Podcast: The powerful combination of 5G, IoT, eSIM/iSIM and satellite-powered networks

August 3, 2023

Posted by: Barto Szkaradek

Tech journalist, Antony Savvas, hosts Toby Grimshaw from IoT and eSIM specialists Kigen and Loic Bonvarlet VP of Product and Marketing at Kigen , to discuss the real-world impact of 5G, IoT and satellite connectivity when combined with advanced eSIM and iSIM products. Hear how the new 3GPP release 17 standard opens up exciting opportunities for device makers and service providers in various sectors. Explore the non-terrestrial networks and learn how they are set to revolutionise global communications.

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[00:00:00] Antony Savvas: Hi. Welcome to our latest Internet of Things and Communications Services podcast. This is Antony Savvas, international technology editor, accompanied by his esteemed industry guest. Today the main topic we’re talking about is the new opportunities with 5g, IoT and satellite connectivity combined with eSIM and iSIM.

The latest 3GPP release 17., an upcoming release, 18 as part of the next 5G standard. Define the non-terrestrial network for narrowband IoT. That’s NB-IoT. As a result, device makers can offer additional services that utilise low earth orbit orbits. That’s LEO satellite constellations for continuous coverage.

Satellite connectivity integration is certainly becoming frictionless for device makers allowing for seamless transitions between cellular and satellite connectivity. But we’ll also be talking about other key developments in the communications industry, and we’ll finish our discussion with some more light-hearted industry news that has surfaced. Today’s podcast is sponsored by Kigen. Kigen is an international company. That focuses on eSIM and iSIM Solutions. With over 12 years of experience delivering successful IoT projects with established partners, it delivers trusted and secure enablement technologies and services into cellular IoT industries globally, and it works with partners across an extensive technology ecosystem and provides a broad portfolio of solutions that simplifies SIM delivery and management throughout the connected device value chain. Just confirm. I’m Antony Savvas. I’ve been covering the networking in telecom space continuously the last 25 years, working as a writer and editor for leading international technology magazines websites.

I’m currently a contributor editor for both IoT Now and Global Communications Service Provider, media platform Vanilla Plus a sister, title of IoT Now. My guests today are Loic Bonvarlet, senior Vice President for product market at Kigen. Loic overseas product management and marketing for Kigen, helping to facilitate the adoption of a secure, integrated, and cost-effective cellular Internet of Things.

Alongside Loic, we also have Toby Grimshaw, director of Sales and Business Development at Kigen. Toby is focused on working with the highly complex ecosystem to successfully deliver partnership and channel enablement programs and solutions across multiple sectors, including of course, the Internet of Things and cellular connectivity in various industry verticals.

But before we go onto our main topic of the day, discussing new opportunities around 5G IoT satellite connectivity, we’ll talk about some other developments, Loic. I understand there’s an important GSMA eSIM update. What is it and why is it important for the industry? Loic…

[00:03:08] Loic Bonvarlet: Hi Antony, thanks for having us. In the GSMA world and the specifications relating to eSIM and IoT, there is one major development, which is the finalisation of the specification for IoT RSP. It has multiple acronyms, but basically it’s the evolution of the remote sim provision standards.

To cater for IoT use cases at large. If we go back quickly, in history there were already existing two standards for the remote provisioning. That is the ability to download connectivity profile onto a SIM card to enable, various MNOs connectivity on device. So one which was called M2M, which is focused on managing fleets of devices, IoT devices.

It was mostly used by the automakers to date to enable connectivity in the car. For example, it’s been around since 2016 roughly and it was already widely used and the other standard was the consumer RSP which is really focused on. Enabling connectivity on your day-to-day, smartphone, tablet, et cetera.

So you are an end user and you’re basically selecting, I want to connect with this other operator. And this is a digital delivery of your connectivity to your device, and you as a user are in control. So the industry decided to take on the learnings of these two different standards and have an evolution of really an evolution of the consumer standard really.

Taking advantage of the key benefits of a simpler architecture of the consumer standard, but implementing in on top of this standard, the fleet management for IoT fleet of devices. So what it allows is increasing the number of connectivity options available on the market. It simplifies the integration compared to the older m2m standard Before you are to basically do bilateral interoperability between each component?

Now it’s a much more fluid, I would say, integration. Cause you have the elements where you store the connectivity profiles and basically an orchestration where you flex choose profile and you install them on, on devices. So there will be effectively a much simpler integration between the different parties where.

You can be a device maker, a connectivity provider, or even a device management provider, and you can integrate these type of bricks. So more fluidity in this market, simpler is eSIM management and also an important point, taking care of the use cases of low speed, low power one network so-called notably cat-m and NB-IoT which allow very constrained use cases, very low power devices, which was not necessarily possible before with the previous standards. So, yeah, interesting development and we already had the version 1.1 coming out of the technical specification, so-called SGP 32 which will be out and published by GSM next week.

So there is already a version 1.1 available. People are working on the test specification and vendors such as Kigen are already implementing and developing and trailing those technology with our customers.

[00:06:30] Antony Savvas: That’s great. That sounds very interesting. I think we’ll be talking a bit more about this linked to our main topic. But generally Loic and Toby, what are the big trends you see in the space in terms of security and connectivity enablement for example, what are the sort of like the things will come to your mind, which the listeners will maybe thinking about already or maybe should be thinking about?

[00:06:53] Toby Grimshaw: Thanks Tony. I think a lot of its covering one of the big trends at the moment is obviously around the sort of ChatGPT with the NOV AI, how that’s influencing IoT and Kigen is always a business that is focused around security and we are looking at it from one of those pieces where actually how you can improve security using AI in IoT, for example, it can assist in implementing, you know, secure authentication mechanisms by analysing and interpreting natural language inputs.

You can benefit from it from anomaly detection, you know, training models and patterns and behaviours in IoT devices and understand what those patterns are in a normal environment. But if there are then, you know, deviations in that, then that could be providing a security or suspicious activity going on, and equally around how it can, you know, provide security education and awareness in educating users on best practice.

But wrapped around that from a Kigen perspective is that we also see that AI is expensive on cloud processing. So what we’re seeing is that there’ll be more and more moving towards the edge and getting close to the data source, and they’ll load more onto those localized devices. And then that starts to put up the importance of security.

The increase in the need for security, for strong IP protection on the device. And that’s something Kigen sees it’s rolling around initiatives to GSMA initiatives of IoT safe, which is looking at how you can leverage. The security of the SIM side of the device inside the SIM to ensure trusted data can be delivered to the right location within the fab, and there’s a whole space around, I think AI is going to influence IoT per SAFE, and where we are going to be focusing around how you can ensure that increased workload on the edge, that data can be securely captured and delivered to the right locations and that’s a real pinch point Kigen is focused on through our initiative of IoT SAFE.

[00:08:53] Antony Savvas: Right. Loi, did you have anything to add to that?

[00:08:57] Loic Bonvarlet: Yeah. I think one interesting aspect also is very shortly the large language models will have absorbed all the data that is publicly available on internet in a very short timeframe. And that is that basically Those models will be angry for fresh data, right? And fresh data here doesn’t necessarily have the time of vetting, so when we are looking at IoT data, we are gonna need to make sure that it comes from the right sources. It is trusted, it is signed right, so that it can potentially consume immediately by such, you know, a large scale algorithm. So that’s really an important point, I think to say we want to enable as much as possible processing at the edge to reduce the impact of this technology on power consumptions and things like that and also make sure that this are is really trustable. So we avoid deviation manipulation of data. That is already a problem today in this world to say if the data it consumes is incorrect, Why would you seen correct answers, in a ChatGPT and we see that multiple times so. We want to try to enable trustable source of data.

[00:10:04] Antony Savvas: Okay. And more processes at the edge, that’s a whole new topic on its own. Maybe you can talk about that another day.

So let’s move on to the main topic of the podcast. New Opportunities with 5g, IoT and satellite connectivity combined with eSIM and iSIM. Right. I understand is a major development going on here. But Loic, can you explain what is happening in the next 5G standards around non-terrestrial networks, please.

[00:10:31] Loic Bonvarlet: So… the only 17 of the 5G standards has introduced the non-terrestrial network, so-called NTN Network concepts. And it’s basically taking the cellular technology to space, if I can put it simply, that is. It uses constellations of low earth orbit LEO satellites to offer extra coverage when there is not coverages for the, the classical terrestrial cellular networks that we all use every day in our daily life.

And to achieve that, it basically uses the NB-IoT technology to transport the data. Right. From the device to satellites and then to a ground station and then back into the regular networks. So the main benefit of that is for use cases which require continuous coverage, and you have quite a lot of them, right?

You might see you know, container tracking, for example. Let’s see. You might see telematics in poly covered areas sport enthusiasts going out in the woods with no cellular coverage and wanting to be able to transmit emergency messages. This technology enabled that as long as you have the line of sight of the sky effectively to transmit small messages.

Of data via this satellite constellations. So it, it really does open new opportunities for device makers and service providers as I mentioned, so in asset tracking, in logistics, in healthcare or wellbeing sports this is something that can really bring this missing coverage.

When it’s important. So in that space Kigen has already enabled players notably for example, our partnership with Skylo and Bullitt. Bullitt is a device maker that licenses brands such as Motorola or Cat to bring device to market. And they launched recently two phones, rugged phones, CAT S75 and a Motorola Defy form as well, which enable on top of classical cellular function, a two-way satellite messaging services. The services basically delivered by grid and that allows you with a few seconds to transmit both ways, messages, for example, emergency messages. So that is the consumer use case.

They also enabled an interesting device, which is a type of a pack it’s called the Motorola defy satellite link and it’s a device that you pair via Bluetooth to your phones to add this satellite connectivity to your regular phone and you install an app on your phone to basically be able to send messages over this satellite link.

So you don’t need necessarily a new device, you can just use the pack and the pack can be shared across multiple devices to use this service. So also thinking of you don’t need a full device upgrade to actually use these services. So that’s more the consumer view of the world. But effectively you have also several of our module partners that have launched cellular modules that are able to basically combine cellular via their network and satellite networks and maybe I’ll let Tommy speak more specifically on wearables as well.

[00:14:03] Antony Savvas: Just to confirm Toby, so the, the next 5G standard developments look quite exciting and, we’ve seen on IoT Now and Vanilla Plus coverage the way low earth orbit networks are getting closer. What we were talking about before, the edge. And NB-IoT and other forms of communication.

So what else do you have to add to what Loic talked about there? He talked about sector verticals and what else have you got for us on around this? Toby?

[00:14:29] Toby Grimshaw: Yeah, it’s a good question. Antony, so the best way of describing it is through some of the use cases that we’re seeing in some of those organizations that we’re actually working with and also how it plays into. The evolution of the form factors that are available for cellular connectivity.

Most notably, you obviously got, your plastic SIM. You’ve got your eSIM, your discrete sim, your solar sim, and then you’ve also got the integrated SIM, where effectively it’s a hardware secure hardware tamper resistant element design is actually designed right into the silicon and the connection between that and this kind of dual SIM, if I can say, put it that way, AI using cellular connectivity and NTN is that we are seeing device makers trying to exploit integrated sim now to help meet those new product design so that they can design a wearable, a predominantly, a small device, and they can maybe use their existing discrete SIM they’re using for their cellular connection. But what they’re also starting to look at evaluating and integrating into their product design is using the integrated SIM as the NTN SIM connection.

So what it does, the advantage of doing it along those lines, and, and that’s capable of doing it with someone like Skylo is that it means that you don’t have to go and source a separate component to then put into your wearable device. You can just exploit the fact that the iSIM is designed right into the silicon and you can just activate that.

So it helps sort of exploit a meter business need of the dual sim. You know, you want both cellular and NTN, but the form factor you use now to use it on the street that combined with an integrated SIM in a small module. Helps you do that. So, you know, our module partners on integrated SIM that customers can go and talk to now, people like Murta Quectel, Sierra, Telenor, and all of those organizations have integrated SIMs that can exploit that sort of dual sim approach and we do see that as a very exciting way for companies to innovate, particularly on small devices. You know, if they’re looking, they’re constrained by the size of the device.

[00:16:36] Antony Savvas: Very interesting. So we covered the important issue of form factors there, as well as verticals as well, which is aimed at. But to tie this back to the new SGP31 / 32 standards. How and when will an organization be able to take advantage of RSP but remote SIM provisioning for IoT at scale and where can the access relevant hardware in RSP services?

[00:17:00] Loic Bonvarlet: The idea of the new standard is to facilitate the access to values connectivity type and it’s not so prescriptive in the way on how it’s delivered outside of meeting security requirements, but is it gives flexibility the course you want to take. If we come back, maybe for example, to the wearable case where you have like the very constrained device with watching the energy consumption really closely, you have already a lot of mechanisms that is used to exchange data between the device and remote services where You can take benefit of all the work that has been spent into optimising that channel to also use that for the connectivity management as well. So the benefit there is you see an aggregation or a mix between the application and the connectivity management potentially to already be as optimised as possible.

Well, with the early days of the, the standard in RSP, it was very constrained approach, really driven by the telco and the operators. This has changed. With this new standard, you have a much more input coming from the device and the hardware world to make that usable. I think Kigen is chairing the working role that works on this standard.

And it’s, it’s really part of our big goals to make sure that the hardware world is well understood for that standard to be fully backed and finalised. And we already take a lot of effort to broker that discussion with the hardware makers. We see ourselves as the, the bridge between the hardware and the connectivity provider in that case and using various shape and forms of SIM functions, the integrated SIM to achieve that. Overall I think really much more flexibility and we can already leverage todays standard to run first experimentation to deploy this technology and try it in the field. Right. I think what we are really proponent of is, Make sure that the standard is built along the way of field testing it so we don’t get into a standard that is not field implementable, that that’s really important philosophy for this group as well.

[00:19:23] Antony Savvas: Yeah, very interesting. I mean a number of enterprises who were looking at this type of technology, were talking about connectivity, you, internet connectivity, there as an important issue. But some enterprise report that there’s the issue of global connectivity everywhere is an issue for IoT scale ups.

What do you say about that? Toby and Loic in terms of those connectivity challenges, which in some ways, you know, Kigen isn’t responsible for, even though it has an opinions and, you know standards bodies, which cope with them. What’s the overall answer to that connectivity challenges.

[00:19:57] Toby Grimshaw: I can only speak from what I feedback from talking to enterprises that want to innovate in IoT and at the end of the day, a lot of these organisations want to have, as simple as can management as possible, and I can deploy my device anywhere in the world and I can get connectivity.

But more importantly, what they also want to know is, what is possible and what is not possible, and what is possible today and what will be possible tomorrow. And I think what we’re seeing at the moment is organisations are very comfortable if they know the scope of what is possible in coverage for them to deploy their devices in line with what is actually possible at the moment.

Because we’re never going to, everything is always moving is my view. There’s always going to be something that’s coming through that’s going to change, and it’s about the cadence and when to design in on products. And I think the interesting view is on the stands, particularly around the RSP, that brings, I think, a real acceleration point for IoT deployments.

And I think enterprises are very excited by that because it brings, the best of both m2m and consumer together to solve some of their problems. What we’ve seen is, and maybe some of the value that Kigen brings to some of those conversations is we’re kind of Switzerland in all of this.

We’re just trying to do the enablement for enterprises and help guide them to the right partners who can actually support them in their particular agenda. But, it’s about how to get the cadence right on the product design. And the sort of example of that I can give really is again, is around sort of an example of integrated SIM.

So integrated SIM available commercially in the market today it’s sort of single profile. It’s EUICC and there will be new product coming through into the market next year, which will be ieUICC. So it effectively RSP compatible. So we are now working with organizations that are designing new products, smaller products, modular products, and they’re very comfortable.

Designing in working with the right connectivity partners on a single profile and they may use a multi M Z or the that solution with that. And they’re very comfortable designing on a product today. They’re taking advantage of technologies available today, designing in, but with an eye to say, I will then do a product, you know, a hardware refresh or redesign in 18 months time as the new standards start to come together.

And I think one of the key elements for enterprises is helping them understand. The timelines of both form factor availability, you know, of new form factors that come through in the hardware side, and equally what is available and what will be coming through in terms of access to the technologies on the RSP side.

And being able to guide enterprises with accuracy on that builds trust and it builds trust in the ecosystem. And I think the key elements, your core question around how does all of that connect to it? It’s about bringing the ecosystem together across all of the partners to help drive this innovation so that organisations and the key major operators can listen to what’s required in different regions. It’s very much an ecosystem.

[00:22:49] Antony Savvas: Yeah, the ecosystem. That’s the key one. I understand that obviously you’ve made quite plain that you’re a key player in the ecosystem, but I think that there’s one example which you were keen to point out from Sierra Wireless their premium connectivity, which augments and offers great coverage and quality apparently. What do you have to say about that.

[00:23:07] Loic Bonvarlet: Maybe I can take this one. And just to say that here where Kigen is providing a toolbox for notably players in the ecosystem to showcase their differentiation, right? So in the case of Sierra for example, they do bring to the table both the hardware for the module and gateways and also the connectivity.

And when we discuss together, they have to cut off for the case where they just sell connectivity. That means they just sell a sync card that will be put into a product, not necessarily with their hardware and they also have to serve connectivity deeply buried inside the hardware product and make this journey as efficient as possible.

And so to achieve that with Sierra for example, we’ve been supplying the eSIM OS for a long time. We are now supplying RSP, the remote provisioning platform that allows, allows them to deliver their connectivity profile with their roaming agreement with the settle MCS that they put into their profile, but also for peace of mind for their customer.

They can offer an exit and native profiles, say for example, from the big US MNOs, which is a key requirement for global deployments. Typically, most of the device maker and service provider want to ensure that they can work natively at some point when required with the largest north American MNOs.

So here they use a combination of our technologies both on the embedded side and the server side. And the same goes, we are very prominent in this IoT specialist in the connectivity world, so-called IoT CSPs connectivity service provider. And we do enable them in different ways and we also guide our customers and our partners on the hardware side to say for your use case and your constraints, we believe that this is more appropriate because of Reason X, Y, Z and, and try to steer them to the best potential, connectivity partner when it’s for events based on our knowledge. So that’s really something we try to do with our partner and also some of this IoT CSPs partner outside of the Pure Connectivity Services.

They’re also starting to bake, you know, additional services such as, well, the security bit. We talked about IoT SAFE a bit earlier, or do I ensure end to end applicative data security to cloud or detection of usages that are out of the ordinary. Say for example on the connectivity, you have a device that.

It can start using data. While it should not, they can differentiate what this type of means. So monitoring the overall security quality of connectivity, that’s where those IoT CSPs can differentiate. And also we see them as already, even with the MNO starting to really separate the IoT business from the rest of the business because you need a, a good, dedicated team to cater well for that and to understand the constraint of.

Managing the fleet of say, NB-IoT devices which are deployed globally as an example. There is a lot of specific constraints which are very different from your classical 5G smartphone and you need specialists to understand that.

[00:26:21] Antony Savvas: Well, that’s great. Just to illustrate even just looking at, the asset tracking and monitoring market according to multiple industry analyst house estimates that market’s expected to grow from $4.67 billion in this year to $7.22 billion in 2027, and that’s a compound annual growth rate of 11%.

So it just illustrates the opportunities for that ecosystem, which you’re part of, so thanks for that . I’m sure there are many important, interesting pieces of information for the listeners to digest. But we want to some more maybe light-hearted industry news Loic and Toby, maybe we could start with you, Toby, you’ve got a couple of stories that have caught your eye.

[00:27:04] Toby Grimshaw: Well, I have one that is very close to my heart which is on the topic of AI. So, a US based organization called Modus Brewing have partnered with an organisation called a Absolutely AI, and, and they’ve actually created it’s under limited edition from what I can understand, is a neural network, east coast IPA.

And it was designed entirely through artificial intelligence. And it’s quite an interesting one for organisations in itself. It’s kind of quite novel of trying not have to track one of these down, but also it’s, they’re interesting they’ve actually used all of the reviews of all the feedback as an organization from all their customers and taken all of that data to effectively, use AI to create the sort of best beer possible based on customer feedback.

And I just thought that was interesting, probably a little bit of some marketing around it, but it was quite an interesting way of using your customers to design your products. And I think that’s a, a thread that I think can spread across a lot of industries.

[00:28:06] Antony Savvas: How about you, Loic? Are you a fan of IPA Indian Pale Ale?

[00:28:11] Loic Bonvarlet: Yes. And actually one of my stories also, about some drinks this time. Yeah. IoT used to bring the buzz in soft drinks effectively. You could see why, why would that be right? And it’s fairly simple, is that you need co2 right to inject into drinks to create the buzz effectively and you might have in the supply chain an issue of CO2 containers management. Okay? And so by using a cellular connected sensors to monitor containers of co2, you can ensure proper continuous supplies in the points of manufacturing of let’s say sub drinks as an example. So this is kind of a optimization of supply chain. And I think in general it’s really, really important to start from the use case and see what is the potential why of in reducing connectivity too often, and I’ve been working in the space of M2M and IoT for the last 20 years, I’ve heard I want to build a connected products, right? Well for what and what is the expected outcome of bringing connectivity onto an existing product? If the person is not 100% clear on what they want to achieve there likely the project is going to fail. Now if you say you have an insurance cost problem, right? So things like the smart table can resolve that because it can lower your cost of insurance because you can track continuously the condition of a package and then make sure that yeah, you can reduce premium insurance already.

Very simple, clear, ROI. Here if you have a supply chain and you have an extra cost because CO2 containers are dispatched in the wrong place, again, ROI that can be put forward. So really I encourage our listeners there to think about their specifics of their, their vertical and, and where optimization in their process that they can look at.

And maybe another story related to AI. And it’s also a big personal there.

[00:30:11] Antony Savvas: We can’t get enough of AI, Loic.

[00:30:14] Loic Bonvarlet: Well it’s not necessarily directly related to using IoT and AI, but effectively I was at the graduation party for my daughter this week she turned 18 and, and went through the French back, which is the end of high school, basically. And so the head teacher went to do their celebration or congratulations speech, and started by saying, “Since now all the students used ChatGPT. I’m going to also use it for my going away speech. And she went on with a speech that she created with some prompt about what she does as a teacher in English, in teacher, and so on. It was, it was quite fun and I, I really enjoyed that seeing a teacher basically. Embracing or diving into a technology that the kids that she deals with every day, use every day, and are very keen to, to evaluate and play with. And it’s been a concern for many teachers, right? But she’s trying to take the reverse angle to it and to yeah, use it for our own purpose. And I found it really encouraging coming from the people who, educate our kids. So, yeah.

[00:31:17] Antony Savvas: Excellent. Well that finishes our podcast for today. But first of all there’s some key things to mention. There will of course be a transcript of the discussion and to confirm there will be links which refer to the stories we’ve been talking about just now. It just remains me to say thanks to my guest from Kigen today Loic Bonvarlet and Toby Grimshaw in case the listeners want to contact you after Loic, first of all, is there any particular social media platform you would like them to be referred to?

[00:31:48] Loic Bonvarlet: Any channel is open for business. LinkedIn, Twitter our website https://kigen.com/contact/. Yeah. We’ll try to cater to your questions for all these various channel. Most likely the kigen.com/contact is the most straightforward because we can then dispatch your queries most appropriately. But yeah, I’m also completely open to the other ones as well.

[00:32:08] Antony Savvas: And Toby do you have any particular way you wanna be contacted by the listeners?

[00:32:13] Toby Grimshaw: No, no. LinkedIn is very often a very good place to start even following Kigen on the LinkedIn. Environment. It’s a very active area for us, but hump, hump me down that way. Very, very happy to help connect folks to the right people in the ecosystem as well. That’s part of our role here, connecting people to other people.

[00:32:32] Antony Savvas: That’s brilliant. Well after that very nice discussion. It’s goodbye from Toby, goodbye from Loic, and it’s goodbye from me. Thanks very much for your attention. Bye, bye now.