand and scale their IoT projects, this is why the demands for global IoT connectivity are now a pressing issue with businesses looking to scale their IoT projects across borders of countries.
Global IoT Connectivity: The Idea
What actually is global IoT connectivity?
As the name suggests, it is an idealized concept of a truly connected IoT network where all the devices in the network are interconnected even when they are located in different countries. True global connectivity would allow an Iot device located in the North Pole to directly connect with another device located in the South Pole, and at the moment, this is not yet a reality.
A true global IoT connectivity solution must fulfill three key requirements:
- Consume as little energy as possible to accommodate battery-powered IoT devices that are deployed remotely
- Has as wide coverage area as possible, should connect two devices located halfway across the world
- Can transfer an unlimited amount of data at any given time (infinite bandwidth capability)
Obviously, such technology doesn’t yet exist.
The closest connectivity technologies at the moment that can allow global connectivity are cellular Iot and satellite. Satellite connection, however, is very expensive, although various companies are working on low-cost satellite connectivity options. With that being said, cellular connectivity remains the favorite option amongst businesses with large-scale IoT deployments that span across countries.
Both satellite and cellular connectivity, however, has a major downside in the fact that they consume a lot of power. This can be a major issue in IoT deployments where the devices must rely on battery power, for example when they are deployed in remote areas without electricity. Yet, cellular connectivity remains the most viable option at the moment due to the fact that cellular coverage is available virtually everywhere in the world.
Some providers offer global mobile IoT connectivity solution by consolidating various network operators, so we can seamlessly connect IoT devices anywhere in the world, and for devices with eSIM, we can allow the device to automatically switch to the most optimal network at any given time without any roaming charges, which can be a major advantage for mobile IoT devices like autonomous vehicles. Global IoT network providers like Truphone would also provide businesses with centralized IoT management platform to enable an easier way to remotely provision IoT devices that are deployed in different countries.
eSIM and Global IoT Connectivity
As discussed, cellular connectivity remains the closest alternative we currently have to an ideal global IoT connectivity solution. However, there are several core challenges preventing cellular connectivity from being a true global IoT connectivity technology:
- Cellular coverage is divided between different network operators, and when devices move between locations, we’ll need to switch to different operators. In such cases, we may be required to physically replace the device’s SIM card, which can be a logistical nightmare.
- Global connectivity across multiple carrier networks, countries/regions, and operating systems must be maintained, and very few cellular service providers currently offer this.
- We’ll need a comprehensive device management system that allows remote provisioning for an individual device or in bulk. This will also include the ability to perform OTA updates and security patches.
The relatively recent eSIM technology is designed to answer these issues. eSIM is embedded into the device’s body rather than being a physical SIM card, and is capable for Remote SIM Provisioning (RSP).
As a result of RSP, we don’t need to switch to different SIM cards anytime the device needs to change network providers and/or moved to different locations. We can switch between different data plans and service providers with over-the-air (OTA) commands, for example via a mobile app.
Thus, the eSIM offers more versatility in allowing global IoT connectivity, solving some key challenges of achieving true global connectivity. IoT devices can connect virtually instantly wherever these devices are deployed in different locations.
Global IoT connectivity is the future of IoT providing us with several core advantages:
- A true global IoT connectivity solution would provide unlimited freedom when we want to scale the IoT project, no longer limited by network coverage and roaming charges. We’ll have more versatility in choosing between different network solutions depending on our needs.
- IoT devices are no longer reliant on a single network and can stay connected no matter where they are deployed in the world.
- Mobile IoT devices like autonomous vehicles will only grow to be even more popular in 2022 and onwards. The more these autonomous vehicles are in operation, the more demands we’ll have for global IoT connectivity.
IoT projects will continue to bloom, and it is expected that there will be over 25 billion connected devices all around the world by 2025. While a true global IoT connectivity solution doesn’t yet exist, cellular IoT is the most viable connectivity option we have at the moment thanks to the wide availability of cellular coverage all over the world. The introduction of eSIM has also allowed more versatility in using cellular IoT connectivity to expand IoT deployments on a larger scale.