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Accelerate your IoT development by leveraging iSIM

By Vincent Korstanje, Vice President & General Manager, Connectivity, Arm

The desire for better business-driving data and insights means that IoT deployments are now on the upswing. According to a recent Economist Business Intelligence Unit (EIU) report 60 percent of companies are now rolling out IoT programs. 

While the current situation is likely to have an impact, it is also clear that investing in IoT technology gives businesses a potent real-time ability to act precisely on operations, making them more resilient and flexible. These are particularly important levers in times of uncertainty.

However, there is a ‘but’, and it’s also highlighted in the EIU report. Many of the 800 companies surveyed had concerns over IoT development complexity and security. The latter is a particular issue, with a third of respondents stating security concerns had discouraged their companies from pursuing an IoT strategy. Beyond that, there have also been difficulties in laying out initial investment cases as deployments at scale are still relatively new. 

The EIU report is also helpful here with almost two-thirds of businesses that have taken the IoT plunge now reporting much better-than-expected investment returns. Yet cost, complexity and security remain huge factors, so it’s worth looking at a new force multiplier starting to emerge now – that is the evolution of the iSIM.

iSIM: IoT Made Easy

Reliable and global connectivity are key attributes for IoT, which can come from a variety of different protocols, such as Wi-Fi, NB-IoT, LoRa, Cat-M and more. I expect a hybrid world to remain, but I also see a clear winner emerging for most scale deployments and that is cellular. And, like any on-the-move technology, Cellular is evolving. There’s the physical SIM world, and then there’s embedded SIM (eSIM) and integrated SIM (iSIM) technologies.

Physical SIMs are obviously well-established, but eSIM and iSIM present a transformational opportunity. eSIM embeds the SIM card directly onto the device, providing a smaller, more secure and more cost-effective form factor that can be remotely managed and updated. iSIM takes the benefits of eSIM a step further by integrating the SIM functionality inside the device’s CPU, reducing the cost, size and power requirement even further and protecting the SIM functionality with an additional security layer. 

While eSIM products are becoming more prevalent, companies are also beginning to roll out products using iSIM. For example, leveraging iSIM in smart labels so they can constantly monitor the status of products and take immediate action to protect their integrity. For me, the iSIM presents the long-term future of not only IoT devices, but any device.

Consumer electronics companies are experimenting with iSIM and IoT technologies as they develop more flexible product-as-a-service business models. They are offering customers premium products, selling for hundreds of dollars, for a low monthly subscription fee instead. The products can be easily switched on or off by the company based on the subscription status, and securely updated remotely over-the-air, or decommissioned if the customer ends the deal.

Innovation pedal to the metal 

This kind of innovation will only accelerate as more companies begin to understand the development, cost, size, power and security benefits that come with iSIM technology. It will enable organizations to develop new business models by connecting devices that were previously unconnectable due to power, cost or size constraints. For example, an eSIM is roughly half the size of a Nano SIM card, and an iSIM is a fraction of the size of that. The smart label iSIM example noted above is only possible because of the tiny integrated form factor. 

By baking in connectivity, security and trust at the silicon level, I expect to see many new add-on experience and business services emerge. I also expect to see far greater global flexibility: For example, an organization could build an IoT device in America, ship it to another country, and remotely change to a local network or update settings on the device. This flexibility and simplicity paired with global connectivity will be critical in enabling businesses to scale their IoT deployments. 

End-to-end high-grade security added to almost any device

Trust and security were highlighted in the EUI report as key IoT deployment factors that investment committees pay attention to so it’s worth looking deeper at that for iSIM. 

iSIM provides an industry recognized level of protection for subscription credentials. As a secure enclave implementation, the technology offers isolated processing and additional authentication layer capabilities, which can act as a root of trust for secure communications at a lower cost and potential higher security than discrete devices. 

iSIM enables eSIM security features to be added to almost every device on the planet and, through the GSMA standard IoT SAFE (IoT SIM Applet For Secure End-2-End Communication), iSIM supports the entire secure chip-to-cloud IoT infrastructure. This means that iSIM can be used to provide authentication and verification of connectivity and application credentials for any data exchanged with any cloud over any cellular network by any device.

Enabling a new world with iSIM

iSIM removes the well-known drawbacks of the traditional SIM for IoT use cases, which will help reduce the barriers to connection, to deployment and to go-to-market for IoT devices. This will make it easier for new and existing players to bring IoT devices to market that drive real business outcomes, and will help drive a future of a trillion connected devices.. 

If you want to hear more about IoT evolution and the emergence of iSIM, you can register for an upcoming webinar with The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, Arm, Vodafone, Flex, Atos, Altair Semiconductor and Cypress Semiconductor.

Vincent Korstanje