GSMA Creates Remotely Managed SIM For M2M Applications


The new embedded standard lets devices connect to the Internet of Things without having to change their SIM

The GSMA has published the technical description of a SIM card designed specifically for Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication and the Internet of Things.

The new embedded electronic circuit allows remote provisioning and management of network information, which means customers will never have to open an M2M device to replace a SIM. The design was created to ensure interoperability and security, and has attracted interest far beyond the mobile industry.

“Without a globally recognised, standardised and harmonised connectivity solution the automotive industry will become unnecessarily complex and fragmented. As a car manufacturer an embedded SIM that can be remotely provisioned is absolutely key for us in driving efficiency and simplicity and is to be welcomed. We thank the GSMA and partners for agreeing this specification,” commented Marcus Keith, project manager at Audi Connect.

First deployments of the new embedded SIM are expected in 2014.

No more plastic

Traditional SIM cards were designed to be interchangeable, with this consideration defining their shape, size and layout. While they are currently successfully used in M2M devices, these pieces of plastic need to be replaced every time a device has to connect to a new network.

Oleksiy MarkTo fix this issue, the GSMA has developed a non-removable SIM that can be embedded in a device for the duration of its life, and remotely assigned to a network. This information can be subsequently modified over-the-air, as many times as necessary.

The GSMA says its new SIM can reduce ongoing operational and logistical costs. Replacing one SIM is not going to break the bank, but replacing a few million could make a dent in any budget, it reckons.

The embedded design is backed by leading mobile network operators and device manufacturers, including Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and China Mobile.

The standard eliminates the need for network operators to develop their own solutions for remote provision of SIMs, and allows customers to easily switch networks at the end of a contract.

Despite the convenience of over-the-air management, the GSMA says the embedded design is not meant to replace conventional SIM cards, even though this exact idea was floated when ETSI was deciding on the future of the nano-SIM in 2012.

“The number of mobile connected devices is expected to reach 11 billion by 2020, growth that will be led predominantly by advances in the M2M market,” said Alex Sinclair, CTO at GSMA. “This level of growth will be heavily dependent on the adoption of a common, global and interoperable SIM provisioning and management architecture that enables the M2M market to flourish.

“The specification released today will have a significant impact on the M2M marketplace, as it will help provide lower operational costs and drive economies of scale.”

Sinclair is very modest in his predictions. Sony Ericsson and Cisco are both expecting 50 billion connected devices by 2020, and the battle for this lucrative connectivity market is truly kicking off, with both Intel and Cisco announcing new IoT business units in November.

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