Autonomous Switching: The New Approach to IoT Connectivity Resiliency
We’re sitting at the doorstep of universal IoT connectivity. Smart cities, self-driving cars, dashcam deployment, fleet management – all these technologies need a reliable connection in order to function properly, regardless of their geolocation. So far, we’ve made great strides in this area. GSMA’s eUICC standard has removed the limitations of the traditional SIM card and enables devices to remotely switch between mobile network operators (MNOs) as needed.
That said, there are still limitations when it comes to transaction charges and the need for external intervention when switching providers. Now, imagine if it was possible for your SIM card to automatically switch networks at no extra cost as soon as the modem detects limited connectivity?
That’s exactly what autonomous switching does. Multi-IMSI cards enabled with this functionality offer global coverage at local rates with no need for external intervention. Here, we look at how the technology works and how it can transform the IoT connectivity space by focusing on energy efficiency and optimal connectivity.
Going Beyond Remote Provisioning
As more industries rely on connected devices, seamless connectivity becomes key. Since device manufacturers cannot always predict where a device will be used, traditional SIM cards often have to rely on roaming agreements in order to continue working. However, roaming agreements are not only difficult to implement, but they’re also limited by GDPR and Permanent Roaming Bans that are increasingly adopted by countries and MNOs as part of their standard policies.
Remote provisioning is a relatively new specification proposed by GSMA which aims to solve this problem by allowing users to switch MNOs over-the-air (OTA). The eSIM card can hold several SIM profiles from multiple MNOs and switch between them without having to physically replace the existing SIM card.
However, remote provisioning comes with its own limitations:
- It requires external intervention – what happens when your device is in a remote area and loses signal before you can switch MNOs? Do you wait for it to get re-connected and lose precious time and data in the meantime? Or, do you physically go to the device in order to fix the problem? Ideally, you’d want the device to switch networks automatically and continue operating without disruption.
- It costs extra time and money – in order to switch MNOs, you’d need to download all operator connectivity profiles at the time of switching. This can incur additional charges and impact the speed of network switching and, ultimately, the quality of the end-user experience.
Autonomously Switching Operator Profiles
This is where autonomous switching comes in. When the modem on your device detects a “no coverage area” by the current network it’s connected to, autonomous switching instructs the modem to re-scan the area but, this time, with another operator profile that will connect to another local network..
The feature switches on either when the device is turned on in a new country or when the modem loses coverage by the local network. Say you’re managing a fleet of a hundred trucks. They all use one network at the start of the journey, but that doesn’t mean that the same network can see them all the way through their destination. What happens when they go through an area where that network is no longer in range? Perhaps another network has better coverage?
In a normal scenario, you’d probably lose signal. Autonomous switching removes this issue by automatically switching to an alternate IMSI that will connect to another local network with a better signal, ensuring the connected device is Always ON.
How Does Autonomous Switching Work?
The program looks at two different modes of connectivity. These are:
- Connected – no action required.
- No connection – service is available, but the device cannot be connected.
In the latter mode, the device searches for the next available IMSI that allows a connection to be established. For instance, the SIM comes with an IMSI from Operator A and another IMSI from Operator B. If the device is connected to Operator A, but suddenly goes into an area in which this MNO has no coverage, the SIM will automatically switch to the Operator B IMSI and try to connect to the Operator B network.
This can be very useful when, for instance, you’re a device manufacturer and you use a Mobile Private Network (MPN) for your main facility. Autonomous switching can help your devices stay connected even when they go outside of your private network by seamlessly connecting to an available public network using the same SIM.
Benefits of Using Autonomous Switching
Autonomous Switching Saves Your Battery
Not all devices have easy access to power. Think cold storage sensors that periodically check the temperature of a moving truck. These sensors usually have an internal battery and aren’t connected to the truck. Preserving battery life is paramount for making effective use of this technology.
By following a strict logic to only search for a connection when a radio signal is available and to look for IMSIs from the last connection, autonomous switching is energy efficient without sacrificing the quality of the connection. The fact that all IMSIs are preloaded on the SIM and there’s no need of downloading the profiles OTA further saves battery power.
Autonomous Switching is Fast
Unlike eUICC SIM cards which require an external trigger or command to swap between profiles, multi-IMSI comes pre-loaded with all relevant profiles thus switching is done much faster.
Customising Autonomous Switching
Autonomous switching is purposefully kept simple. Any room for customisation can make the system more complex and, potentially, less efficient. That said, there is some room where users have some flexibility. For example, the number of loops the system performs before it “forgets” the last country of connectivity. This means that the device can quickly move to other IMSIs and save energy in the process.
Users can also use suspend mode to override the standard programming and tell the system not to take action when it normally would—giving more control to the end users.
IoT connectivity has ushered a new era of services and technologies that are transforming life as we know it. From wearable health tech to smart homes, eMobility, telematics, and integrated power systems, IoT devices are continuously pushing the limits of what’s possible.
That said, global coverage is an ongoing challenge. Roaming agreements are still difficult to manage and interoperability issues are rampant, not to mention the permanent roaming bans some countries are enforcing after 90 days.
Multi-IMSI solutions with autonomous switching stand to change this. Not only is the solution affordable and easy to deploy, but we at floLIVE manage the whole service ourselves. Users can opt for either a standard multi-IMSI SIM card or a multi-IMSI-over-eUICC SIM card if they want flexibility to change service providers in the future. This removes the overhead of customer support and maintenance from device manufacturers and MNOs while giving them all the benefits of having customers use their products and services globally.
Want to find out more about how our floLIVE autonomous switching solution can enhance your business operations? Get in touch and we’d be happy to help!