Embedded SIMs to drive Internet of Things

A “task force” of mobile operators was established this week to explore the development of an embedded SIM that can be remotely activated. At the dawn of the Internet of Things, it is claimed such a move would help enable mobile broadband connectivity on non-traditional devices such as cameras, MP3 players, navigation devices and e-readers, as well as smart meters.

The task force is being led by industry body the GSMA and is made up of technical experts drawn from operators including AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom Orange, KT, NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone.

The stated aim is to deliver a technical solution as an evolution of the current SIM provisioning mechanisms, which will include programmable SIM card capabilities to enable remote activation.

A complete analysis of market requirements is scheduled to be complete by January 2011. Devices featuring the new SIM activation capability are expected to appear in 2012.

While traditional SIM-supported devices will continue to work on existing networks and the group will work in cooperation with major SIM producers, the SIM manufacturers are none too happy about the news.

“As this would change dramatically the business model, SIMalliance would like to remind end-users and the ecosystem the key benefits of a user removable (U)SIM card,” said the SIM Alliance, an industry association made up of SIM card manufacturers responsible for nine in every ten SIM cards sold worldwide. Its members are Datang, Eastcompeace, Gemalto, Giesecke & Devrient, Incard, Inkript, KEBT, Microelectronica, Morpho, Oberthur Technologies, Prism, Watchdata and Wuhan Tianyu. Strategic Partners are Comprion, FCI and Movenda.

The alliance maintains that the removable SIM has been endorsed as a key element to facilitate an open and interoperable mobile communications market place with choice for the end users between numerous local operators, handset brands and models, which has enabled affordable mobile communications for the masses and worldwide adoption.

As a result, the SIMalliance “considers that SIM removability and accessibility by the end user is mandatory for personal mobile communications usage. In the case of non personal mobile communications, such as Machine to Machine, such requirements could be adapted.”

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  1. Avatar Jukka Aunola 19/11/2010 @ 8:36 am

    It’s great operators are working together to push/standardize M2M and “Internet Things”. But the comment about “mandatory of a SIM removability and accessibility by the end user” is not necessary relevant or feasible in the future “Internet of Things” environment. I would rather see operators and SIM Alliance to work together to create a standard on top of the remote activation capability that allows embedded SIMs (maybe hidden on a circute board and not accessible by an end user) on the Internet Things to be operator independend until remotely activated on an operator’s network. The operator/network independend (unless a service plan activated with an operator) embedded SIMs would allow device/equipment manufactures to develop and produce products that then could be sold across the globe without pre-assigned data plans. That would leave a flexibility to create various business models/plans for operators & other relevant players and end user to have an opportunity to select or change a service provider. The “Internet Thing” and M2M is a great opportunity for the mobile industry to be in an essential role in the future “Smarter Planet” environment where everything are Interconnected, Instrumented and Intelligent. It is essential that mobile industry ensures global open standards for embedded SIMs including a remote activation capability and an operator independency until a service plan is assigned. I hope the industry will make this right from the beginning and not get greedy or contentious. There will be enough business for everyone with billions of Internet Things connected…just my humble opinion…thanks!

  2. Avatar zarobiza 19/11/2010 @ 1:52 pm

    Does “Internet Things” mean that they are basically connected Internet and thus remote provisioning is IP based protocol such as OMA-DM?

  3. Avatar zarobiza 19/11/2010 @ 1:56 pm

    Is this new remote provisioning the IP-based provisioning such as OTA/OMA-DM?

  4. Avatar Stuart Cochran 19/11/2010 @ 5:14 pm

    The recent reports on the rumours of Apple and Gemalto working on activation of iPhones onto different operators using iTunes, the public statement from the SIMAlliance this week on the benefits of user-removable SIM cards, and now the GSMA announcement, show the different stakeholders – Apple, the SIM card vendors, and the operators – are all squaring up to one another to protect their interests.

    We believe that it is right to challenge the status quo – the traditional approaches to distributing and activating mobile devices and services have broken down. They have remained essentially unchanged since the first GSM network 20 years ago and it is right that they are re-invented.

    The impetus behind the need for change comes from three imperatives:

    1. How do operators harness the potential of connected devices, ubiquitous mobile broadband, and the Internet of things?
    2. How can game changing new user experiences not only stimulate adoption by consumers but also continue to extend the benefits of mobile services to people in every region?
    3. How do operators dramatically improve their efficiency to reduce cost bases but more importantly support whole new business models – operators have to create the right economic as well as technical conditions for innovative developers to flourish?

    We believe that the single most important thing in tackling these issues is to create approaches to the distribution and remote activation of mobile devices that are inclusive and platform-based.

    Inclusive means solving the problem for every region of the world, recognising the huge differences in infrastructure and consumer habits – to us, this means making use of the mobile network itself – often the only thing a consumer can rely on – to remotely activate over-the-air.
    Platform-based means allowing operators to support a variety of developers, industries and applications – allowing innovation to flourish and giving consumers the greatest choice.

    Evolving Systems have a unique insight into meeting these challenges – we pioneered a kind of remote activation in 2007 – that works within an operator’s network and not across different operators – and since then have implemented it around the world, and are activating millions of devices / month. In each implementation, we have seen major differences – different user experiences, different sales channels, different device types, differences between mobile broadband services and traditional voice ones.

    We hope that the industry will recognise this opportunity to be inclusive and to foster innovation through an open platform.

    Stuart Cochran, chief technology officer, Evolving Systems

  5. Avatar Ian Marsden 23/11/2010 @ 5:58 pm

    Eseye fully welcomes this development by the GSMA and we hope that this initiative will become a major catalyst in the explosion of connected devices – but 2012 is a long way away. As a leading M2M solution provider Eseye has witnessed firsthand the challenges ahead of mass deployment for embedded SIMs. And Eseye is today delivering solutions that address the issues the taskforce will focus on.

    A disconnected ecosystem has been a key barrier to mass adoption and with the GSMA’s support, this is now being addressed. As stated, connected devices are already enabling solutions across multiple verticals as varied as managed service delivery and consumer electronics to e-health and security applications. However, the capability to remotely activate a SIM is necessary – the ability to remotely re-programme the SIM is mandatory – otherwise the remote device, which may have a service life of 10 or 20 years, remains locked to one operator. This cannot be in the interest of the end customer.

  6. Avatar Patrick B 23/11/2010 @ 10:23 pm

    This is a great initiative. It’s not just about the provisioning, though. The billing platform needs to be appropriate for high-volume low-margin transaction processing; most consumer platforms just don’t fit the bill. I’d like to see the likes of vendors like Convergys getting involved in the industry initiative, not just vendors – they’re doing great stuff in the wholesale and B2B markets that would be well suited to SIM only service BSS delivery.

  7. Avatar Philippe Bouckaert 24/12/2010 @ 9:41 am

    M2M and embedded SIM will provide a lot of opportunities in a close future. Today, there is no agreement on the way to support this incoming huge number of devices. Several organizations are creating standards to manage the M2M communications and several tracks are on study.

    It is now widely accepted that wireless networks have an important role to play in the M2M area. They are deployed throughout the world and their coverage is often better than wireline networks.
    To help facilitate further deployments of embedded devices, a variety of supply for demand issues must be addressed, from the business solution definition to the complexity of the solution implementation.

    Successful implementations of embedded devices will now have to be considered under new ways of thinking and working. For example, the telecom operator mindset is focused on generating double-digit voice and data ARPUs (average revenue per user), transmitting megabytes of data, and sending out monthly bills for the services. In M2M world, ARPUs are often a few dollars only and are based on small burst of data transmitted over the network from sensors and monitoring devices in real time.
    Implementing cost effective solutions meeting specific M2M needs should be flexible and adaptive, but also fully integrated in the existing networks.

    Buzzinbees, through a strategic licensing agreement with HP, develops and sells products that have been deployed since 1988 and that are able today to handle M2M requirements.

    The open and scalable architecture of these products allows full customization when the device connects to the network. They grant operators the incorporation of M2M devices into the network with minimal cost and minimal perturbation for their existing traffic. They can act as a pre-provisioning HLR, proxy-HLR or even dedicated HLR for some M2M devices.

    As indicated previously, the number of M2M devices increases significantly. This is one of the M2M challenges, and because the device-related MSISDN is expensive, it may not be adapted to this growth.
    Buzzinbees’ Bee-SOON brings a reliable key to this issue: considering the numerous types of M2M applications, each having specific requirements, the HLR must support various M2M profiles in addition to the GSM profile. Thanks to its modular architecture, Bee-SOON easily accepts such new additions. It also proposes an M2M interface, allowing users to manage directly their devices. Finally, it also manages efficiently private numbering plans, saving MSISDN costs.

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