What is M2M?
Machine-to-Machine connectivity has been around for decades, but nowadays its offshoot—the Internet of Things (IoT)—gets more attention. While the terminology differs, the idea is the same: connected machines (or things) talk to each other and the wider internet, with the goal of helping organizations simplify processes and gain greater efficiency. When machines can communicate with each other, it opens the door for process automation and reduces the need for human intervention.
What’s Different About M2M SIM Cards?
In order to talk to each other, M2M/IoT devices need SIM cards. Traditional SIM cards were designed for consumer devices like smartphones and tablets, and while they might work to a limited degree in an M2M setting, consumer SIMs don’t provide the flexibility and connection capabilities that most machines need.
M2M SIM cards are designed for sending and receiving data, rather than for voice calls and text messaging. Most M2M SIMs include more memory, are more durable, and are designed to last longer than consumer SIMs (up to a decade or more). They’re also made to endure harsher conditions such as extreme heat or cold—some can operate at temperatures as low as –40º F and as high as 221º F—and embedded M2M SIMs are able to withstand vibration and corrosion. That means they’ll keep working in situations such as connected mining equipment underground or agricultural soil sensors in the middle of a Kansas cornfield.
How Do M2M SIM Cards Work in an IoT Environment?
In an IoT environment, most M2M SIM cards operate much more independently than traditional SIMs in consumer devices. While traditional SIMs require user interaction on the device side to activate them, some M2M SIMs can be provisioned remotely using eUICC technology. eUICC-enabled eSIMs can also store multiple SIM profiles, which can be switched out from afar when needed—like swapping out credit cards in a virtual wallet.
Many M2M SIMs offer the advantage of multi-network connectivity, meaning that you aren’t tied to a single carrier network. Instead, devices can roam across geographical boundaries and connect automatically to the best local networks as they go. For example, a vehicle tracking device can stay connected as the truck driver travels from Calais to Istanbul.
Which Form Factors Do M2M SIMs Come In?
M2M SIMs come in every SIM form factor, so it’s easy to find one whose size and features best fit your device design and use case. Removable form factors 2FF, 3FF, and 4FF can be good choices for point of sale (POS) devices, vending machines, and vehicle tracking, where a human will commonly be on the installing end to assist the initial device boot and SIM provisioning process. The MFF2 embedded form factor or eSIM provides better durability since the SIM is protected inside the device, and newer MFF2 SIMs often include eUICC remote provisioning capabilities. Remote provisioning is a beneficial tool for many types of IoT deployments, especially those with devices placed in rural areas or vehicles in motion. In fact, eUICC technology initially evolved within the automotive industry, but is now growing to embrace the wider world of IoT. For example, micromobility deployments benefit from eUICC because it allows them to move scooters from city to city (and even from one continent to another) without having to issue and install new SIM cards.
What is a SIM Application Toolkit?
A set of programmed commands, the SIM application toolkit or STK establishes guidelines for how the SIM interacts with other devices and the network. In essence, the STK establishes a basis for communication between the device and the network application. Typically, M2M SIMs are programmed with an STK that provides access to multiple networks, enabling multi-network connectivity for your devices.
What Should I Look For in an M2M Provider?
What your ideal M2M connectivity provider looks like will depend somewhat on your devices and use case—you won’t need global connectivity, for example, if your devices are dedicated in one place and you don’t plan to expand. Yet in a changing technological and business landscape, you don’t know where your M2M project will lead in the future, so it’s wise to find a provider with strengths like these:
Even if you’re only planning to use IoT to monitor a dozen machines in a small factory, you never know what the future may hold. Choosing a provider that can scale up quickly and easily is an important safeguard for your business. Ideally, find one that doesn’t require benchmarks such as contracts or quotas. That flexibility will pay off in cost savings over time.
Global Network Access
In a global business climate, making sure your M2M SIMs can connect anywhere they go is important. For example, if you’re a micromobility provider, your connected scooters will need to stay connected and trackable even if a driver removes one from its designated area. Look for a provider with a single global M2M SIM card or eUICC chip that can automatically find and connect to the best local networks, no matter where they roam.
While you might not need remote provisioning capabilities at the moment, eUICC-enabled eSIMs are the wave of the future—and for good reason. They give you the ability to swap out SIM profiles on your devices remotely if you need to switch carriers or networks. Choosing a provider now that makes and supports eUICC technology ensures that you won’t need to go through the headache of finding a new connectivity service if you need those capabilities in the future.
Easy-to-Use Management Platform
Device and connectivity management are essential components of any M2M/IoT project. Pick a provider whose management platform is intuitive and accessible, giving you real-time visibility into the health of your fleet. Information about device usage, data limits, and connectivity status is vital, and tracking tools and alert triggers can make device management easier and more streamlined.
Large carriers tend to price M2M connectivity in bulky, complicated plans that can cause you to purchase more data usage than you need. Carrier-agnostic providers, on the other hand, are more likely to offer flexible pricing. A pay-as-you-go model works great for smaller device deployments, and the rates often go down as you add more devices.
Powering M2M Connectivity
Hologram specializes in M2M connectivity. Our hardware-agnostic global SIM connects automatically to the best available local networks from more than 550 global partners, and our easy-to-use Dashboard and flexible REST API enable efficient device management. If you’re interested in discussing your M2M connectivity needs, get in touch with us.