Industry Thought Leadership

eSIM Technology Brings IoT Connectivity to Everyday Things

January, 2019
Craig Price
SVP, Mobility Products & Marketing

PCCW Global

From vehicles with the ability to transmit information back to a fleet owner or a manufacturer, wearable wrist alert bands capable of communicating vital health information for those with medical conditions, to vending machines able to order their own replacement stock - the Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to connect just about everything.

Touted as the next great leap forward in communication technologies, IoT is busy transforming everyday items into connected devices, providing unprecedented connectivity and the exchange of information which turns otherwise “dumb” devices into devices capable of being monitored and controlled 24x7 - unleashing a seemingly limitless opportunity for consumer and commercial applications.

Challenges which have to date hampered the widespread IoT adoption have included the development and implementation of appropriate protocols, technologies and partnerships that enable relatively simple machines to be connected to global networks.

At the GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC) which is being held in Barcelona from 25-28 February, PCCW Global, the international operating division of HKT, Hong Kong’s premier telecommunications service provider, will showcase technologies ideally positioned to support IoT growth both in Asia and across the world.

One such technology is Embedded SIM (eSIM), a critically important development for the widespread deployment of IoT devices, due to its small size and significant other technological benefits. eSIM is a GSMA compliant and secure new technology that has been designed to remotely manage multiple mobile network operator subscriptions. The technology is available in various form factors and can be hard-wired or manually inserted into any kind of compliant device.

Much smaller than a traditional SIM, eSIM is typically embedded into a physical device, and the technology is able to be remotely provisioned and configured by more than one network provider. This is a true enabler for IoT as it allows devices to be manufactured and installed in the field and then provisioned when service is actually needed, which in turn allows IoT services to develop in a completely flexible way - unleashing a multitude of new services. As an example, a single embedded eSIM can be configured to make use of multiple service providers, or enable international travellers to seamlessly migrate between networks without ever needing to swap SIM cards.

Since eSIM is typically embedded into a device, the technology significantly improves security because its use can be controlled from a centralised responsible authority, such as a network service provider. eSIM is also more reliable since the contacts are typically hard-wired into the device. This is particularly useful in extreme environments that may be common in IoT applications. Critical to IoT deployment is the eSIM’s ability to be reconfigured after being deployed - such as on an in-transit shipping container. In addition, eSIM devices require less power than traditional SIM devices, which is good for extended battery life and critical for IoT devices that may require low power consumption.

An IoT application for eSIMs which is gaining rapid traction is as enablers for “connected cars”, allowing a wide range of information, including performance data, to be transmitted back to a manufacturer or fleet owner for analysis purposes. In addition, a vehicle with an embedded eSIM that is integrated with a vehicle’s electronics can significantly improve security, or even automatically alert emergency services, providing precise GPS coordinates in the event of an accident.

eSIM technology is expected to have a wide-ranging impact on a diverse number of industries. From logistics, through to smart homes and smart cities - everything can be connected with small eSIM technology that requires reduced power for longer up-time between charging.

PCCW Global’s parent company HKT, and its mobile network operator csl, have already adopted and are actively supporting eSIM in the highly competitive Hong Kong telecommunications market, utilising the architecture recommended and certified by the GSMA to ensure compatibility. Compatible devices include selected smartphones and watches from Apple and Google. Standalone eSIM products are promoted as The Club eSIM in Hong Kong.

PCCW Global will be showcasing eSIM capabilities coupled with global roaming and connection management as part of the company’s IoT suite of solutions.