Last updated: 06 August 2014
What’s the big deal about a SIM card that can switch subscriptions from one carrier to another at any time, over the air, without the customer having to physically switch out SIM cards? Plenty.
Until now, wireless devices required a carrier-specific SIM card to connect to a cellular network and “turn-on” wireless service. For consumer devices, this challenge was easily solved with plug-in SIM cards inserted after the end-user decided on a preferred wireless service carrier. For example, a customer may purchase an AT&T cell phone at an AT&T retail outlet, and that SIM card would be linked to AT&T for life. If the customer wanted to switch carriers to say, T-Mobile, for example, the customer would need to purchase either a new phone or a new SIM card.
While that’s a workable solution for cell phone customers, in the world of connected machines, the SIM cards are often sealed during manufacturing to improve durability and embedded in a permanent, possibly hard-to-reach spot. Think of a SIM card embedded in a container on a cargo ship traveling internationally or in an automobile that is manufactured in Germany with a final destination of the US or China– imagine how difficult it can be to manage the supply chain logistics.
It gets even more difficult when you consider a connected car device with a lifetime warranty that requires a ruggedized, embedded SIM able to withstand harsh conditions (heat, humidity, vibration) on the road for 10-15 years. These SIMs are permanently embedded because plugging-in a consumer grade SIM card under the dash is not only technically challenging, it opens the door to damaging sensitive electronics systems and jeopardize warranties on other components. The problem is, manufacturing small batches of MNO-specific connected car solutions and then managing the logistics of distribution around the world is quite complicated, not to mention expensive and time consuming.
A New Solution
New industry guidelines were recently published for SIMs used in connected machines to address this long-standing bottleneck in M2M and Internet of Things solution deployment.
The new guideline allows flexibility to choose carriers over the air, without swapping out SIMs. This helps all sorts of M2M manufacturers by allowing them to embed one type of SIM during manufacturing that can later be provisioned by the end-customer to the cellular subscription of their choice. No longer does the cellular carrier need to be chosen during manufacturing, forcing manufacturers to install many types of SIMs in small batches.
The goal of this program is to ultimately support growth of the entire Internet of Things ecosystem. Personally, I’m proud that Gemalto was a major contributor to establishing the new industry standard, and subsequently launched a new On-Demand Provisioning Program, the first in the industry to offer a solution for the service provisioning challenges facing M2M solutions and globally diverse deployments.
This is a huge step towards advancing the Internet of Things and ensuring that the next big thing isn’t thwarted by geography, wireless networks or complex manufacturing or distribution logistics.