5 Ways iSIM Reduces Manufacturing Costs for Cellular IoT Devices

Sequans Communications
iSIM and cellular IoT devices
Illustration: © IoT For All

Some IoT solutions work great with short-range connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, LoRaWAN, etc. An industrial IoT system may only have to operate within the factory, for instance, or across a limited campus. But if you manufacture devices that travel—mobility tools, inventory trackers, wearables—or you operate in a nationwide or global market, cellular IoT and iSIM are the way to go. 

All the major cellular technologies have reached a fair level of maturity. Across the globe, you’ll find the infrastructure for LTE-M, NB-IoT, or LTE Cat 1 connections (even if these technologies vary from one place to the next). Cellular is the only connectivity technology with a globe-spanning scale, which means it’s the best choice for consumer and/or mobile IoT devices.  

But as manufacturers design cellular IoT products, they have a lot of variables to juggle: power efficiency, reliability, space utilization, inventory management, and more. From the bottom-line business perspective, all of these factors boil down to a single metric: total cost of ownership. Analysis by IndustryWeek suggests that cutting your production costs by just 5 percent can drive profit increases of up to 85 percent over time. Achieving this cost reduction may boil down to a single switch in cellular technology: from removable or embedded SIMs to the integrated SIM, or iSIM. 

A traditional subscriber identification module (SIM) is a removable card that hosts a chip. That chip tells the network who’s using the device, establishing the connection between the cellular network and the technology itself. An eSIM takes this chip and solders it permanently into the IoT module. iSIM is different; it combines SIM circuitry with the IoT module’s cellular chipset—and this new approach is the key to lower-cost IoT manufacturing.          

The IoT solution that finds the perfect balance between low costs of ownership and dependable functionality will capture the market. Integrated SIM technology helps manufacturers find this balance. Here are five ways iSIM technology is driving down manufacturing costs for producers of cellular IoT products: 

1. iSIM Provides The Most Efficient Use of Limited Device Real Estate. 

Removable and embedded SIMs are small. Integrated SIMs are smaller—significantly so. The iSIM circuitry is built into the IoT module itself, so it doesn’t require an external slot or a permanent, soldered eSIM. You can use that extra space to increase functionality—or just produce smaller devices, delivering more value at a reduced cost. 

2. Manufacturing Processes are Simpler With iSIM. 

Removable SIMs and eSIMs require manufacturers to handle those components; iSIM removes this step. Plus, an IoT module with an iSIM requires less testing than the alternatives. There’s also no need to solder in the iSIM, as there is with eSIM. Removing these steps leads to faster manufacturing lines, which translates into optimized production time—with attendant cost savings. 

3. iSIM Shrinks Your Electrical Bill of Materials (BOM). 

The BOM for a traditional IoT device is extensive and that translates to long-term profit loss. The logic is simple: reduce your electrical BOM and you’ll spend less on each product. That leads to lower costs of ownership for your customers. Removable SIMs require you to buy SIM trays, solders, and SIM cards. Embedded SIMs make you spend on SIM chips and solder. With an iSIM, none of these items appear on your BOM. Going with iSIM also spares the hassle of dealing with another semiconductor supplier in a tense supply chain. It can even lower your carbon footprint!

4. iSIM Reduces Inventory Management Costs by Eliminating SKU Proliferation. 

Global providers of IoT devices spend a fortune on simply keeping track of inventory. Say you make only one device—an IoT scooter, for instance. With traditional SIM technology, SIMs must be provisioned for the cellular connectivity available within each geographic market. So your single product will need one SKU for North America (LTE-M and/or NB-IoT), another for Mexico (LTE-M only), a third for China (NB-IoT only), and so on.

It’s expensive to maintain these complex inventory records. But iSIM’s remote provisioning allows you to track a single SKU for your product, no matter where it’s sold. Your IoT scooters are ready to ship right off the line, and you’ll save all those inventory costs.     

5. iSIM Improves Device Reliability Across the Product Lifespan.  

Every component you add to your IoT device is another potential point of failure. Cracked soldering, corrosion, heat damage, and mechanical failure can all render your device inoperable—and damage your brand. Because an iSIM is integrated into the IoT module, there are simply fewer chances for something to go wrong. That’s true for your manufacturing line and across the product lifespan, so you’ll save costs in the factory while providing more reliable service for users, today and far into the future. 

Of course, cutting manufacturing costs isn’t the only benefit of iSIM technology. Users are justifiably concerned about security, with a third of respondents to one survey citing serious concerns about the issue. Building with iSIM can help to allay these worries.  

iSIM and Security

How does iSIM improve IoT security across your product’s lifespan? First off, the SIM is impossible to alter physically. Removable SIMs are particularly vulnerable to tampering, but a dedicated hacker with a few tools could also alter an eSIM. That’s not the case with iSIM, since it’s indistinguishable from surrounding circuitry. 

Producers of iSIM-enabled modules also follow GSMA common criteria for secure design. Of course, not every iSIM provider meets the same GSMA evaluation assurance level (EAL). While the GSMA requires cellular IoT devices to meet level EAL4, some iSIM companies achieve EAL4+. As of this writing, only one iSIM-enabled module provider meets a higher level: Sequans’ Monarch and Calliope chipsets offer EAL5+ security, currently the highest certification in the business. 

Ultimately, though, security and cost savings may not be the key drivers of iSIM adoption. The real reason manufacturers will move toward this technology is simpler; it makes manufacturing cellular IoT devices easy. Choose an IoT module with iSIM built in to cut production complexity and costs all at once. 

Sequans Communications
Sequans Communications
Sequans Communications S.A. (NYSE: SQNS) is a leading developer and supplier of cellular IoT connectivity solutions, providing chips and modules for 5G/4G massive and broadband IoT.
Sequans Communications S.A. (NYSE: SQNS) is a leading developer and supplier of cellular IoT connectivity solutions, providing chips and modules for 5G/4G massive and broadband IoT.