Connectivity for IoT has been described by some as quickly becoming a mere commodity, yet findings in Beecham Research’s recent report on ‘Why IoT Projects Fail’ indicate otherwise. In a discussion with Robin Duke-Woolley, the chief executive of Beecham Research, Alistair Elliott, the chief executive of Solutions at Pod Group, examines the real role of connectivity in IoT.
Robin Duke-Woolley: How significant do you see connectivity as an element of successful IoT projects?
Alistair Elliott: Connectivity is literally fundamental to the success of an IoT project. Currently, it is often an afterthought, and this can cause longer term issues such as lack of scalability or future-proofing, which can ultimately cause the deployment to fail.
RD-W: So for those who consider IoT connectivity to be of diminishing importance, what do you see as the key points?
AE: The key is to look at connectivity as a much wider issue than just connecting the current solution. Here are just a few of the questions an IoT adopter may need to seek answers to at the planning stage of an IoT project:
- What are the potential markets for the solution in the future? How might the connectivity need to evolve?
- Would the connectivity solution be flexible enough to scale to these?
- How will market conditions, such as operator agreements, pricing and cellular sunsets, affect the longevity of the solution in the field?
- What alternatives exist to ensure the application is future-proof?
- How does choice of hardware and software tie in with connectivity choices?
- What needs to be considered in terms of flexibility and visibility of the solution to ensure easy management and troubleshooting?
- How can the connectivity provider help to provide the relevant tools to support the change in business processes that would need to take place to ensure the success of the IoT deployment, for example subscription-based billing and management of the supply chain?
- How can a scalable, IoT-specific security solution be applied to the network to prevent security threats?
There is real complexity in each of these questions, yet these are only some of the points that may need to be thought through in the early stages of a value-generating IoT project.
RD-W: These are significant issues. For IoT adopters not familiar with these, what is the best way forward?
AE: Pod Group is an expert in IoT connectivity with more than 20 years experience. We think about these issues and how to ensure the success of IoT projects every day and we are continually incorporating new functionality into our offer. This has been a continuous process, one that has accelerated in recent years, in line with IoT developments and deployments. Moreover, we have anticipated and updated the offer, including consultancy and testing services. We are a full, agnostic mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) with our own IP network. This provides visibility, flexibility and security as well as the advantages of being able to manage and bill all types of connectivity via one platform – including both licensed technologies, such as cellular, and unlicensed, such as LoRa and Sigfox.
RDW: Subscriber identification module (SIM) technology is often more complex than IoT adopters appreciate. Can you illustrate some of the issues associated with SIMs?
AE: Pod Group markets a comprehensive range of multi-network subscriber identification modules (SIMs) and multi-international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) SIMs. The company makes extensive use of embedded SIM technology and has developed a range of SIM applets. In addition, we have a research and innovation team whose focus is on improving the coverage, reliability, and security of IoT projects from within the SIM card itself. That focus includes adding support for embedded SIMs in order to futureproof connectivity options. Mobile network operators (MNOs) are only starting to allow access to their eSIM profiles, rather than their IMSIs. Therefore, Pod embedded SIMs (eSIMs), which are compliant with the embedded universal integrated circuit card (eUICC) standards for IoT, come with a default multi-IMSI profile in order to provide additional resilience. Whatever eSIM profile an MNO employs, if connectivity fails, Pod’s multi-IMSI failsafe profile will restore connectivity with all the configured IMSIs. We will be demonstrating our eUICC functionality via our mobile app at MWC and Embedded World 2020.
RDW: Security and its evolving threat is also a key concern for IoT adopters where the threat evolves rather than stands still. How does Pod cater for this?
AE: This is the single biggest IoT issue and at Pod Group we have made it the cornerstone of our comprehensive connectivity offer. We operate our own distributed IP core network, through global points of presence (PoPs) with Gigabit Ethernet connectivity to third-party serving networks of MNOs as well as Pod data centres. This has allowed us to develop “Pod Connect” a completely secure communication channel with a direct link to the customer cloud service or datacentre for all mission-critical transmissions. In addition, “Pod Protect” a real-time threat detection solution uses machine learning to identify and flag threats as they occur on the network.