The hardware eSIM, along with eUICC software, is changing the way organizations approach device deployments. Rather than a removable component, the eSIM is embedded in the device and the eUICC allows network operators to send SIM profiles over the air (OTA)—without needing physical access to the device. Manufacturers and IoT providers are making a lot of big claims about the efficacy of eSIM and its myriad possibilities for IoT. But practically, what does an IoT deployment with eSIM look like?
First, let’s take a closer look at the benefits the eSIM can offer to IoT deployments.
What Are the Advantages of eSIM for IoT?
Remote (OTA) Provisioning
The ability to send devices into the field first and provision them with the needed SIM profile later is one of the biggest advantages of eUICC-enabled eSIMs. Depending on the use case, you might not know where in the world your devices will end up, meaning that provisioning them prior to deployment can be tricky. Connected cars are a prime example—when a vehicle rolls off the assembly line, it’s difficult to predict whether it will be shipped across the state or around the globe. Having the ability to provision each one with the connectivity piece it will need to connect at its final destination allows companies to avoid manufacturing bottlenecks.
With eUICC-enabled eSIMs, companies can scale their IoT projects more easily because they no longer have to plan for SIM card trade-outs, which can be costly. Every device contains the same hardware and software combination, yet it’s adaptable to the network environment where it ends up operating.
For many IoT projects, flexibility is another important point. M2M devices with traditional SIMs tend to consume more power, while eSIM devices typically enable extended battery life, especially those that operate on LTE-M or NB-IoT network protocols. Devices using eSIM are also typically more compact and better sealed, making them a more appropriate choice for use cases where the device will be deployed outdoors, underground, or underwater.
Streamlined Supply Chain
Using eSIMs can greatly simplify your supply chain. Sourcing and incorporating traditional SIMs is a physical step in the process that can be eliminated with the addition of eUICC-enabled eSIMs. Because you can send out the needed SIM profile to the devices after they’re deployed, your global supply chain can flow without interruption.
What Does an IoT deployment With eSIM/eUICC Look Like?
Now, let’s take a closer look at what an IoT deployment with eUICC-enabled eSIMs might look like with Hologram.
Use Case: Smart Agriculture
Smart agriculture deployments have a unique set of challenges. In our example, the smart agriculture company needs to be able to connect thousands of devices in regions around the world with widely varied network availability. These devices are deployed, in some cases, many miles from the nearest cellular tower and need to be distributed on a large scale to enable the best quality data collection. They also need to withstand all kinds of weather and temperatures, from rain and snow to heat and humidity.
And there’s an additional challenge: the devices need to be manufactured in a single batch, without knowing where in the world they will be shipped. After deployment, devices must sometimes be removed from the field and shifted to different regions, so to make best use of the hardware, they must be easy to reconfigure.
eUICC-enabled eSIM: A Powerful Solution
For this smart agriculture deployment, eSIM meets the challenges. First, the eSIMs are shipped to the smart agriculture company’s manufacturing partner and incorporated into the sensor devices. During the assembly and activation phase, manufacturers install the eSIMs and activate the sensors in a QA test mode. The testing allows quality assurance personnel to connect via local carriers, make sure the devices pass final quality tests, and then hibernate the SIMs for shipment. Meanwhile, project leaders at the smart agriculture company can monitor the testing process from the Hologram Dashboard.
The smart agriculture sensors are shipped to distribution centers and then to farms around the world. When the devices reach their final destinations, project managers can utilize OTA provisioning with eUICC to allow customized carrier and network access depending on local availability. A single profile can have access to multiple carriers in a network, and with a third-party provider like Hologram, that access includes constant additions of new carriers and networks, providing a passport to expand to new areas and situations.
Sometimes, sensors need to be moved from one location to another depending on factors such as growing seasons and evolving needs. When this rebalancing happens, project managers can remotely provision the device’s eSIM with a new profile to fit the network requirements in the new location.
Like provisioning, firmware updates can be delivered remotely, making it simple for IoT managers to keep improving the devices’ capabilities and performance as time goes on.
Agricultural sensors need to be durable. Because the eSIM hardware is sealed inside the device, it’s easier to create sensors that can withstand the extreme weather and temperatures that are to be expected in smart agriculture deployments.
What Does the Future Hold for eUICC-enabled eSIM Deployments?
For massive IoT deployments, eSIM offers a future-proof technology that can adapt to network changes and sunsets. Because firmware is updated remotely, the eUICC can evolve along with network changes, downloading new security protocols and patches as needed. It provides a constant connection point with the device and its hardware, cutting down the need for in-person device maintenance.
While the promises of eUICC-enabled eSIM are many, some logistical obstacles remain. The GSMA has defined the eSIM standard, but there’s still a lot of confusion around carriers giving their SIM profiles up and integrating with other carriers to enable global connectivity. IoT leaders can avoid these challenges by choosing a partner that’s carrier neutral.
Hologram is the Switzerland of cellular providers—neutral and carrier agnostic. We’re constantly at work to negotiate carrier integration and open up channels for our customers to connect around the world. Our open application programming interface (API) makes it easier to develop the eSIM options you need to automate processes within your ordering system or customer portal. As we continue to onboard new carriers and networks, our goal is to expand the connection possibilities for your IoT deployments.