In this week’s episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Kigen CEO Vincent Korstanje joins us to talk about some of the most transformative use cases cellular IoT enables. Vincent gives his insight on some of the biggest considerations to keep in mind when determining if cellular is right for your IoT deployment – including SIM security, the differences between eSIMs and iSIM, and the biggest changes we’ll see as 5G adoption continues to grow.
Speaking to cellular IoT more generally, Vincent shares what he believes is actually driving the growth of the space, some of the verticals seeing the biggest changes as a result of cellular adoption, and what we can expect from the future of cellular-enabled IoT.
Vincent Korstanje is CEO of Kigen, an Arm company. Vincent’s mission is to make eSIM and iSIM the foundation of all connected devices, which led him to found the Kigen group in Arm in 2016. Kigen formed into a separate company in October 2020 to drive this vision to secure trillions of connected devices. Vincent worked for Arm for 22 years in which he helped build the UK’s leading technology company. Before Arm, Vincent worked at TNO in compiler and security technology.
Interested in connecting with Vincent? Reach out to him on Linkedin!
About Kigen: Kigen enables businesses to grow their Internet of Things rapidly by integrating trust and security through SIM, eSIM, and iSIM technologies. Kigen is a result of incubation and investment after being acquired in 2017 by Arm holdings – a Softbank Group Company, from eSIM pioneers Simulity Labs Ltd, which was incorporated in 2009. Kigen (UK) Limited spun out into a newly created company in 2020, separating officially from Arm in 2021.
This episode of the IoT For All Podcast is brought to you by SIMON IOT.
Check them out at simoniot.com
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(01:03) Intro to Vincent Korstanje
(01:48) Intro to Kigen
(03:59) What is SIM security? How does security fit into connectivity?
(06:11) Can you share some use cases Kigen has been involved in?
(10:27) What are some of the best-suited use cases for cellular IoT? How do you assess if cellular is right for a particular IoT application or solution?
(13:22) What’s really driving the growth in adoption for cellular IoT? Is it 5G or something else?
(15:01) What are the software and infrastructure requirements for implementing 5G into a solution?
(16:51) What verticals are prime for disruption when 5G hits in true force?
(18:28) What’re the differences between an eSIM and an iSIM?
(20:58) How does a company know where to start when they’re starting on their cellular IoT journey?
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– [Ryan] Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the IoT for All podcast on the IoT for All Media Network. I’m your host, Ryan Checon one of the Co-Creators of IoT for all. Now, before we jump into this episode, please, don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or join our newsletter at IoTforall.com/newsletter to catch all the newest episodes as soon as they come out. Are you tired of overspending on data plans? Do you need more consistent coverage? Are you over negotiating complicated contracts? Well, Simon IoT gets it. That’s why they offer customized transparent data services across the globe. Flexible contracts, taxes, and fees included in one simple price and user-friendly data management or data is in your control. Their LTE SIM cards are scalable to your needs regardless of the industry you’re in or the devices you need connected. Learn more at simonIoT.com/IFA. So, without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT for all podcast. Welcome, Vincent, to the IoT for all show. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Vincent] Hey, Ryan, nice to meet you and great to be on the air.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I’m very excited about this conversation. Looking forward to it. Let’s start off by having you give a quick introduction to your, about yourself, to our audience, background experience, you know, anything, any stories from the past, that’d be relevant to our audience to get a better sense of who they’re listening to.
– [Vincent] Sure, my name is Vincent Korstanje, I worked at arm for the last 20 years and in the last five years at arm, we were looking at IoT radio should be very important, but also the security angle. And the initiative it took at arm around security angle Led us to a new product we’ve created in a company called Kigen. And that company called Kigen is being spun out out of arm to stand on it’s own and help cellular IoT initially, to make sure let’s we got really good security baked in and designed from the start.
– [Ryan] Fantastic, so, let’s talk a little bit more about Kigen itself as a company and what you all do, kind of the focus of the company, general overview, the role you all play in IoT, all that kind of good stuff.
– [Vincent] So I think it it’s very much going to the heart of security, you call security starts with identity. Identity is effectively the master key of the device, if you will, the master key of your, of your assets. And identity is really important when it comes to security, because that identifies and decrypts the communication to the, to the device. So what we though about and when we think about identity, we think, well, there’s a couple of technologies in the market that are really strong. And one of those technology is the SIM cards, and the SIM cards is strong and trusted because now we all use our banking app, a banking app very often won’t say two factor authentication, and that’s effectively based in a SIM technology. So I’m going to thinking about IoT, you may think, okay, well, how can we use that SIM? And there’s a standard emerging called eSIM where they take the out of the little tray, on the side, and actually, you know, and actually solder it down to the box. That’s really nice, and you can close the tray because it’s not for an IoT device or an inconvenience. And we went very well if you do that onto the board. So you can actually integrate this into the chip. This is where the arm heritage comes. Arm is a supplier of Silicon IP, very much kind of used to it to help integrate larger companies’ different systems onto one chip. And we thought, well, we can do the same with the SIM, integrate it onto the chip and it’s going to come something like an iSIM. And the nice thing with that is, much smaller form factor, much better, better battery life and a lot cheaper as well. So you can think about these things no longer having the big physical thing on the side, but actually really cheap everywhere. And we believe that now identity can be very strongly defended by this iSIM. As a company, there are probably about 130, 140 people, obviously not as quite a big startup, but we believe that security is really important. So you need to invest. There are very high standards with the GSMA on how to keep the SIMS secure or how to keep the eSIM and iSIM secure. And that’s something that we’re working on. And we really have seen a lot of traction recently, as people can realize the power of the SIM. And I’m sure we can talk a little bit more about us that later in our interview.
– [Ryan] Yeah, tell me a little bit more about the security piece. We talk about security here on the podcast a decent amount, but not really as it connects to the connectivity and the SIM side of things. So tell me a little bit more about kind of what that means, what it entails when we’re talking about SIM security, how it’s being done, or how it’s been done in the past and kind of, you know, what’s being done now, and why it’s so important.
– [Vincent] Yeah, identity is important for anything. So identity is used for multiple things, the device identity, but the other use of it is network identity. And now obviously the other big MNOs have for years been defending the network. This is how SIM evolved as a, as a secure and a identifier, secure identity module to make sure that’s, the security is really strong. And that’s how it evolved over many years. And once you have that on a device, like a for instance, our SIM is integrated, yes, it’s doing your network- sorry network authentication, but there’s also gonna be used for other things. We have an initiative called IoT safe, together with the GSMA where you effectively use that little crypto box, little crypto vault, if you will, on your device, for other things. And in that case, we restoring your TLS certificates, which is your communication certificates. So you could directly go to your cloud vendor and digital device and be recognized as a secure and trusted device and enrolled straight into their communication layer. And then once you have that, you can go up to the next level, actually, the same crypto fold, if you will, can be used for the root of trust, which effectively means to have suck sign in the whole device in the short here. I’m sure your listeners to know some of this, but it’s good to reiterate, right? So sign in the whole device. So it’s also gives you a very, you know, very strong kind of rollout to the rest of the device. So you start in the network, yeah, that’s very important, but then actually you can build up to the rest of the, what the device is doing and make a device really trusted and strongly defended. Similarly, the SIM also has, does management software for the eSIM. And again, that management software can be used to make sure that the eSIM is up to date, but the, the secure, secure OS only on the eSIM or iSIM is up-to-date. So again, this is over the air updates. There’s also kind of automatically designed into the, this security solution.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. So now we’ve kind of covered at least a high level, what you all do. Talk a little bit about security. Tell me about any use cases, deployments, you know, initiatives on the IoT front that are out in the real world that, that, you know, you guys are proud of, that you’re comfortable talking about on the podcast, just to kind of bring this all full circle. So our audience can kind of see how your offering is being used out in the market right now.
– [Vincent] Sure. Well, cellular IoT has a, has a big advantage. The biggest advantage is that you don’t have to get onto someone’s wifi. It just connects out of the box anywhere in the world. The thing that is a key use case for cellular IoT. But now, if you look at a 4G modem in your mobile phone, this will be an order of magnitude, more expensive than something you can use today. So as an industry, we’ve been pushing really hard to get that price down, to make it more usable, but not only get the price down, also get the size down. Cause clearly a mobile phone has a certain size, but if you go to IoT devices, that can be a little smaller, or you might be use cases require you to be a lot smaller. And that is one of our initiatives around iSIM also the integration into the other chips helps with this form factor. We also have an announcement, but I’ll get there. So once a form, you look at the from factor, it gets smaller. So this opens up new use cases. The way I used to like to describe it is, remember the iPod? The iPod was a, you know, a massive change because Apple realized that the small hard drives could be embedded into a music player. Now with iSIM and the, you know, making smaller of the radio. We can actually start putting this radio into much smaller use cases. And while these cases we’re already proud of, is with Sony, it’s called a smart tracker is effectively a tracker, which is printed plastic. So everything’s plastic, everything’s printed. The battery is printed. The circuit board is printed, everything is printed, apart from the chip, the chip you want to stick on there, clearly there we’ll have two or three chips because not every chip has the problem of not making sure it sticks right. So you don’t want to move too many brittle solid parts. So you take one chip and then the facility, everything is printed. Now this is used for very high and at the moment, very high value tracking. Think about vaccines, right, are nice example at the moment. Some of the vaccines have to be minus Fahrenheit, Celsius, but then right, minus 20 minus 40 Celsius, think that it’s something like minus 20 Fahrenheit. How can you make sure that when you’re tracking it and you’re, you’re, you’re moving into your district chain, how do you make sure it’s actually also in the right condition? And then it arrives to you, signify the user or the sort of the owner of the package that it has arrived. So that’s really nice use case where you can see that the smallness iSIM is really driving and opening up new, new use cases. I have a few more, if you want me to just keep going-
– [Ryan] No, we love use cases. So yeah, I’d love to hear more.
– [Vincent] Think of all these manufacturers, I know some manufacturers are a tronics company called Hair-as-a-service. So what is Hair-as-a-service? You ask good hair-as-a-surface. It’s effectively a hair straightener. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with these, but to know your day to day, that little women used to straighten their hair. And in that hair straightener, there’s actually little sensors and the sensors can do things like determine the dryness of the hair, the thickness of the hair, the burntness of the hair. And if you can communicate that back to the factory, right, and back to the supplier, you can actually start offering other services. I know you come home for services for things like no better products to make sure if your hair’s dry, maybe you want to use this. If you are too fatty, maybe you don’t use this. You can see it becomes now a Good Hair as a Surface, we call that. And again, those hair straighteners are quite small. So you don’t have a lot of space. You have a little power with, from a space point of view, that’s kind of an interesting use cases that making me giggle. That’s why I bring it up regularly. Other ones are no more in the, you know industrial automation, things about chemical meters, multimeters, where things have to operate on a battery. Our SIM sendback powers by the 10th of the sendback power of the normal SIM. So again, this helps you lengthen a battery life to three years, five years, 10 years. So that’s another use cases we’re seeing quite a lot of people using.
– [Ryan] Great. Can we talk about kind of cellular IoT in a general sense, are there any, I guess, how would you kind of distinguish between the types of use cases that are best suited for cellular IoT as a connectivity option, as opposed to other connectivity options out there, like LpWAN and things like that, you know, options like LoRa and so forth. Like how, how would you kind of, if you were talking to somebody to say cellular is best for these types of use cases, it may not be as best suited for these types of use cases, if that makes sense.
– [Vincent] Yeah, sure, sure. So generally I think cellular is best for, for anything that wifi is also used for today, and the benefits over wifi are it connects everywhere. So you don’t have to have a enter password because that’s what the SIM is for not the identity, strong defendants were built into the device. So most don’t come to us talking to a washing machine vendor and they have no wifi in the washing machine. I know if you have wifi in your washing machine, I do, I have not connected to a network because for now I can’t see to use for me as a consumer, but to actually for my manufacturer point of view, they would like to understand my usage, and the fact that for the input is on the wifi, it’s annoying for them, because they can’t find the usage. So if they have no LPN solution 4G or 5G and low power wide area network, cellular IoT, then they could actually get out the information and they could, you know, understand how the machine is used, how to improve the machine, how to, and maybe even get some, some advertising and little screen onto the washing machine. So that’s really useful. Now, the thing that’s holding them back obviously, I will say, what’s the downside. Why is not everybody doing that? It’s currently because the price point is a little higher than logging on wifi. Now, that is going down really quickly. And I think that’s what, again, the industry is really focusing on are the low power cellular IoT networks, to make sure that the price point becomes very competitive to wifi. And in that case, then you start using wifi on those low bandwidth kind of solutions. If you compare to all the networks, like Bluetooth, clearly which is a very different radio standards, much more for short distance, but also way lower power. So Bluetooth is probably not something that’s, that’s good to go into the, into that area. I think LoRa, you, you mentioned to LoRa is, is interesting, but LoRa needs its own base stations. So LoRa doesn’t work everywhere in the world. And LoRa is probably more, if you are on an industrial site and now you have your own LoRa network and that might be very possible, but then you have to put your own little LoRa base stations in maybe, you know, your shopping mall, that’s really feasible, but you can’t then benefit from not taking the same, same gadgets and moving them to a different country or different environment, because obviously, you know, unless, you know, database station, but it’s, I think that’s the strength of the cellular IoT. That make sense?
– [Ryan] Yeah, absolutely. No, that’s great. I appreciate you breaking that down. We hear a lot about just cellular IoT in general and kind of how it’s on the rise, you know, with 5G and so forth. And would you kind of, how would you, how do you think about the, the factors that are contributing to the rise of cellular IoT? You know, is this an advent of 5G or is there something else that’s really contributing to it?
– [Vincent] Well, it depends a little bit on the use case. Right, so if you look at the low, the low power use case, the, the small data on the use case, I think it’s, the advent of the cat and modems the Narrowband-IoT modem. So it’s the really low power, low throughput modems, I think in IoT, very interesting. Cause very much, if you look at a smart meter, it doesn’t need a higher high pipe. It doesn’t need to have a big 4g, 5G and high-end pipe to transport this data. Fondue is integrating some of this, right, the low power radios, the low bandwidth radios can be native to the 5G standards. So that is kind of really, you know, allowing that that to take off, again, those radios tend to be a lower price points. The connections tend to be a lot lower price point, so much more suitable and feasible for IoT. And I’m clear, you know, the more specialized use cases in 5G and the high-bandwidth when you can have your private network, but still have your device also work on a public network, there are things the operators can offer to make sure that’s another, use to bandwidth better and more targeted as, as far as, as IoT. I’m not an expert in that, more and more looking at the security side, but we are seeing quite a lot of new use cases. And that’s quite interesting to talk to different vendors.
– [Ryan] That’s fantastic. And can you give an overview to our audience kind of, of the hardware and software requirements or the needs for cellular IoT when they’re kind of thinking about putting together a solution, you know, what what’s needed on their side and what’s needed kind of from an infrastructure standpoint to make this work?
– [Vincent] So the device side, they’re effectively, you need three chips, you need a, a application chip which runs maybe, you know, Linux or an autos, you tend to need a radio chip from quality, large radio makers, or just the small innovators, and then you need a security chip, a SIM. Some radio makers offer a three-in-one. So you have both application, processor, the radio, and the SIM, the iSIM in that case, all three-in-one, so you need one chip instead of three, a little more, a little easier. Cause it’s pre-integrated, and you don’t need lots, you can go do a module maker, like, for instance, Murata. And Murata’s just announced on of their low power modules, which effectively is three-in-one. So they’re a very, very small module. We also have a Simco module recently announced very small IoT radio. So that’s the fits on the device side, and they include also the application processor. So you can start running a smaller OS’s on that and really drives then the form factor. Now clearly needs an antenna, cause that’s important, but you need it for any radio, and then obviously a connectivity to a network to make sure you have coverage in the region you’re in, or maybe a large worldwide offering from NVNO. And if you have enough coverage around the world. I think that’s the interesting part. If you can have a one skew now create something in Taiwan, ship it to, to Canada or to Australia, it will just work no matter where it goes without having to do a lot complicated skew management.
– [Ryan] Great. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And when it comes to none of the verticals that we were seeing, maybe the earliest adoption or that stand to gain the most from this transition into, you know, more cellular IoT applications being deployed, where do you, do you see any verticals that are kind of standing out or do you see any verticals that I guess are prime to benefit the most from, from this as, as it becomes more popular and, you know, 5G gets out there even more and so forth?
– [Vincent] I think all the vertical system, most of the interesting things. I think we’re seeing is medical trackers. So think of an issue couple of companies where it’s like, you know, like a smartwatch, but the medical- medically send the loan doesn’t need your phone anymore, anywhere in the world. So that’s kind of a really interesting use case we’re seeing. Again, for a medical tracker, think about a Fitbit, but no, the medical version of it. It has to be really small, has to be really light, and has to not use a lot of battery, but usable around the world. The other thing is it will be called micro mobility. Scooters, we’ve seen a lot of scooters coming, but to now you want to be able to deploy a scooter in any city around the world. And now you’re a startup with scooters, you have big plans. So you definitely want to be able to connect everywhere with the same hardware. So we’re seeing scooters as a, as a prime example, mothers march around the, the form factor because clearly there’s enough space on the scooter, but maybe the battery life and the integration, the iSIM and the eSIM really offers the benefits as well as the cellular IoT. Those are the kind of use cases we’re really seeing to now taking off very rapidly.
– [Ryan] Okay, that’s great. And you mentioned throughout our conversation, like we were talking about SIMs, you’re talking eSIMs, you talked about iSIMs. Can you just, again, iterate on just what the difference between when people hear eSIMS versus iSIMS and if you know, kind of how they differ, if at all?
– [Vincent] Sure, sure. They differ really fast. So now let’s talk to the SIM. The SIM is the thing you’re putting your mobile phone. It’s great, again, trusted, people use it, so being attacked many times defend it many times. So it’s shown that the tracks and the industry does not, this is a really secure solution. The drawback of a SIM it’s quite large, it takes up a lot of space cause you need a little tray for the SIM to slide into. Secondly, the power usage is quite high because none of those bits, it doesn’t have a really good electrical connection. Thirdly, the tray designers, have a hole in their beautiful design, or if you’re knowing industrial, it might be dust or water coming in through those holes. So that’s not perfect. Also, when you’re in industrial and somewhere, a big machine having to change the SIM cards because you are now your, your operator changes or do you get a better deal or they go out of business. Isn’t really, isn’t ideal. So the industry came with something which is called an eSIM. An eSIM is that same SIM cards, but takes away the plastic and solder it down onto the motherboard of the device. If you have it like a PC motherboards or a phone, very similar. So it’s a little motherboard for a, for an IoT device, they solder it down, right. But then when they solder it down, you can no longer change the SIM when you’ve changed supplier. So what then happens is they have a very secure server called an RSP remote SIM bridging server that manages that eSIM. So when you want to change supplier, that’s a, the server can then effectively download a new profile we call that, and the profiles is for instance, now, if you go from T-Mobile to ATT or from Vodafone to Orange, you can download the new profile and that’s then enabled new connectivity. Really high secure, but eSIM is a lot secure, more secure than the SIM itself because it’s a different use case and move around the world. Now, iSIM is that same eSIM. And instead of solder down onto the motherboard, you’re now integrated into all of the other chips. So the chip itself disappears and it becomes part of a larger chip. It’s still all there, all the security defenses are still there. It’s just in the corner with a larger chip, so your radio chip is the most obvious solution for this, which could be the power usage chip for the application process. There are multiple ways, but effectively disappears and becomes a corner of another chip.
– [Ryan] Okay. Okay, that makes a lot of sense. I appreciate you breaking that down. The last question I wanted to ask you before we kind of wrap up here is a lot of our audience out there, you know, is involved in IoT deployments, whether they’re working with a company to, to have a solution built or they’re doing it themselves. So how does a company know where to start when they’re kind of embarking on their cellular IoT journey? Just kind of any advice, you know, talk about kind of that starting period where they should be thinking about and then just general advice they should have throughout the process to maybe avoid any common pitfalls, you know, anything like that, just to kind of ensure better success when they’re getting involved in cellular IoT.
– [Vincent] Yeah. So I was saying now the key thing is to start with module makers, right? Module makers effectively creates the little module, which is the radio chip. Maybe the application chip, but the radio chip for you, that’s kinda something you can put onto your design. Of course making radios is quite hard. And the module maker has done all the hard work, have not only created the module, have tested the module and they have now got an approval from NMO to actually use that module onto the network. So for, especially for the low volumes, it just doesn’t make sense to create your own module just go to the large module makers. Murata, Simco, QuickTel many, many different ones. Look at the different aspects if you want, the higher throughput radio, low throughput radio, what about the power usage, those things you kind of look at and integrate it. Now, if you are, at some point, as a startup going to become the size of Apple. Then clearly you design everything yourself. But I think initially yes, use that, that module up to quite high volumes before that it makes sense to take a module apart and put it onto your own design, because that is quite, quite complicated. And as module makers have development boards, things you can try. So you can now start rigging up some of your design in the lab, clearly not on the same small form factor but to making sure that functionally it all functions.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Yeah, that’s been great. This conversation has been very insightful. I really appreciate you taking the time to kinda break down cellular IoT to this level and kind of talk about how it applies, where it’s, you know, where we see the growth, the future of it and that kind of thing. I do want to ask that if, if anybody out there who’s listening wants to learn more about kind of what you all have going on, has any follow-up questions. What’s the best way to reach out and engage?
– [Vincent] So we are quite active on LinkedIn. So we have a page and Kigen, a LinkedIn or Kigen.com our website. And also feel free to email me directly, [email protected] more than happy to maybe I might not be the right person to answer your question, but more than happy to do to redirect your questions. But again, we are quite active on social media on the LinkedIn sites. So I’m more than happy to have a conversation in public or in private to people reaching out for our email addresses.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Any news or any announcements coming out, of the company in the coming months, so that our audience to be on the lookout for?
– [Vincent] Yeah, yes we have quite a few, which obviously no, because they aren’t announced our secrets. But, now we have asked a couple of the large MNOs are working with us. We’re seeing a good traction. So we’ll be announcing that, we have already announced the Simco and the Murata modules we work with, so now we are looking at other module makers. So there’ll be, that’ll be announcing. And obviously now, just like you, we are very excited about use cases. I know a couple of use cases around dog trackers, like a Fitbit, a Fitbit for your dog, to make sure that you dog sleeps enough, which in my case, my dog sleeps all the time, so, I’m sure it’s fine. Got a couple of these things, kind of interesting use cases where they take these things down to a, to a much smaller level, which is really interesting for us, to see what we can enable. You know, the iPod moment that is really what I’m looking forward to in the market, and we’re seeing more and more people starting to think differently and actually use cellular IoT where previously weren’t even thinking of that.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well, Vincent, this has been a fantastic conversation. I really appreciate your time and kind of shedding light on a lot of different topics connected to cellular IoT. Really appreciate you being here and thanks again.
– [Vincent] Yeah, thank you for having me. And if you ever have more questions, more than happy to appear again.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. We’d love to have you back. Alright everyone, thanks again for joining us this week on the IoT for all podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode and if you did, please leave us a rating or review and be sure to subscribe to our podcast on whichever platform you’re listening to us on. Also, if you have a guest you’d like to see on the show, please drop us a note at [email protected] and we’ll do everything we can to get them as a featured guest. Other than that, thanks again for listening. And we’ll see you next time.