Increasingly, organizations are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) to make the journey to becoming intelligent enterprises, using data from across the organization to make decisions. As a result, they are better able to delight their customers and operate more efficiently.
For the intelligent enterprise to make good decisions, good data is needed. This data must come from the supply chain, operations, the manufacturing center, distribution and logistics, and products in operation. Much of it will originate from IoT devices in these locations. Good data from these devices is made possible by great connectivity, which is foundational to any intelligent enterprise.
How should enterprises achieve great connectivity? The challenge they face is far more than connecting various offices and manufacturing sites. Thousands (and often millions) of individual end devices must be connected, from delivery vehicles, to individual manufacturing machines, right through the end products in operation. These must be all connected in a secure and scalable manner. It’s easy to see how connecting such a high number of disparate devices can become a complexity in itself and hinder the intelligent enterprise, if not done properly.
First, consider what connectivity technologies are required. Mobile 2/3G and 4G provide the most extensive global coverage, but this comes at the expense of cost (both the device and connectivity) as well as battery life. NB-IoT and LTE-M address these points to some extent, but don’t have anywhere near global coverage. WiFi may have a role to play, particularly within an enterprise’s own campus, but battery life remains an issue. Low-power wide-area technologies such as LoRa provide a much lower-cost and lower-power solution, although at much lower data rates. LoRa can achieve battery life measuring in years and has the advantage of operating in unlicensed spectrum, so it is easy to set up a private network within a campus or manufacturing site.
Considering the range of mobile devices, the intelligent enterprise must be able to connect to multiple technologies. By taking a consistent approach with connectivity and device management across all the connectivity types needed, enterprises can ensure both security and scalability of these solutions. They can do this by using neutral solutions that enable connectivity over different technologies (such as 4G and LoRa) by means of a single platform and API with consistent policies and management of device onboarding. Such solutions use cloud technology to provide a truly elastic infrastructure able to meet demand changes in real-time.
Enterprises are also using neutral providers to manage connectivity across multiple mobile networks. Such providers use a neutral SIM card not tied to any particular network. This allows enterprises to use the same SIM card in all devices, regardless of where they will be used, avoiding the necessity for multiple SKUs, depending on the devices’ destination. Network subscription(s) can then be downloaded and updated remotely as needed, without needing to change the SIM card in the device.
Such technologies can work with both virtual “soft” SIMs such as eUICC and with the more familiar physical SIM cards. This approach ensures that, over the life of an IoT device (which may be 10 or 15 years), access to the best connectivity options is maintained. Such a solution also enables devices to be operated in countries that restrict the “permanent roaming” of IoT devices. In this case, if a device is found to be roaming in a country with a permanent roaming restriction, a local subscription can be downloaded to the device, ensuring compliance with local regulations.
By considering at the outset all the connectivity types that will be needed and ensuring they can be managed in a unified way, IoT devices can be successfully connected as the number of devices scales up.
To learn how to bridge the physical and digital worlds of the Internet of Things, read our white paper, “Connecting the Internet of Things.”
This article was originally published on CIO Applications Europe.