It is undeniable that the Internet of Things (IoT) is booming. Indication of that is the installed base of IoT connected devices expected to amount to 13.8 billion units worldwide already in 2021. By 2025 we will be seeing numbers jumping to 30.9 billion units, and 41 billion by 2027.
The momentum for the rapid adoption of IoT is directly connected to the role it plays in the digital transformation era we currently live in. In the end, it all comes down to the fact that IoT is the enabler and driver of a variety of new services, solutions, and ecosystems that make the true smart-everything life possible for end-users, businesses, industries, governments, and so on. This is because IoT brings a cutting-edge network of connected sensors aligned with real-time communications to improve services and operational efficiency, increase safety and security, spiral up productivity, optimize operations, advance sustainability, reduce costs, and finally promote an outstanding user experience.
In the world as today we know, food, fuel, goods, and even packages of goods are lost, damaged, tampered, stolen, spoiled, or wasted before reaching their destination. Smart supply chains will not only impact businesses’ bottom lines but will also help maximize sustainability on a global scale, by decreasing today’s $1.2 trillion worth of food estimated to be lost every year, that is 1.6 billion tons of food. IoT operations will also have a significant environmental impact with CO2 emissions reductions of one gigaton and net water savings of 230 billion cubic meters by 2030. These examples prove that IoT is undeniably the global opportunity to streamline operations in all areas, with devices that monitor products in real-time and transmit critical data, sending a notification or warning if any of the necessary criteria such as temperature and location are not met.
Connectivity, coverage, and mobility: The do-or-die of IoT
It goes without saying that in face of this scenario, ensuring flexible, agile, reliable, and robust connectivity both domestically and in roaming scenarios, for every application anytime, every time is the absolute precondition for IoT to work, regardless of the use case and the cellular technology behind it, be it LTE-M & NB-IoT, or 5G. The task is undoubtedly not simple with essential requirements to be met, such as validating the IoT network availability, testing APN (Access Point Name) connectivity and latency, verifying application server (echo) accessibility and round-trip times, measuring data transfer speeds (TCP/UDP), and endorsing VoLTE (Voice over LTE) and SMS services.
Specifically in the case of 5G, which comprised less than 1% of IoT connections in 2020 but will rise to 40% of all the overall connections by 2030, ensuring extreme low latency and ultra-reliability is vital to allow massive IoT with unprecedent volumes of data, devices and the scalable naming and addressing scheme to communicate with all those devices.
Billions of interconnected devices linked to a vast IoT network also mean that tremendous amounts of data are generated, and heavy loads are placed on key IoT components. Consequently, the complicated, mission-critical IoT platform must be intermittently and automatedly monitored and authenticated to warrant its availability and ensure data integrity transfer with configurable payloads.
No miraculous lifehacks when batteries are dying out: Optimize power-consumption upfront
The downside of a blend of always-on devices is that they must be powered and the costs of recharging or replacing batteries regularly are both economically and environmentally inviable. Thus, managing power consumption and optimizing power efficiency are a prerequisite for IoT technology. The two essential IoT power-saving features are Power Saving Mode (PSM) and Discontinuous Reception (DRX), commonly used in today's LTE networks helping the device to save power by switching off the receiving section of the cellular module for a fraction of a second. These two features must be constantly and actively tested and monitored ensuring that the networks support and negotiate correctly the PSM and/or eDRX timers according to the different IoT application requirements, verifying the tracking area update performance after PSM, and validating data and SMS delivery after/during PSM.
CSPs must use methods and timers introduced by 3GPP to support IoT applications that require a long battery life. Besides, IoT networks must be configured with the correct power-saving features required by the applications they serve, which are included in the SLAs. Correct settings allow devices to operate for the designed lifecycle, avoiding them from going offline as well as unexpected maintenance costs, service disruption, and data loss, thus leading to breach of SLAs. Therefore, CSPs must choose the proper IoT service assurance tool that guarantees the right power-saving settings.
eSIMs: The integrated ultra-small operating systems as the heart of boundless provisioning
Embedded SIM cards or eSIMs come in handy to address many IoT challenges that traditional SIM technology cannot. About five times smaller than even nano-SIM cards, eSIMs are enabling the evolution of connected gadgets as their decreased size frees up space to integrate other IoT applications. Moreover, these integrated circuits guarantee seamless global connectivity services provided by Communication Service Providers (CSPs) throughout the entire device life cycle, transmitting data to the cloud across multiple networks with reduced downtimes. This enables global device manufacturers to rely on a single global embedded SIM that can connect all their devices all over the world, simplifying device manufacture and logistics. Users can flexibly choose a new local CSP, trigger a localization service over the air, allowing them to remotely provision and activate a new subscription to their device when needed. Remote SIM provisioning (RSP) & eSIM testing tools must ensure service availability and performance of both eSIMs and traditional legacy removable SIM cards that are still widely used. Remote over-the-air (OTA) services testing endorses the provisioning and the enabling and disabling of operator profiles, subscriber behavior testing directly on eSIM-enabled customer devices, and service availability and performance after (re-)provisioning. Furthermore, the most effective eSIM testing platforms provide a mechanism for multiplexing SIM cards into a single SIM to actively secure the accuracy of all components of the eUICC (Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card) and their performance.
Billing and charging: What you give is what you get
For a time-critical communication service that is requested by a consumer, a data session with a suitable quality of service (QoS) flow profile needs to be established according to a corresponding service subscription, making IoT service charging and billing a complex and important topic. Larger customers, like enterprises, may be interested in connectivity for an entire device group, and for each of them, they will agree on SLAs with their connectivity provider. CSPs must therefore have an IoT & connectivity provisioning and usage assurance system in place to monitor services delivered and their contract level that reconcile usage and revenues.
All in all, test and optimize to monetize: Service assurance endorsing mission-critical IoT applications
Although each vertical ecosystem has its particularities, regardless of the segment, all the IoT pain-points must be taken into account to warrant the quality of IoT services for the best customer experience. Considering the smart factory environment, for instance, it is mandatory to continuously test and monitor according to global industry standards to ensure that the tapestry of components, machinery, and systems operates successfully. In the case of connected cars, sharing and obtaining information via mobile broadband from 3G to 5G, or Wi-Fi within the IoT networks, enables them to connect with the external environment. Part of the service assurance includes worldwide independent verification of SLAs for mobile connectivity and connected car services. Furthermore, it must guarantee the availability of all in-car services, measure the quality of mobile services globally, get daily reports for all mobile to track quality, obtain performance indicators and trends, and access a variety of testing scenarios such as emergency services including eCall, telemetric services, eSIM remote provisioning, and business applications availability. Another good case in point is smart healthcare, where IoT comes to improve processes and manage resources more efficiently. To corroborate the healthcare revolution, IoT must certify the quality, reliability, compliance, and safety of medical devices involved that enable data hosting, management, and support, hospital information systems, patient management, device management and supply, and so on.
It is indisputable that the expectations on IoT networks and devices in terms of reliability, performance, quality, and long-term availability are very high, and wireless connections are a critical factor. CSPs must have the right IoT service assurance strategy in place to provide the levels of quality required to make IoT live up to its promise to make the connected world a reality with speedy, reliable, truly sustainable, and more profitable services.
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