Where e-SIMS meet Cloud-Based Management Platforms

Connected and autonomous vehicles need a way to connect to a mobile network.

Ericsson predicts that all the manufactured vehicles will be cellular-enabled by 2025, “leading to an enhanced driving experience made possible by innovative connected services, like assisted driving and better infotainment”. Being cellular-enabled will require the vehicles to have e-SIMS to connect them to a 5G network and they will enable over-the-air (OTA) updates, removing the need to go to a dealership to update software. With cellular connectivity, the updates will occur automatically.

In their September 2020 blog, eSIM: Driving global connectivity in the automotive industry, Francesco Militano, strategic product manager, and Tandy Xinglong Mai, head of global connectivity for automotive at Ericsson, explain: “Chevrolet… issued a recall on its flagship 2020 Corvette model to fix a glitch in its trunk. As a result, some owners will have to take their car to the dealer for the necessary software update, but for those who signed up to receive theirs over-the-air, the update will be made automatically and without any disruption to their lives.”

They explain that customers who subscribed to OTA can receive these updates wherever they are because of the “combination of cellular and eSIM (embedded subscriber identity module) technology, also known as eUICC (embedded universal integrated circuit card)”.

Greater flexibility

With e-SIMS, the automotive sector has itself gained greater flexibility. It unlocks new features and capabilities and they permit the more effective use of cloud-based management platforms. A key advantage over a fixed SIM card, which is locked into a single mobile network operator (MNO), e-SIMS widen access to a range of MNOs. With that comes benefits of increased connectivity, reduced complexity, and lower costs. The blog’s authors also suggest that e-SIMs allow for steady, compliant, high performant local connections and they are seamless.

They argue that having to change a SIM car is often an arduous process, stating that the security of the change is complex and that only a few vendors can do it. Yet with eSIMs, the supply chain can be streamlined because they reveal that “manufacturers only need to maintain one stock keeping unit (SKU) instead of multiple.”

Idemia adds: “[With e-SIMS] mobile operators, car manufacturers can unlock the full potential of connected cars and strengthen relationships with car users.” The company predicts that the number of connected cars on the road going to grow to 200 million connected vehicles by 2025. It claims that the “eSIM is the preferred technology of automotive industry players to provide future-proof and flexible connectivity”.  It offers e-SIMs to enable automakers and tier-one suppliers to manage vehicle connectivity with a cloud-based management platform.

Sensor-rich and data-intensive

Dr Ehsan Torieni, assistant professor in the department of computer science at Durham University, adds: “In 2019, around 28.5 million connected cars were sold worldwide. The current advancements in e-cars are paving ways to make sensor-rich and data-intensive cars the dominant in near future.

“The data that is generated from a connected car is huge. Therefore, the infrastructure to store and manage such huge amount of data is not possible without the help of cloud-based management platforms. They also can provide reliable infrastructure that is resilient against possible system failures.”

Combined with e-SIMS, cloud-based management platforms offer enhanced computational and storage capabilities of cloud-based platforms. They will permit automakers to gain first-hand knowledge of how their products are behaving in action – even when there is no direct access to them.  “The amount of data generated from the vehicle will also enable automakers to recognize the deficiencies and respond to market needs more precisely and effectively,” he says.

In-house cloud platforms

Ian Skerrett, head of marketing at HiveMQ comments: “Most of the OEMs we work with are creating their own cloud based connected car platforms or sourcing one from a partner. This is central to their strategy and deployment of connected cars. We are also seeing most OEM migrating to an infrastructure based on MQTT since it is the only protocol that can scale to meet the demands on millions of connected cars.”

However, despite the promise of e-SIMS, Militano and Xinglong Mai warn that even with e-SIMs some complexities remain and these could have an impact on the cloud-based management systems that are used in conjunction with e-SIMS. For example, there will be the need “to manage, orchestrate and harmonize different eSIM and connectivity management platforms, as well as ensuring these systems are interoperable”.

There is therefore an imperative to simplify them, as they should be a key consideration to any Communication Service Provider’s IoT strategy. They claim that not all connectivity management platforms are created equal. While some will maximize the flexibility of e-SIMs to the automotive, market, they believe that others will hinder them.

Benefiting fleet management

Yet, Torieni suggests that e-SIMs will benefit fleet management because they facilitate tracking technologies. Subsequently, they will motivate companies to participate in more fleet management and he thinks this might also have a positive impact on the insurance market, which has moved from just paying out claims after an accident to using telematics to encourage better driver behavior to prevent accidents and new claims.

He concludes that the future of the connected vehicle will be data-intensive and this will create a strong motivation to develop more precise object recognition and self-driving technologies. However, there will need to be tighter cyber-security to keep out the hackers from the networks and he cloud-based management platforms, which will become more vulnerable to attack because of the multi-platform nature of e-SIM connectivity.

There is, therefore, a need for more reliable security frameworks and standards that are specifically designed to protected connected cars against the threat and risk of cyber-attacks because hackers will take up the challenge of breaking them. So, where e-SIMs meet cloud-based platforms, some benefits exist. However, they can be compromised. The priority should therefore be cyber-security.

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