The Internet of Things, or IoT, is no longer a technological concept but has become a reality in the past few years. In 2020, it is expected that there are more than 10 billion active and connected IoT devices all around the world, and these devices are used for various implementations from smart home appliances to heavy-duty robotics applications.
A core aspect of IoT is connectivity: how we can connect these billions of different smart devices to the network, and at the moment, cellular data connection via IoT SIM cards remain one of the most popular and effective IoT connectivity options due to their reliability and scalability.
However, it’s important to note that IoT SIM cards are not the same as the traditional SIM cards in your smartphone, and there are core differences as well as advantages you should know.
IoT SIM Cards VS Other IoT Connectivity Options
There are many different methods we can use to connect different IoT devices to an IoT network, but we can categorize these connectivity options based on three main factors:
- Bandwidth: the maximum amount of data that can be transmitted by the network
- Power consumption: how much power the connectivity option will consume. Since many IoT devices are mobile and battery-powered, power consumption can be a major issue
- Coverage range: how far the device can be separated from the network and/or between each other. This can dictate the size of the IoT network.
The cellular IoT connection via IoT SIM cards can be categorized as connectivity with high power consumption, but its core advantage is its biggest, and the most scalable (can be global) coverage range while also offering one of the highest bandwidth capabilities.
Wi-Fi connectivity, for example, has a lower power consumption but also one of the shortest coverage ranges.
IoT SIM cards further capitalize on the capability of cellular IoT connectivity to provide global coverage, as we will discuss below.
IoT SIM Cards: What Are They?
IoT SIM Cards are also known as machine-to-machine (M2M) SIM cards, and as the name suggests, are mainly used to connect two different ‘machines’ or devices. In a traditional SIM card, our device (i.e. a smartphone) connects to a network first before connecting to another device, but in an IoT network, the M2M SIM card may share data directly with other devices, hence the name.
With that being said, IoT SIM cards offer some important benefits not offered by standard mobile SIM cards, including:
- Durability: IoT SIM cards are designed to be more durable since many IoT devices are deployed in harsh environments. Depending on the form factor, an IoT SIM card can last for decades, while a traditional SIM card can only last for several years, even less in harsh environments.
- Remote provisioning: standard SIM cards (like the ones on your phone) can only keep a single device connected to a network, but IoT SIM cards can be activated and managed in bulk and remotely.
- Fixed IP address: IoT SIM cards may offer fixed IP addresses, which can allow the IoT devices to be accessed more securely and reliably regardless of location.
However, another important difference of the IoT SIM cards when compared to standard SIM cards is the data plan.
Since an IoT network may involve many different devices (can be thousands) connected in a single IoT network, there can be a massive number of IoT SIM cards in just a single deployment.
In such cases, an aggregated data plan is very important for IoT SIM cards, to avoid incurring charges when only one or more of the devices are overusing data (while the other devices consume very little amount of data). In this aggregated plan, when one device overuses data and another under uses, both will be aggregated into the same data plan to ensure cost-efficiency.
Truphone, for example, offers an aggregated data plan for IoT SIM cards where you can manage connectivity for thousands of devices with a single data plan and via a single dashboard.
Core Advantages of IoT SIM Cards
In choosing between different IoT connectivity options, IoT SIM cards, and cellular IoT connectivity offer two core advantages:
1. Global coverage range
As discussed, one of the unique qualities of IoT cellular connectivity, when compared to other IoT connectivity options, is coverage range.
With the IoT SIM cards, we can allow the IoT devices to receive and send data from any location with cellular coverage (which today, is virtually everywhere). With a cellular IoT network, it’s possible to scale your IoT deployment internationally and even globally.
If you plan to scale your IoT deployment, then it’s much more cost-efficient to start with cellular IoT from the get-go.
2. A relatively low initial investment
With cellular connectivity, you typically won’t build your own infrastructure but “rent” the cellular network, and the upfront investment will be much more affordable than building your Wi-Fi network. Investing in IoT SIM cards will provide us the capability to launch the IoT deployment without the limitations of network infrastructure.
Similarly, when you want to scale your network, you don’t have to build a new cellular tower, but simply need to find a data plan with coverage in this new location. It’s much easier to scale your IoT deployment with cellular IoT connectivity.
While there are various advantages of using IoT SIM cards over other IoT connectivity options, the main thing to consider is the global cellular coverage we have at the moment. Meaning, IoT SIM cards are, at the moment, the only way to successfully power a nationwide and even global-size IoT project and a smart city.
If you plan to scale your IoT project, then a cellular connection is your best bet, and you might want to consider Truphone For Things for your IoT wireless connection solution.