The auto industry is embracing embedded SIM (eSIM) for a seamless transition towards future of mobility
With safer and secure transit of goods and people gaining paramount importance, connectivity has become a crying need of the hour. This is where the auto industry is looking at embedded SIM (eSIM) for a seamless move towards future of mobility.
In April 2018, the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) introduced the Automotive Industry Standard 140 (AIS-140) for commercial vehicles, aimed at exerting controlling powers over the Indian public transportation system for increased safety. The standard mandates real-time vehicle tracking, largely powered by camera surveillance, emergency notification buttons as well as automatically detect vehicle health and maintenance monitoring.
Interestingly, the standard also mandates the introduction of eSIM (embedded Subscriber Identity Module) or Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card (eUICC), especially for public transport vehicles. With vehicle connectivity gradually expanding horizons, eSIM offers flexibility that will even offer passenger car customers with an option to choose among operators, remote over-the-air connectivity with encrypted communication in a globally secured ecosystem as well as have better experience with vehicles.
Steady migration of people to urban centres, growth of vehicle population coupled with inadequate infrastructure have led to congestion becoming a pain point for everyone. With the logistics industry carrying goods worth billions of rupees across the length and breadth of the country, real-time tracking has become imperative for safer transit of goods and people. GPRS-based devices that largely operate on physical SIM remain prone to tampering, theft as well as SIM dislocation inside the product due to speed breakers, thereby defeating the entire purpose of real-time vehicle tracking. Aimed at eliminating any such possibilities, the Indian government regularised eSIM for the automotive industry with the adoption of AIS 140 regulations.
The national backend centre for eSIMs is managed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) and Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) that directly monitor these devices and can also be accessed by Prime Minister’s Office, whenever required to ensure safety.
An eSIM is easily programmable, completely rewritable and is significantly smaller as compared to physical SIMs. It requires much smaller space for installation, thus making devices cost-effective. Such integrated devices are soldered into the vehicle at the time of production and can manage multiple operations like navigation, and can collect driver and passenger behaviours. The technology initially encountered resistance for accommodating the change as GPS device manufacturers had modules in which PCBs were designed to operate physical SIM cards.
These PCBs had to be redesigned and related configurations for the eSIM accommodated in their respective modules, which involved costs. India continues to be a cost-sensitive market by nature, but it is increasingly more about the consumer experience. OEMs are not willing to stay behind at any cost, said Vijaya Kamath, CIO & Management Team Member, Sensorise Digital Services. With vehicle connectivity gaining prominence across segments, eSIMs will play a dominant role in the mobility future.
Tracking devices are often located close to the engine compartment. The industrial grade quality eSIM is designed to withstand varied temperature range of -45° C to 125° C, stay resistant to corrosion as well as constant vibration from the engine, manage data retention cycle and have an average shelf life of more than a decade. eSIMs enable flexibility to the user to switch between network carriers, in case they are unhappy with the network performance just by changing the plug-in switch. This can be done by using the remote sim provision platform (RSP) to push any new network into the end-user device directly over-the-air.
The platform cost is still the highest and continues to face resistance in the market, as mobile network operators are not yet ready with their respective RSPs, said Akanchha Sehgal, Head of IoT Business, Taisys India, an end-to-end service provider that has developed its own RSP to act as facilitators in managing integration of two networks as well as easy user switchover to new network.
AIS 140 mandates eSIM deployment across the commercial vehicle industry to offer real-time updates to fleet owners and operators
In the global scenario, the largest use case for eSIMs is connected cars. Connectivity in vehicles started with emergency calling system and now embraces a plethora of applications. As of date, eSIMs can offer infotainment and other analytic-based solutions like maintaining temperature in your car, fuel level alerts, air-conditioning, among other value-added services for a better customer experience. eSIMs have to comply with ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) and require the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) certification for their secure deployment in connected vehicles. Luxury carmakers like BMW and Mercedes Benz already have deployed IoT modules across their models and are engaged in talks with Indian network carriers for enabling vehicle connectivity. Any model that is imported into India should be sold in less than three months and subsequently switch over to local networks.
In the Indian market, eSIM has to comply with GSMA & ESTI norms, and has to be fitted with devices certified by automotive testing agencies like ARAI and ICAT. While the truck and bus industry has been embracing eSIM with AIS 140 for over a year now, on the passenger vehicle side only Hyundai Venue, Kia Seltos, Nissan Kicks and MG Hector have been equipped with eSIM to offer vehicle connectivity apart from luxury passenger vehicles. AIS 140 has also made provisions for automatic switching, where eSIM is loaded with two SIM profiles, and is designed to adopt between networks. Such logics can be machine-coded into the eSIM applets to detect where the network exists and keep the vehicle stay connected.
GSMA has also enabled the M2M (machine-to-machine) service providers enter the market, to work in tandem with global telecom operators to boost eSIM deployment. Banking on such technology access, the same eSIM can be used for switching networks for connectivity, which may come handy especially in rural areas. Notably, the M2M service provider policy is yet to be formally introduced in India. However, the TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) has drafted a recommendation document that mentions responsibilities for M2M service providers on its website.
In the Indian context, eSIM consumption continues to be pretty low. Cost is expected to come down only with their increased volumes as well as competition, similar to what happened in the case of physical SIMs. Depending on vehicle connectivity levels, there are different module levels that work in tandem with eSIM since the latter is not intelligent enough to manage everything and can only facilitate connectivity of IoT devices. Network switching cost and subscription costs are paid by the customer. However, looking at the total return on investment in terms of connectivity, customers will gradually understand the value involved and opt for such technologies, said Deval Sheth, Managing Director, Giesecke & Devrient MS India.
Vehicle connectivity produces a huge amount of data and security of such data will always remain the customer’s prime priority. Any possible breach into the secured ecosystem can lead to dangerous situations, even costing human lives. However, it needs to be understood that the data is handled by mobile network operators (MNO) and auto companies that operate in a secured system and transferred in an encrypted manner. The eSIM has five levels of security along with an encrypted key that transmits data safely, said Sheth.
There are various other sectors that are expected to gain out of eSIM deployment, including user-specific insurance market, telecom industry, hospitals, garbage management as well as smart lighting across smart cities. eSIM can also be deployed in electric vehicles, wherein it can show battery life, nearest battery charging infrastructure as well as inform the manufacturer about the life of batteries operating across the system.
Globally, at least 40 % of the vehicles across segments are expected to be deployed with eSIMs. In India, the eSIM market is expected to grow 20-25 % over the next few years. As many as 100 companies are offering IoT solutions across various vertical domains and India aspires to capture 5 % of the global market amounting to $ 20 bn by 2020, where the automotive industry is also expected to play a vital role.
TEXT: Anirudh Raheja