The humble SIM card is following hard on the heels of storage and networking and becoming software-defined. With the physical hardware making way for software, known as the eSIM, connectivity should increase, making the deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT) easier and more cost-effective. CIOs will not only be able to realize IoT ambitions, supporters and early adopters of eSIMs report a lower cost of ownership, increased flexibility and end-user benefits.
It's hard to believe, but the SIM is now 25 years old. The eSIM is an embedded SIM card and, therefore, programmable. Devoid of a removable universal integrated circuit card (the traditional SIM card), an eSIM consists of software installed onto a built-in universal integrated circuit card. First seen in 2016, the technology is backed by the GSMA, the mobile networks industry body.
CIOs and organizations adopting eSIM technology will need to decide on one of two formats. These are the Consumer Solution, which as the name suggests, will typically be seen in a handset or device and allow the owner to choose their operator just as they select which apps to use. The second format, M2M, or machine-to-machine, is dedicated to business use such as IoT.
Unlike the Consumer Solution, M2M has no user interaction and is instead typically operated by a server and management platform by the IT department. Management, operation and storage of the eSIM is done within the device. Security in both is Pre-Shared Key (PSK) and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) cryptography.
Whichever format CIOs choose, the aim of eSIMs is to reduce the number of restrictions and increase the utility of mobile connectivity. Martin Langmaid, CTO with Belgian telco services provider Venn Telecom says:
We need modularity, and we need to be able to adapt very quickly to different situations. Before this concept of the eSIM, we were juggling draws full of SIMs from different operators, each with different capabilities and IDs. It was a headache to know which SIM and which service, and which device should it be in.
As a technology leader, you find that you need different operators or network capabilities in different regions. You are in a horrible place of physical SIM swaps, which is a logistical nightmare, especially for tablet devices that are airside at an airport or visiting Point of Sale (POS) terminals distributed across the nation.
The digitization of the economy relies on connectivity to be a utility, and that means CIOs cannot rely on one network provider alone. An example is Telli Health, a USA-based maker of remote patient care devices such as glucose monitors. Its healthcare customers were experiencing a high degree of data transmission failure.
Telli Health has switched to eSIMs, using the Eseye M2M eSIM system. Now its customers don't need to worry if a device is connected to any of the five major mobile networks in the USA; the device will use any of them. The Miami headquartered business had considered Bluetooth, but opted for eSIM, Will Dos Santos, Telli Health Sales & Account Executive, says. He adds::
With Bluetooth, there were compatibility issues, and with eSIM, there is no fumbling with apps. The patient simply turns on the device, they take a reading, and that is it; the data is sent to the healthcare organisation. eSIM is a simple process as everything happens in the back end.
Charity CIO Gerard McGovern has been an early adopter of eSIM for his organization, The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, and is seeing real business benefits, he says:
Turning data on or off or switching tariffs is so much easier with an eSIM. We have 1800 staff, and 300-400 people join the organization or leave a year, and the majority of our staff have a phone.
McGovern says staff at Guide Dogs benefit too, which improves staff retention. He explains:
People want to separate home and work life. Guide Dogs has a high number of phones as our service users are clients and need the ability to call or message us directly. Our mobility specialists don't want to share their own number.
CTO Langmaid adds:
With multiple IDs added to a SIM that has been deployed, we know that in the future, when a customer's needs change, we can support that change using the built-in intelligence of eSIM. Whilst for others, it is about worry-free connectivity. One of our biggest users is in commercial shipping, and their people are travelling and need to know that data will work wherever they are, and at a set fee, so they can just get on with their work.
Langmaid and Venn Telecom are systems integrators and have utilized the Webbing eSIM platform to deploy the Consumer Solution into organizations. Langmaid says:
We can add network operators to a customer in an afternoon. That means we take away the fear of operator regret where a CIO chooses operator X and then finds they wish they'd gone for operator Y.
You are taking back control over your choice of operator and network, and you are changing the power dynamic by being able to remotely manage that demand.
Internet of Things
IoT has had plenty of hype, but implementation success stories are less prevalent. One of the reasons has been connectivity challenges. A Beecham Research survey for network hardware and services provider Sierra Wireless found that organizations could not access cost-effective and reliable connectivity to make IoT successful. Inevitably, businesses that have invested in and backed eSIM believe their technology is the answer. CIO David Doherty at Jurassic Fibre, a fibre network provider in Devon, UK, says they're right to be confident. He adds:
eSIMs in devices will make IoT a lot easier for CIOs, especially if they need to change service providers or make upgrades.
Software-defined has been the making of CIOs. Whether it's Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or the plethora of cloud-based services, CIOs are spending an ever-decreasing amount of time managing bytes and pipes. Moving network connectivity to a software play akin to that of SaaS will again benefit CIOs.
In the public sector, CIOs will be able to lead digital care adoption to improve care outcomes at a lower cost. Whilst IoT will enable improvements in data collection and management and make the CIO and their department the central control unit of the organization as it strives to reduce emissions and costs.
Those business technology leaders that have already adopted eSIMs are seeing improvements in the role technology plays in work/life balance and business