What is an IoT SIM card (2022 Beginners guide)

What is an IoT SIM card (2022 Beginners guide)

Since the world was introduced to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the global adoption of technology has been massive. One doesn’t have to travel far to find a device that is capable of connecting to the internet.

While this is done off the back of extensive fibre networks in most countries, there is a need for SIM cards that are able to connect to the internet. In this article, we answer the question: What is an IoT SIM card?

Make sure that you are using a travel SIM card on your international vacation.

What is IoT?

Simply put, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology that connects a wide range of sensor objects (devices) by typically using the internet. This is done with the intention of creating a more accessible and data-rich network.

From a business perspective, an IoT network most commonly connects sensors to harvest factory or industrial data. This is important for businesses as critical functions such as stock taking, and product development becomes easier.

From a consumer perspective the IoT allows them to be connected to a world where vital information is at their fingertips. They also have access to streaming services and online shopping.

Are you interested to find out more about SIM cards and how they work?

Further reading: What is a SIM card & how does it work?

How an IoT SIM card works

An IoT SIM card is used in IoT devices to identify them as they try to connect to various mobile networks.

IoT SIM cards store the credentials and security keys that are unique to a mobile subscriber. The IoT SIM uses an IMSI number which then identifies the mobile device that is accessing the network; these SIM cards are capable of storing multiple IMSIs on a single profile. Each IMSI gives access to multiple networks which creates an overlapping list of networks that enables IoT connectivity.

Do you know what an IMSI is?

Further reading: What is an IMSI number (2022 Technical guide).

SIM card vs IoT SIM card

There is an important distinction between a traditional SIM card and an IoT SIM card.

A traditional SIM card is a card where a network provider (for example AT&T) uses partnerships with global mobile network providers (for example Vodaphone) to allow subscribers to access a global network. This is typically capped at one network per visited country or region.

IoT SIM cards store multiple IMSIs on a single profile. Each IMSI gives access to dozens or even hundreds of networks. This creates an overlapping list of networks which enables IoT connectivity.

Are you concerned about what data is stored on a SIM card?

Further reading: What data is stored on a SIM card (2020 Technical guide).

Advantages of IoT SIM cards

There are several advantages to IoT SIM cards:

  • IoT Subscription Management. IoT sim cards are designed to help manage IoT subscriptions from a single location. It is also possible to design a data plan that caters for your individualized needs when you use an IoT SIM card;
  • Security. IoT sim cards are embedded with protection that isn’t found in traditional SIM cards. This ensures that it becomes hard to tamper with them or access them remotely;
  • Increased connectivity. A conventional SIM card allows you to access one network at a time. An IoT SIM card creates overlapping networks which means you can access multiple networks at once ; and
  • Durability. IoT sim cards can tolerate extreme cold, heat, and harsh environments.

Are you interested in the history of SIM cards?

Further reading: History of SIM cards.

IoT SIM card sizes

The most common sizes of IoT devices are:

  • 2FF, also known as Mini SIM (25mm x 15mm);
  • 3FF, also known as Micro SIM (15mm x 12mm); and
  • 4FF, also known as Nano SIM (12.3 x 8.8mm).

Certain smart devices, such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and e-readers, are too small to hold IoT SIM cards. These devices connect to the internet through wireless networks.

Industrial applications do not use swappable IoT SIM cards. Rather, these applications use embedded SIMs which are directly mounted and pre-soldered onto the circuit board (PCB).

Have you ever wondered what an ICCID number is?

Further reading: What is a ICCID number & why it’s important.

Example of IoT devices

Since the dawn of the 4IR, there are a number of divices that have IoT capabilities.

The most common devices that have IoT capabilities include:

  • smart mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets;
  • smart refrigerators;
  • smart watches;
  • smart fire alarms;
  • medical sensors such as pacemakers;
  • fitness trackers;
  • smart cars, and
  • smart security systems.

Are you interested to find out more about SIM card sizes, their dimensions, and the types of different SIM cards that are available on the market?

Further reading: SIM card sizes, dimensions & types (2022 User guide)

Use cases for IoT SIM cards

As pointed out throughout the article, IoT devices, and SIM cards, are used in a range of industries.

IoT devices are used in a variety of industries, such as:

  • utilities and energy supply companies;
  • healthcare such as smart hospitals where patient rosters are uploaded onto smart devices so doctors and surgeons know which care needs to be administered to which patient at the appropriate time;
  • retail where retailors can access big data and design products/services based on customer insight;
  • manufacturing where products are designed within specific design metrics according to different consumer segments; and
  • automotive where smart vehicles can download software updates overnight.

There are benefits to using a travel SIM card.

Further reading: Benefits of a travel SIM card (2022 International tourist guide).

IoT SIM card security

IoT SIM cards are safer than traditional sim cards.

This is made possible through an IoT SAFE server. Because security is provided by the SIM card, the mobile network operator is the guarantor of safety. This means that the operator can dynamically request keys, revoke them if security has been compromised, and even disconnect the IoT device from the network.

Want to find out more about LTE?

Further Reading: What is LTE & how it works (2022 traveller’s guide)

How to choose an IoT SIM card provider

When it comes to choosing an IoT SIM card provider, there are a few boxes that need to be ticked during the selection process:

  • Scalability. Will the IoT SIM from the network provider do what is required of it?
  • Supports carrier-agnostic global connectivity. When travelling, will you be able to access any global cellular network or will you be tied to one specific network?
  • Easy to use device management platform. Will you be able to manage you different devices on the device management platform?
  • Pay as you go pricing. Will you be able to tailor a data plan to suit your specific requirements? and
  • Security. What security does the network provider have?

Do you know what a travel SIM card is?

Further reading: What is a travel SIM card? (2022 international travellers guide).

IoT SIM card FAQ’s

  • What does IoT stand for?
    IoT refers to the internet of things. It is the ability that smart devices have to connect to the internet off various networks.
  • How can I use my SIM card in IoT?
    IoT SIM cards store multiple IMSIs on a single profile. Each IMSI gives access to dozens or even hundreds of networks. This creates an overlapping list of networks to offer IoT and machine to machine solution companies the level of choice and control that is needed to enable IoT connectivity.
  • Do all IoT devices have a SIM card?
    No, some smaller devices that have IoT capabilities are not able to use SIM cards. These include smart watches and fitness trackers.
  • What is NB-IoT SIM?
    An NB-IoT SIM enables a power-saving mode that will extend the lifespan of your connected devices. Seamlessly use 2G, 3G, 4G and LTE-M with one SIM in addition to NB-IoT.
  • What devices are considered IoT?
    The most common devices that have IoT capabilities include: smart mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, smart refrigerators, smart watches, smart fire alarms, smart door locks, smart bicycles, medical sensors such as pacemakers, fitness trackers, smart cars, and smart security systems.