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Global IoT Connectivity: Challenges and The Future of IoT

Internet of Things (IoT), as we know, has been a major buzzword in digital technology for the past decade, and the implementation of IoT has indeed seen an immense surge throughout the years. However, in 2011 Cisco famously predicted that there will be more than 50 billion connected IoT devices by 2020, while the reality we’re only at around 9 to 10 billion today at the end of 2020. 

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Why? Global IoT connectivity isn’t yet a reality due to some key challenges that are mainly related to increased technical issues as an IoT network grows bigger, and the fact that we have to involve multiple network operators and technology partners, further increasing the complexity. 

So, what’s the future of global IoT? Can organizations and technology partners tackle these challenges? Are new technologies being developed for this? 

What Is Global IoT Connectivity

Global IoT connectivity is the concept of a truly global connectivity solution where IoT devices all around the world can stay connected despite the location, different network providers in the area, and other factors. 

As we know, there are various connectivity options available for IoT deployments, but we can generally divide them into three main categories; 

  • High coverage range, high bandwidth, high power consumption: especially cellular and satellite connectivity. They offer a huge coverage range and high speed, but also consume a lot of power. 
  • Low coverage range, high bandwidth, low power consumption: mainly Bluetooth and WiFi. Although older Bluetooth technology was notorious for its high power consumption, Bluetooth LTE offers relatively low power consumption ideal for IoT devices. They, however, only cover a very short range. 
  • High coverage range, low bandwidth, low power consumption: this type of connectivity tries to tackle the power consumption issue of cellular connectivity by sacrificing bandwidth. LPWAN, NB-IoT, and mesh technology belong to this category.

As we can see, the best options for keeping your devices connected globally are currently either cellular and satellite connectivity options, but cellular is generally more preferred due to its cost-efficiency. 

Cellular IoT connectivity can cover a large area (technically, can offer global coverage), can manage a massive number of interconnected devices, and is very reliable all over the world. However, at the moment there are very few cellular networks that offer truly global connectivity, and most will only cover a specific location or region. 

Meaning, to achieve global IoT connectivity, an IoT project typically must partner with multiple network providers, which can create new challenges and complexities on its own. 

The Demands for Global IoT Connectivity

Is Global IoT connectivity really that important? 

In recent years the demand for truly global IoT connectivity is important due to a few reasons. First, now we have an influx of mobile IoT devices that move between locations and even between different countries. For example, now we have a lot of autonomous vehicles operating on the streets, which are technically mobile IoT devices. The further these devices travel, the more coverage range of connectivity they’ll need or they might lose some or all their functionalities when they lose connectivity. 

Another reason is the fact that more businesses and IoT operators are scaling their IoT deployments to cover more locations. If their current IoT connectivity only offers limited coverage within a specific location, then the IoT deployment is going to be stuck in that location until you find a better solution. 

Obviously, not all IoT deployments demand global connectivity. If you are only implementing an IoT network in your smart home, for example, then you won’t need global IoT connectivity. Yet, if you have mobile IoT devices or IoT sensors scattered in different countries, then you’ll need a reliable global connectivity solution to power your project.  There are, however, plans like Truphone for Things that offer truly global IoT connectivity with reliable connections in different regions.

Challenges In Implementing Global IoT Connectivity

When connecting IoT devices and sensors to global IoT connectivity, one of the biggest challenges is how businesses can ensure efficient, fast, and reliable information flow at all times. 

There are, however, various other challenges along the way, and the bigger the IoT network gets, the more complex these challenges will be. These challenges can include:

  • Hardware limitations and applications according to the specific geographical location. For example, in locations with extreme temperatures, a special antenna might be needed
  • Security protocols to ensure the data transmitted/received is well protected
  • Data plan cots, where one device might use a lot of data while others might use very little data below its given limit
  • Bootstrapping/onboarding devices (the process of connecting a brand new IoT device to the IoT network) 
  • Choosing and implementing a suitable cloud platform to manage devices when not provided by the network provider. Also, using the cloud platform might involve a steep learning curve
  • Performing device lifecycle management and replacing older devices

eSIM for IoT: Another Step Towards Truly Global IoT Connectivity

One of the key challenges of implementing a global IoT deployment is the limitations of our traditional SIM card. As we know, our SIM cards are commonly locked to a single network provider (i.e. Verizon SIM card for Verizon), albeit with few exceptions. 

So, when, for example, an automated vehicle moves to a different area without any reception from its network provider, we have to theoretically switch the physical SIM card to switch to another network. Obviously, this is not practical, and this is where the eSIM technology comes in.

The eSIM is not a physical SIM card that we’ve used for so many years on your mobile phones. Instead, it is a small chip that is built right into the device, and the main benefit is that it can connect to different cellular providers without needing to replace a SIM card. 

The eSIM provides a much-needed versatility and is now key in realizing a truly global IoT connectivity and can help IoT operators avoid issues like international roaming costs. 

Conclusion

Having a provider that offers global IoT connectivity solutions like Truphone for Things can significantly help simplify your IoT deployment. By having just one network provider with global coverage, you can onboard new devices, activate eSIMs, and manage all IoT devices in a single application. 

While achieving truly global IoT connectivity still has a few important challenges at the moment, we can expect its realization in the relatively near future.


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