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Unlocking IoT solutions with eSIM
This blog is a contributory post from Soracom submitted to NeuronicWorks as an informational piece.
Modern smart devices are only growing sleeker and more complex, meaning the component parts of these IoT solutions need to get smarter too. This has inspired many device designers and manufacturers to look at low-footprint and low-power parts to help make the most of a limited space; one of the most popular solutions is the embedded SIM (eSIM).
A recent report from Kaleido Intelligence estimated that more than 4.5 billion connected devices will deploy with eSIMs by 2027. These findings are echoed by a separate report from Emergen Research, which estimates that the eSIM market could reach a valuation of more than $3 billion USD in that same time frame.
It is clear that eSIM is becoming a more integral part of the modern ecosystem of IoT devices, but what precisely is an eSIM?
What is an eSIM?
As the name would suggest, eSIM are unremovable IoT SIM cards that are soldered directly onto a device’s circuit board. They are much smaller than more traditional card-type SIMs, taking up about 6 x 5 mm of space compared to even the smallest SIM’s form factor (a nano SIM measures 12 x 9mm), and offer greater security by virtue of being physically affixed to a device’s main circuit board.
Users deploying eSIMs are also able to remotely switch between connectivity carriers on demand by loading new user profiles to an already deployed SIM. This is particularly beneficial for organizations that like to keep their options open as it pertains to a carrier’s rates, quality of service, and support. With more traditional devices that are not eUICC-capable, this would require operators to physically swap each individual SIM card in every device within their deployment with new SIMs - something that can effectively ground any projects that may cross out of a carrier’s service area.
eSIM also supports dual-SIM functionality, which can be integral to deployments that regularly cross international borders. This makes eSIM a natural solution for use cases like Edge computing or asset tracking, which are not bound to a single controlled environment.
eSIM and the Edge
Edge computing looks to be one of the fastest-growing sectors in tech, with some reports estimating a valuation of $155.9 Billion USD by 2030. The term ‘Edge computing’ refers to a distributed computing framework that allows for computation and data storage to occur closer to the source of said data. This means that data can be processed almost instantaneously and turned into actionable insights to be used immediately at the location before being transmitted back to a receiver.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Edge computing and IoT are complementary concepts. Well-designed IoT devices offer a number of benefits for Edge deployments. From lowering latency by processing data at the same point it is acquired, to the improved bandwidth that comes from eliminating larger data dumps, to heightened security efforts by hosting and encrypting data at multiple edge locations, IoT solutions are an integral part of the Edge ecosystem.
This also makes eSIM a natural fit for Edge applications, as its natural benefits over traditional physical SIMs can help optimize devices with unique requirements. The low footprint of the embedded SIM not only enables the construction of smaller, more compact devices, but the fact that it is soldered directly onto the device’s motherboard also allows for more rugged constructions. The additional vibration, water, and temperature resistance of the eSIM make it perfect for outdoor applications that may be more regularly exposed to the elements. Because the eSIM provides wireless remote connectivity for devices across varied locations and environments, it can power even complex deployments in difficult areas.
eSIM vs. iSIM
Of course, if footprint is the only concern for organizations looking to deploy custom IoT devices, there may be another solution out there worth their attention. The integrated SIM (iSIM) is the smallest commercial SIM currently available on the market, as it embeds SIM functionality directly into the device’s modem.
An iSIM features a system-on-chip (SoC) architecture with an onboard processor, packing in a ton of functionality in the least obtrusive form factor (less than one mm in length). This grants the iSIM many of the same security advantages afforded the eSIM and allows for additional levels of authentication as well. The SIM OS integrated into the SoC even offers enhanced security through a hardware-based secure enclave, a dedicated processor for security operations.
It functions similarly to the eSIM as well, but without a separate processor, making the power requirements much lower. That, combined with the fewer components required when utilizing an iSIM in an IoT device’s design, can make for significant savings at scale.
Though both eSIM and iSIM are creating new opportunities for advancements in IoT, the main challenges with iSIM are rooted in its nascency as a technology. Currently, iSIM are a bit harder to come by, and their lack of support for multicarrier support can present some issues for certain deployments.
A Solution for Modern Day
Whether it’s eSim or iSIM, these newer, sleeker technologies will help shape the future of IoT devices. Investing in custom-designed hardware that works especially for your deployment is the best way to make the most of your IoT solution.