How To Achieve Global IoT Connectivity in 2020 and Beyond

November 14, 2020 Tiera Oliver

IoT, or the Internet of Things, is now everywhere. Starting from relatively small deployments in smart homes to large scale IoT systems deployed by huge enterprises and multinational businesses. With today’s IoT networks getting bigger than ever, many businesses and tech practitioners are discussing the possibility of implementing global IoT connectivity to scale the IoT network to a global scale. 

Here we will discuss the concept of global IoT connectivity, and how we can achieve global IoT connectivity in 2020 and beyond. 

What is Global IoT Connectivity?

Global IoT connectivity is the concept of an IoT connectivity solution that ensures your devices stay connected, no matter where they are deployed in the world. At the moment, the best connectivity option that is capable of achieving global IoT connectivity is a cellular network, compared to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and mesh-based technologies, among others that can only cover a short coverage range.

In IoT implementations, the cellular network covers a large area and can even connect two devices in different countries. However, it’s important to note that at the moment, there are relatively few network providers that offer truly global coverage or even offer coverage in more than 10 different countries. Ideally, to really achieve true global IoT connectivity, the connectivity solution should cover all countries all around the world, but at the moment most providers haven’t achieved this.

Truphone is one of the top network providers that offer global mobile IoT connectivity solutions, allowing us to connect devices anywhere while also providing control and reliability over connectivity and bootstrapping through an easy-to-use IoT management platform.

Global connectivity is important both for current and future IoT deployments for a few reasons: 

  • Many IoT devices are now mobile, like today’s smart vehicles and even totally autonomous vehicles. The further they travel, the more complex the connectivity requirements would be.

  • Global IoT connectivity would translate to versatility in scaling your IoT network, so you wouldn’t need to be confined to local network solutions in a specific location when the need for expanding the network arises. 

  • Global IoT connectivity will also improve your IoT system’s reliability, where your devices will always be connected no matter where they are deployed. 

Challenge in Implementing Global IoT Connectivity

When connecting IoT devices to global connectivity, one of the key concerns is how businesses can connect their sensors and retrieve the information into their back-end systems as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, there can be various challenges along the way, and the bigger (the more global) the IoT systems get, the more escalated these challenges could be.

A key challenge, however, is that connecting two IoT devices via cellular connectivity can require several decisions, including: 

  • Hardware design and application according to the specific geographical location

  • Security protocols to maintain security throughout the data transmission

  • Data plan costs, and managing data usage

  • Bootstrapping devices (the process connecting an IoT device to the network)

  • Choosing and implementing a suitable cloud platform if necessary (and if not provided by the network provider)

  • Ensuring device lifecycle management and security 

Implementing these requirements can be challenging, and often lead to long development times and compromises in cost-efficiency. 

eSIM for Easier To Global IoT Connectivity

It is expected that there will be over 25 billion connected devices all around the world by 2025, but as we’ve discussed above, there’s an impending need for uniformity in cellular IoT connectivity. The products need to connect immediately when activated (instant bootstrapping), and we’d also need to consider how a product that is manufactured in one country might end up operating in another country halfway across the world. 

Mobile IoT products (vehicles) also offer an extra challenge of maintaining reliable connectivity as they travel from one coverage area to another, which might involve different network providers with different standards.

The initial answer to these challenges is to use international roaming models to achieve international coverage. However, now the introduction of embedded SIM (eSIM) technology has also allowed an additional option to enable reliable local connectivity in the global environment. 

Why eSIM Technology?

The physical SIM card that is inserted to a SIM card tray has one core issue in relation to global connectivity: the SIM card is paired to one network provider, so when a device is deployed in another country, then you’re going to physically replace the SIM card with a new one from the new cellular provider that covers the new area. 

This can be especially challenging in the case of mobile IoT devices: when an IoT vehicle, for example, crosses from one country to another, you will need to change SIM cards. This can turn into a major headache if we have a high amount of deployed devices. 

This is where the eSIM technology comes in. The eSIM, instead of being a physical, plastic SIM card, is a small chip integrated into the device, and the beauty of it comes from the fact that we can connect to different network providers from a single eSIM. 

As a result of this, the eSIM provides greater versatility in global IoT deployments, which allows for remote bootstrapping of device credentials, and the fact that we don’t have to switch to different physical SIM cards anytime we need to change locations and/or network providers. This solves the key challenges of the global IoT connectivity at the moment, allowing devices to connect instantly wherever they are deployed or wherever they may travel for mobile IoT devices.

It’s important to note, however, that at least at the moment, eSIM is no longer a 100% replacement for international roaming. There are still use cases where roaming is more cost-effective, for example with legacy devices. A common approach is to offer eSIM together with roaming to provide more versatility. 

Concluding Thoughts

At the moment, cellular connectivity remains the most viable candidate in achieving truly global IoT connectivity in 2020 and onwards. With the help of the eSIM technology, network providers like Truphone can securely and reliably offer global IoT connectivity for international businesses looking to scale their IoT system. 

Another important factor is a management platform that allows businesses to manage both fixed and mobile IoT devices in a global area from a single dashboard. The right management platform can maximize the IoT network performance, while a weak platform can severely limit it. 

About the Author

Tiera Oliver, edtorial intern for Embedded Computing Design, is responsible for web content edits as well as newsletter updates. She also assists in news content as far as constructing and editing stories. Before interning for ECD, Tiera had recently graduated from Northern Arizona University where she received her B.A. in journalism and political science and worked as a news reporter for the university's student led newspaper, The Lumberjack.

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