Why you should treat connectivity like software

Bringing a software approach to connectivity can help teams tackle IoT’s biggest challenges. Find out how.
Connectivity
Will Hart
September 1, 2022
Developer works on computer

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is defined as electronics that aren’t traditional computing devices, but are connected to the internet to send and receive data. That could be a scooter, a refrigerator, a healthcare monitoring device, an electric vehicle, or one of the millions of other devices and applications that continue to see value by being connected to the internet.

In the early days of cellular IoT, each device contained a physical SIM card that was manufactured or inserted into the device. This SIM was programmed with a specific network configuration that could only be changed by physically replacing it with another one. This was exactly the same experience as with early cell phones – when it was time to upgrade, you would go to the store and pick out your new phone. The sales rep would pop out your old SIM card and insert it into your new phone to port your number and keep you connected to their service. The connectivity was treated like hardware because it required a physical modification to make a change.

Fast forward to today. When you get a new cell phone, you can automatically transfer your data and cell phone plan and get started immediately, without transferring over a SIM card. That’s because advances in technology have enabled SIM cards to be reprogrammed virtually, like software. That's why we think it should be treated as such.

The same is true for IoT SIM cards. Hologram was the first to bring an IoT focused eUICC SIM card to market with Hyper, helping organizations future-proof IoT deployments around the globe with over-the-air updates. This innovation may not seem that dissimilar to other technology changes we’ve seen over the years. From a developer perspective, this is not unlike the move from waterfall to agile, or for software, the evolution from on-prem to SaaS. These new models offer greater flexibility and the potential to innovate and evolve a business model, bringing a minimum viable product to market faster.

Why approaching connectivity like software matters

Adopting the mindset of treating your connectivity like software will help address some global, external factors.

Many countries across the globe and carriers are regulating how devices can connect to local cellular providers. That means that one roaming provider may not be possible for a global fleet of IoT devices. Without the ability to automatically change connections depending on where a device is deployed, manufacturers would need to understand exactly which device is going to a market to ensure the right SIM is installed. This creates unnecessary complexities in the manufacturing and supply chain processes.

When your connectivity is treated like software, you can have one SIM installed in any new or existing device, modify the connection, and ensure you won’t have to physically update a card as new types of connections are made available. With this flexibility, innovators can focus on driving value and innovations while connectivity around them evolves rapidly.

Approaching connectivity in this way means that you can take advantage of lower data costs. The cost of cellular data has been steadily decreasing year over year as more devices connect to the internet and use more data. As costs come down, even for premium services, the cost to deliver connected and data-driven experiences will lower, too.

With internet-connected products, you can continuously update the software over the air to improve or add features to the product. Cellular IoT product creators will have to think like this too – updating the connectivity profiles on their SIM cards to improve performance by switching to native operators, resiliency by adding fallback and multi-carrier redundancy, and cost by switching to lower cost carriers who can deliver comparable service.

Recommended reading: eSIM vs. IoT SIM card: 5 differences explained

Considerations for selecting your connectivity solution

With new technology and mindsets, there are always things to watch out for. For one, the promise of new technology often comes before the value is demonstrated. As a connectivity consumer, make sure you ask the right questions and ensure you are getting the flexibility needed for your business.

Additionally, always consider security. Turning SIM cards into software that can be remotely reprogrammed means your devices are more connected but also more vulnerable. Cellular connectivity has greater security benefits in place as the MNOs manage their networks, but also make sure your connectivity provider has additional features in place to keep your organization’s data and devices protected. Hologram prioritizes security with IMEI locking, PIN locking, and the ability to set alerts based on data usage and other parameters to catch security breaches and notify managers in real-time before threats have a big impact on your business.

Innovating for the future

As you think about the problem you are solving, be sure that you are planning for the future where connectivity is an important layer within your tech stack – and one that operates like software. With this mindset, you’ll be able to innovate faster as you focus on the problems you and your organization are trying to solve.

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