Hologram SIM cards sitting on a desk

Choosing an IoT SIM card vendor for your product or deployment can be challenging. To help you make the best decision, let’s first explore the definition of an IoT SIM card and its advantages, then look at how to evaluate potential vendors.

What is an IoT SIM card?

IoT applications have unique demands. When thousands or even millions of connected devices need to communicate with each other and the cloud with little human oversight, they require SIMs that differ from those used in traditional mobile phones. Because IoT devices typically require wider geographical ranges, more adjustable lines of service, and higher levels of encryption, management, and control than consumer cellular devices, IoT SIM cards must function a little differently. 

IoT SIM cards work in much the same way as traditional SIMs — they establish a connection, authenticate it, and monitor and store important information such as physical location. 

Both IoT SIMs and traditional SIMs contain basic identification information such as the ICCID, IMSI, authentication key, and location information. Unlike traditional SIMs installed in consumer devices, however, IoT SIMs are often designed to be activated without the need for human control or oversight at the device side.

Recommended Reading: IoT SIM cards vs. regular cellular SIM cards: key differences

Advantages of an IoT SIM card 

SIM cards and eSIMs designed for use in the IoT space offer several advantages over traditional SIMs. Let’s take a look.

  • Large coverage area

Unlike carrier-based consumer devices with traditional SIMs, devices equipped with IoT SIMs are typically more flexible and not tied to any particular location. Cellular LPWAN coverage is also available around the world, with NB-IoT currently available in 29 countries and LTE-M in 24 countries.

  • Reliability

IoT SIMs that rely on global cellular networks remove a business’s dependence on a stable internet connection at the location of the device — as long as there is a cellular signal. This reliability can mean the difference between the success or failure of an IoT deployment.

  • Analytics

With the reliable connectivity of cellular IoT, devices equipped with IoT SIMs are better able to collect and transmit data in real-time, allowing businesses to make the best use of analytics. For example, a company can track how and when its health monitor is used, tailoring future product updates and features to suit the needs of end-users. In a smart factory, the flow of real-time cellular data from machines on the floor can power AI, predictive maintenance, reporting, and other functions.

Recommended reading: What’s the relationship between IoT and big data?

Factors to consider when looking for an IoT SIM card vendor

In search of the right IoT SIM card vendor? You’ll want to consider the important questions below, along with any others that pertain to your device’s use case and industry vertical.

Is extended global connectivity offered?

Particularly if you’re planning to deploy devices in different world regions, global connectivity within the SIM card network is an important feature to look for.

IoT SIMs are integral to the functionality of the devices they’re inside and will only work when they’re connected to a compatible network. That’s why it’s key to have a reliable and broad scope of connectivity. For example, a fleet of trucks equipped with IoT asset trackers needs to stay connected as they carry shipments throughout a region — otherwise, the value of the data they gather is diminished. 

One way to ensure updatable global connectivity is with the eSIM or embedded SIM, which can be provisioned remotely. Depending on where the device is deployed, managers can switch out the SIM profile to one that will connect with local networks.

Does the vendor have remote management functionality? 

An IoT remote management system is software that allows users to keep track of all of the devices within the IoT network. For example, imagine you need to oversee hundreds of IIoT sensors installed in multiple factory locations. Without a device management platform, you might be looking at a screen with lots of data points — and spending a lot of time trying to make sense of them. A good device management tool can filter that data and only alert you when there’s a perceived problem. Because IoT involves massive amounts of data, a vendor that helps manage, organize, and analyze that information is essential. 

How is the customer service?

Because IoT devices may monitor or control vital infrastructure, supply chains, or medical conditions, keeping them functioning properly is very important. When you have connectivity issues, you want your devices to go back online quickly, and for all your questions to be answered promptly. Look for a vendors with expert knowledge who provide dependable, around-the-clock customer support. To help you vet vendors in this area, ask to speak with other IoT customers — particularly those in your industry — and interview them about their experiences.

Is my data protected? 

Data privacy and cybersecurity are essential concerns in IoT. Choosing a vendor that knows the ins and outs of network security, as well as the nuances of IoT, is important for ensuring the safety of your devices and data. One major weakness of IoT security is the lack of standard operating systems. While Microsoft or Apple can roll out updates that seal any holes in their OS security, devices that use their own unique OS often have unknown weaknesses. A vendor with an established record of working with your type of devices and industry can build a much tighter security network. 

Are the prices honest and flexible?

The needs of IoT devices can change very quickly. Devices wear out. New demand requires scaling up the number of devices in a short amount of time. Needed coverage may vary drastically between devices — some are stationary in high coverage areas, while others need to have strong coverage even in remote areas. 

These shifting needs mean you’ll want a vendor with clear, flexible pricing. You don’t want to be paying for features you don’t need, and you want to be able to drop features when you stop needing them. 

Pain point focused 

Having a vendor that deals with your industry has many benefits — from experience with the devices themselves to understanding the regulations and protocols in place for that industry. They understand the pain points you and your customers face and are more likely to know which data points are important to collect and manage. 

Interest in expanding your partnership 

An IoT vendor that is either connected to other companies in your supply chain or has a broad enough product base to be able to cope with further IoT implementation can provide much-needed room for expansion. A good vendor is more of a business partner than a service provider — because you’ll both benefit from your success. 

A vendor with a history of innovation

The best IoT vendors work with you to innovate and solve problems. In the tech world, finding new niches for IoT devices is a major part of the work — and a good vendor will always be expanding their services in new ways. Look for a company that’s actively developing new technologies, networks, and services not only to meet current demands but also in anticipation of future needs.

Hologram: your trusted IoT SIM card vendor

No matter its size and intended use case, every IoT device needs a dependable source of connectivity. Hologram’s IoT SIM card offers seamless, global coverage for IoT devices with access to LTE/4G/3G/2G technologies. With our Hyper eUICC-enabled SIMs, you’ll gain access to new connectivity partnerships without any additional carrier negotiations, integrations, or hardware swaps.

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