Manufacturing is constantly pushing boundaries and becoming global, while production processes are becoming more and more connected. Against this backdrop, reliable and secure connectivity plays a crucial role. Therefore, manufacturing companies need their devices to interact across the borders. To enable manufacturers leverage seamless global connectivity without engaging with different network operators in every region, the digital ecosystem enabler, Tata Communications has developed a platform: Tata Communications MOVE™ eSIM Hub. It enables companies to remotely commission and configure IoT applications worldwide and thereby improve their service.
In connected production environments, a constant flow of data is the be-all and end-all. When machines and plants communicate with each other and with the cloud, completely new possibilities open up for manufacturers. By collecting and analysing relevant data, manufacturers can increase efficiency and offer enhanced experiences to the end consumers. Services such as condition monitoring and predictive maintenance are creating new revenue models that are changing the role of machine manufacturers. From mere producers, they are becoming service providers that play a key role within their customers’ production processes. The prerequisite for this, however, is reliable connectivity. This is the key to a manufacturer’s ability to deliver on its promises. Increasing dependency on connectivity is also associated with risks, because a connection failure can quickly cost several thousand euros per minute, depending on the production volume.
Organisations with production sites in different countries face additional challenges. They have to deal with different legal processes and mobile network providers in each country. In addition, more and more IoT-enabled devices are mobile. Asset tracking devices or connected vehicles, for example, must remain permanently connected even when crossing borders in order to perform their tasks and receive necessary software updates.
SIM technology inhibits IoT applications
For a long time, companies used exchangeable SIM cards to connect and authenticate Internet-enabled devices with a local mobile network operator (MNO) in each region. However, this solution is no more practical with increasing mobility. It is not easily scalable, i.e., engaging with different MNOs in each country will need companies to insert different SIM cards in their devices every time or exchange them for international transfers. This can prove to be very expensive.
On the other hand, SIM cards require space in the product itself, which must be taken into account in the design. All of this takes place against the backdrop of elaborate business processes during their manufacture. For example, after production, a chip must first be recorded with information such as profile data and certificates before it is sold as a SIM card via the mobile communications provider to the machine builder or device manufacturer, who in turn passes it on to system integrators or the end user. Since each company involved adds its profit margin, this production chain generates high costs.
eSIM facilitates integrated connectivity
The eSIM technology has proven to be a solution to all these challenges. An eSIM is an embedded SIM that connects the device to the mobile network from the beginning, making it ‘born connected ‘. Manufacturers and users thus benefit from ‘out-of-the-box’ connectivity that enables rapid, location-independent deployment of the device in question.
As a zero-touch solution, eSIMs allow updates such as operator profile changes to be applied remotely. This means that the relevant devices do not have to be configured by a technician on site every time a change is made, saving time and money. New devices can also be activated and managed online throughout their lifecycle, right from their manufacture. This means that companies can also put a large number of geographically widely distributed applications into operation at the same time and thus expand their capacities in an uncomplicated manner. At the same time, this ‘over-the-air’ configuration allows companies to quickly adapt their services to new circumstances worldwide.
With all this, eSIM technology simplifies product management, shortens time-to-market and improves service quality. At the same time, the fixed integration of the eSIM into the device in question increases data security, as it cannot be removed and stolen. Plus, companies can better control device access and usage as a result.
Central control via eSIM Hub
To give enterprises centralized access to the eSIM technology, providers such as Tata Communications have launched platform solutions. The Tata Communications MOVE™ eSIM Hub, for example, enables seamless connectivity across different mobile networks and SIM providers. Through a single, comprehensive portal, enterprises can manage all their IoT connections and subscriptions globally during different stages of the product lifecycle, regardless of the connectivity technology or service provider used.
With its associations with over 600 MNOs across more than 190 countries, Tata Communications works closely with local MNOs to ensure maximum network reach and availability for connected services. In each case, data transfer is handled via the nearest point-of-presence to ensure the best possible connection quality. Meanwhile, preset connectivity with leading cloud providers ensures secure mobile connectivity over private networks. As the interface between hardware and software, the eSIM Hub thus enables IoT-enabled devices to securely and reliably dial into the mobile network anywhere in the world – regardless of which network they are on and which SIM provider they use. This greatly simplifies the implementation of IoT applications.
More flexibility for global manufacturing
International companies in particular benefit from switching to such a platform. While it was previously necessary to conclude access and roaming agreements with the respective local network operators, the eSIM Hub now offers centrally regulated access to hundreds of networks in a large number of countries. It complies with current GSMA (Group Speciale Mobile Association) standards for eSIMs, making it possible to switch between different connectivity service providers and data tariffs – even if the device in question is already in use.
The straightforward onboarding of new profiles also gives companies more flexibility. This means they can also take existing mobile contracts with them when they switch to the eSIM Hub. To this end, the installed eSIMs are equipped with a bootstrap profile from the outset, which facilitates the download of new operating profiles and their migration. It also ensures the connectivity of the respective device in the event of a fault.
Integrated connectivity as a paradigm shift
The complicated deployment of traditional SIM cards and the associated infrastructural hurdles currently represent the bottleneck in the seamless connectivity amongst the different pillars of this ecosystem. Integrated connectivity with eSIM technology can change this. Combined with platform solutions such as the eSIM Hub, it acts as a door opener and paves the way to globally connected smart manufacturing. This gives machine and component manufacturers the necessary flexibility to commission, control and optimise IoT applications across borders. The eSIM technology thus promises nothing less than a paradigm shift in connected production.
Vice President – Mobility
Avneesh Prakash is Vice President of Mobility at Tata Communications. In this role, he is responsible to drive strategic innovation to further advance and develop the company’s global mobility platform – Tata Communications MOVETM.
Published in Telematics Wire