Preparing to succeed: how to manage global IoT deployments in the face of future technology risks

20 April 2023

Paul Marshall, co-founder and chief customer officer, Eseye

Paul Marshall, co-founder and chief customer officer, Eseye

In the fast-paced world of IoT technology, staying ahead of the game is essential for businesses. Yet, with changing legislation, technical risks, and commercial pressures, the potential pitfalls are many. 

Over the past two decades, I have seen countless attempts by individuals to connect their IoT devices using a multitude of wireless technologies. However, these efforts were often driven by the technology available rather than the business case. Yet, while it was undoubtedly exciting to see their devices successfully communicate, it was challenging for those businesses to extract the essential, business-enhancing data needed to improve company performance from their once expensive and high-end devices.

The benefits felt by businesses after adopting the new cloud technology were staggering. Coupled with the dramatic fall in the cost of accessing cellular networks and necessary hardware, devices could connect to the cloud anywhere. Businesses could embrace the power of IoT applications and connected solutions that had been previously costly. Enterprises could, at last, streamline their operations, reduce costs, and drive innovation while offering unparalleled accessibility and reliability to their customers.

Today, this innovation still comes with complex risks. Even after the convergence of affordable cellular networks, high-quality connectivity, and inexpensive hardware, businesses are still racing to market devices that aren't ready, along with not fully understanding the importance of device reliability to handle any network issue. Yet the challenge is far from simply ensuring robust connectivity. Businesses must still juggle risks to succeed in global IoT deployment.

While the option of choosing a cheaper, low-quality connectivity solution may be tempting, it can cause significant issues in the long term. It cannot be overstated that investing in a reliable and robust connection is crucial as it can determine the success or failure of an IoT deployment. However, businesses must tackle the challenges that extend beyond connectivity, as outlined in the following areas:

1. Regional legislative changes: These pose a significant risk to businesses operating in various countries. Network operators face competing pressures in their countries, such as adhering to GSMA rules and guidelines and competing with other operators to win business. These pressures create a melting pot of risk on all sides, making it crucial for companies to invest in ensuring their devices are reliable and can continue to operate under changing regulations.

2. Data sovereignty: For any IoT project, and perhaps most obviously in healthcare applications, data sovereignty is another issue to consider when handling sensitive data. Ensuring compliance with current legislation is the first step, but IoT projects need the tools for future compliance with changing laws. Risk mitigation is critical to avoid costly setbacks and business failure of the project.

3. Roaming agreements: There needs to be more than just compliance with regulations to guarantee the success of an IoT project. Although IoT roaming enables connectivity in many countries worldwide, most roaming agreements are short-term compared to the lifecycle of an IoT device, which could be more than ten years. If devices exceed the roaming limit, businesses risk permanent roaming, which can be an ongoing worry. In Kaleido Intelligence's recent survey, almost half of the respondents (46%) were concerned about growing permanent roaming restrictions for multi-regional IoT deployments, resulting in steep costs and devices being blocked and disconnected.

4. Changes in cloud services: Another risk to consider is the potential for devices to become obsolete due to changes in cloud services or data routing. Devices must be tested for current performance and prove they can manage such changes. Designing and deploying an IoT device is a journey of tough choices and complex calculations, but preparing the device for any eventuality is crucial to ensure success.

SIM card roaming

Businesses must consider potential commercial risks, particularly those associated with roaming SIM cards. The cost-of-service delivery can vary depending on the networks involved, impacting on the project's profitability.

Fortunately, a solution to this problem lies in using eUICC and multi-IMSI SIM cards. These SIM cards enable connection management, switching between networks, and loading new profiles (localisation), ensuring compliance with local legislation and optimal performance no matter where installed. Most importantly, the flexibility of the technology means that they are prepared for future regulatory changes.

Once a device is connected to the network, an IoT partner platform can identify the network the device is using and send over-the-air commands to reconfigure the SIM card to ensure the device is operating correctly. This may involve switching between multiple network profiles or pushing new credentials into the SIM card. The aim is to ensure the device is as close to 100% availability as possible, minimising the risk of costly downtime and service disruptions.

Cat M1 and NB-IoT availability

As IoT developers continue to explore the possibilities of new network services like Cat M1 and NB-IoT, ensuring the widespread availability of these services presents some unique challenges. Cat M1, a cost-effective option for IoT development, is yet to be universally available across all networks. This creates a significant hurdle for customers looking to develop global products and can cause delays and potential roadblocks when deploying devices across different regions.

Meanwhile, NB-IoT offers the promise of very low power usage, which can be a significant benefit for devices that need to operate in the field for extended periods. However, since NB-IoT removes many connectivity management services and features, managing connections and ensuring that devices continue to work as intended once deployed can be a challenge.

The benefits of an IoT connectivity partner

In conclusion, businesses must use robust solutions from a reliable IoT partner with the tools and processes to mitigate risks associated with changing legislation over the lifetime of the IoT device to ensure long-term success in IoT deployment.

Not only will an IoT partner perform critical stress testing to ensure an estate can recover from unusual situations such as connectivity failure, but it will access risk and challenges in other areas as outlined above. This is why choosing a connectivity partner with a proven approach to device testing and validation is vital.

Through an IoT partner, businesses can access the best technical solutions, de-risk any deployment, and help deploy and manage the device estate while managing real-time changes and fluctuations in the field. With the right technical skills and expertise to overcome any complexity in IoT deployment, a business can safely focus on growth and productivity in the knowledge that its global estate is being taken care of.