By Ludovic F. Rembert, Head of Research at Privacy Canada.
Ever since eSIM technology was launched, it has been put forward as the next step in the evolution of connected gadgets. While there are still security concerns, such as reliability, security, and the longevity of embedded chips, embedded SIM technology is developing rapidly.
Currently, eSIM solutions are used predominantly in smartphones, laptops, and other similar devices, but there are signs indicating that eSIM technology is expected to be the next step in the evolution of IoT devices. A survey conducted by Beecham Research found that 78% of respondents already use eSIMs or expect to in the coming future.
Below are some of the key factors enabling researchers to believe that eSIM will be the future of IoT devices, along with why this seemingly inevitable evolution may be still slower than expected.
Increased design flexibility
SIM cards started a trend of miniaturization for cards that eSIM technology has taken to the extreme. eSIM chips are around five times smaller than even nano-SIM cards, but this decrease in size frees up IoT devices for growth in other areas.
Considering that IoT devices themselves can vary in size greatly, this size difference between standard SIM cards and newer eSIM chips could make a large difference in devices such as smartphones, albeit a smaller difference in larger devices such as laptops.
Going further, having a smaller size means that IoT developers could place more security hardware within devices. According to IT expert Barbara Ericson of Cloud Defense, nearly half of all organizations have suffered one or more digital breaches in the last year.
By removing the size factor of SIM technology through the use of an embedded, rather than a physical chip, IoT designers can integrate technology into their devices that will better protect data and privacy, therefore reducing the number of data breaches.
Bolstered data security
It’s not just eSIMs smaller size that allows IoT devices to improve security, but the chips themselves. Over 80% of IoT organizations reported an increase in hacking incidents during 2020 and the estimated losses due to cyberattacks are projected to reach $6 trillion in 2021 alone. eSIM technology has the potential to mitigate some of these damages.
Perhaps one of the biggest security benefits of an eSIM for IoT devices is the mere fact that the chip is embedded. Being hardwired into a device means that the device is traceable whenever it is turned on, making it riskier for thieves.
For starters, common security concerns with SIM cards, such as cell phone cloning or port-out scams, where criminals fraudulently swap stolen SIMs to gain access to a person’s data, are nearly impossible with an embedded SIM.
Additionally, those visiting other countries don’t need to worry about temporarily swapping out their SIM for a new one. They can simply select an available option through an eSIM eliminating the risk of losing or having the SIM card stolen.
Many additional security measures have been proposed, such as SM-DP+, that would involve verification of an eSIM through an external server. This would counter one of the eSIM technologies’ greatest security risks – profile switching. Another good strategy to help bolster security is adding hardware that can support features such as signature verification on sensitive IoT devices. This increased design flexibility will allow IoT devices, in general, to focus more on internal hardware development and make room for new technologies.
Easier widespread adoption
Finally, a third factor in why eSIM technology may be a major player in the evolution of the IoT is the interoperability of this technology. Different physical SIM cards can vary in standards, meaning different carriers or hardware manufacturers may not support the card.
However, eSIM uses a single standard that could make integration across different IoT devices a smoother process. Not to mention, this would make the cost aspect of scaling eSIM technology far more appealing to manufacturers. The operator subscription can be changed without needing to take an IoT device back to the store, meaning a SIM chip no longer needs to be physically removed at a store.
In spite of all these advanced security measures, it may not be enough. Some people have proposed integrating additional privacy tools that offer a variety of features that further eliminate the risk of hackers obtaining confidential data. Taking extra precautions with authentication, passwords and adopting good cyber hygiene are crucial to maintain privacy in a world where cyberattacks are on the rise.
Little features such as the above make the adoption of eSIM technology a universal process. With the added security eSIMs can bring and the smaller design that allows for IoT devices to improve their hardware, it’s clear why eSIM technology has been duped as the next big thing for the tech industry.
What’s holding eSIM tech back?
With the above benefits fueling the growth of eSIM technology, it’s important to acknowledge the few factors holding this evolution back.
First and foremost, eSIM technology is still a novelty due to the fact it’s only been around for roughly five years. This means that there hasn’t been ample time to see how it holds up in the long run, which is a valid concern. With it being so new, it may take a long time before it can become mainstream with nearly 70% of surveyed users from an Arm industry survey showing resistance to adopting eSIM technology.
40% of people from the same survey claimed implementation complexity was the biggest cause for their resistance. This all stems back to the fact that eSIM technology is still being developed, not to mention the regulatory bodies that are still working with manufacturers of eSIMs to ensure they meet specifications.
However, all of the above factors causing eSIM adoption to be a slow process for IoT, rather than a quick one, are easily surmountable with time. It seems more likely that IoT devices and manufacturers will eventually choose to rely on this technology for the numerous benefits it provides.
Regardless of speed, it’s a sure thing that eSIM technology is becoming the future of IoT devices. Despite the few hurdles this tech must overcome, eSIM is poised to change the digital world in the coming years.
The benefits it can bring to IoT devices in regards to design, data security, and convenience dims the minor disadvantages. With new developments such as cutting-edge IoT cloud platforms emerging, there are numerous areas eSIM technology can integrate with IoT devices. This coming integration has the potential to change the Internet of Things like never before and being aware of this convergence may help organizations prepare for any potential disruptions.
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