Can you use any SIM card in an edge computer?

Author: Matt Lundberg
Can you use any SIM card in an edge computer? Both our Network Specialists and Industrial Computing Engineers get asked this same question on almost a weekly basis. The short answer to this question is “yes”. The long answer is more complicated, and laced with caveats, but when boiled down can be explained with the age-old simple comparison: cost vs features.

Regular SIMs vs M2M

In edge computing applications, it’s safe to say that no component is selected without consideration of the requirements of the project and the environment the component will be exposed to. This consideration spans motherboards, expansion cards, housing and more, and it may surprise you to know that it works its way all the way down to tiny SIM cards used in applications requiring cellular connectivity.

Exactly what kind of connectivity is required is normally what drives the choice between a regular SIM card and a Machine to Machine (M2M) SIM.

What regular SIM cards are capable of

One-way, upstream communications. That's it in a nutshell.

Sending non-critical information within an ISP network, on a roaming IP address which can cycle whenever an IoT device goes to sleep or temporarily loses power.

There are ways to deal with these cycling IP addresses, however, but they can be messy and costly. For instance, Dynamic DNS can be used to provide a mechanism for each of your devices to communicate their IP address. Moxa even provide OnCell software to do just that, but to use it you need to invest in hardware, and also, with it having a fixed public IP address, cyber security measures need to be invested in, implemented, and managed.

Another consideration is connectivity. With regular SIM cards being invariably tied to a single ISP, if you wish to deploy devices nationally, or across a wide area, signal strength may vary wildly, or even be non-existent for the same carrier in different regions.

Machine to Machine (M2M) SIM cards are the way

Rugged construction
M2M SIM cards offer so much more than just cellular connectivity. Aside from their physical attributes, which encompass a more rugged offering allowing M2M SIMs to withstand harsher temperatures, vibration and corrosive environments, the supplementary support and functionality of M2M SIM cards more than justify their relatively reasonable hike in price over their commercial counterparts.

A single VPN
Imagine you have just installed your new M2M SIM card into your edge computer. The world of two-way communication has just opened up for you, even when your device is tucked behind firewalls and contained within an ISP’s network segmentation. Where you still require some form of VPN to communicate with your devices, unlike regular SIMs where you need a VPN for each device, with M2M SIMs a single VPN can commicate with all devices within your application.

Non-steered ISP connectivity
You now have a better service level than you would with a regular SIM card, meaning uptime is far greater and critical information can be delivered far more robustly. M2M SIM cards can be non-steered, meaning they can latch onto whichever ISP provides the strongest signal in the area in which the device is situated. This feature alone can ensure a fit-for-purpose, futureproof solution across your entire suite of devices.

Shared data
Downtime is further reduced through data sharing. Should one or more of your devices run out of bandwidth, M2M SIM cards can communicate with other devices within their SIM estate and share data with those not reaching their limits.

Technical support
Dedicated technical support is also now at your fingertips. Should this uptime become interrupted, you have first-line support with the M2M SIM card provider, who can guide you through any technical challenges and escalate when required.

Comprehensive control
Your visibility has also been improved, as now you have a management portal to monitor usage, uptime, device location, signal strength for each of your devices, setup usage alarms, activate and deactivate SIM cards at will, and much more.

New low-power technologies
Have a battery operated device? NB IoT and LTE-M technologies are available through M2M SIM cards, giving you the flexibility to develop low power and low bandwidth applications to perfectly suit the requirements of your project.

In summary

So, is it possible to use any SIM card in an edge computer? Yes.

Should you use any SIM card? It depends on your application, but for the majority of industrial computing projects, it’s a resounding no.

Impulse can help you design your network and advise on cellular connectivity, along with providing top of the range SIM hardware along with your industrial or embedded computing solution. Need more info? Simply drop us a line on 01782 337 800, or click here to get in touch.
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