New SIM tech arrives for the internet of things

Feb 18, 2016, 12:47 PM EST
Samsung GALAXY Gear smartwatch. Source: Cheon Fong Liew/flickr
Samsung GALAXY Gear smartwatch. Source: Cheon Fong Liew/flickr

The general layperson may see the future of the internet of things and wearable devices as a parade of everyday objects connected to the internet. Indeed, that is what it will likely look like. But what consumers don't see is the work that needs to be done in order to make this world of connected devices a reality. Communication standards, battery life, bandwidth capacities, and other elements have to be addressed before any such connectivity can flesh out. The GSMA -- a global group of mobile operators and companies that supports the standardizing and deployment of the GSM mobile system -- released a specification this week that targets making it easier for users to add devices such as wearables to one mobile subscription.

The specification also opens the doors for mobile device manufacturers to develop different ranges of smaller, lighter mobile-connected devices such as for wearable tech, according to the GSMA.

The “eSIM” architecture is part of the Consumer Remote SIM Provisioning initiative from the GSMA, and will allow users to add mobile devices to one subscription without separate SIM cards. One SIM embedded in each device will allow for the device to connect to a network without requiring a smartphone to intervene. Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer for the GSMA said in the group’s statement:

“This is the only common, interoperable and global specification that has the backing of the mobile industry and lets consumers with a mobile subscription remotely connect their devices to a mobile network. This new specification gives consumers the freedom to remotely connect devices, such as wearables, to a mobile network of their choice and continues to evolve the process of connecting new and innovative devices.”
But before consumers enjoy this experience, manufacturers must be on board. And they are working on it. Mobile network operators, device makers, and SIM vendors are all behind this initiative, including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Verizon, Qualcomm, STMicroelectronics, Huawei, LG, Microsoft, and Nokia, to name a few. Samsung has already released a device equipped with an eSIM compliant to the architecture, dubbed the Samsung Gear S2 classic 3G. The eSIM is specifically for the internet of things market, and will allow manufacturers to “build products that can support global deployment,” according to Samsung.
Samsung’s device makes the future of wearables seem a bit more real for those who follow how difficult it has been to nail down any sort of standard for operation. Various coalitions have formed over the years to try to put provisions in place for communication among devices, charging standards, and now adding devices to a network. The SIM card aspect of the hardware behind the internet of things is little-talked-about, but it is a key driver in how successful any network of wearables, or communicating objects, will be.