Nano SIM, eSIM, iSIM… how does it work, and what are the differences?

In everyday life we have been using telecommunication SIM cards for smartphones for years. For ten years, we have seen their format reduced to the mini-SIM, the micro-SIM and finally the nano SIM.

And since 2017, we have seen the emergence of eSIM solutions (for embedded SIM). The latter are virtual cards.

In terms of telephony, nothing very complicated… Clients have to choose the right format for their mobile, and use an adapter or configure their phone in the case of an eSIM.

But for IoT projects, it’s not just the size of the SIM that counts… SIM, eSIM and iSIM technologies are similar but different at the same time. Zoom in this article on these different products, and how to make a choice between them for different IoT projects.


Traditional SIM cards

As mentioned above, the SIM card has evolved over the years into new forms to fit smaller devices. It is simple and convenient for consumer applications and some IoT use cases, but can present reliability and security risks for most large-scale device deployments.

This is because when the SIM card is easy to access, it is also easy to steal.

IoT managers need to constantly track SIM cards in their devices to ensure that they are not removed and replaced in other devices.

In order to meet the challenges of IoT solutions, we have seen the emergence of new technologies like eSIM or more recently iSIM. These technologies offer a more secure aspect because they are not physically accessible.


What is an eSIM?

eSIM cards were originally designed to difficult the non-authorized access to the physical SIM cards.

An eSIM (embedded SIM) is technically a small IC embedded into the device and has the same functionality of a traditional SIM card. The eSIM technology also allows users to store more than one profile in a single device, which then can be used to connect multiple carriers and network.

To use an eSIM, you need to purchase an eSIM-enabled device and use a carrier that offers eSIM compatibility.

What is an iSIM?

The iSIM is not just a physical variant of the eSIM but essentially a brand-new technology that goes one step further in terms of integration and cost while offering the same benefits as an eSIM solution . Here, the “i” stands for “integrated” so, as the name suggests, the iSIM is part of the device microcontroller (MCU) instead of being embedded on a dedicated IC.

The main and most obvious benefit of iSIM is that it takes up even less space than eSIM since it doesn’t require – even that tiny – space inside smartphones and other devices, as it’s integrated into the mobile chipset. And since it doesn’t require physical space for an eSIM chip or a removable SIM card, iSIM can further reduce a device’s space requirement. iSIM technology also reduces manufacturing costs and simplifies the assembly process.


What type of SIM choose for an IoT project?

There is no single answer to this question, as many factors come into play when choosing the right technology…

Here are the most important questions to ask yourself:

  • Is the size important? If the connected object does not need an optimized space, then nano SIM or eSIM are good solutions! On the other hand, for small IoT devices such as clothing or shrunken medical equipment, then iSIM is an optimal solution.
  • Is security a key criterion, and what about international use? These two aspects help to know if a classic SIM card is still a good option, or if it is necessary to switch to a virtual card that can be controlled and changed remotely!
    An eSIM and an iSIM offers remote SIM provisioning (RSP) to add, manage and remove profiles remotely, simplifying the supply chain and the devices’ configuration.
  • What is the overall cost of the solution? In some large projects, it is better to invest in expensive SIM technologies. For some other cases, a price difference in the SIM card could significantly reduce your margin.

In conclusion, the size of the devices, their costs, their usage mode and the number of devices that make up an IoT project are the different subjects that need to be considered when choosing the SIM solution for your project.

Furthermore, the ecological aspect, now at the heart of many companies’ concerns, is also a criterion to be taken into account. As eSIMs and iSIMs considerably reduce plastic consumption, especially on large-scale projects or those where the cards sometimes must be changed and can duplicate the cost and the plastic needs.



Why is Nb-IoT a good connectivity alternative to traditional mobile networks?

2G and 3G networks are historically very good choices for IoT and M2M use cases, as they generally do not require high bandwidth (such as video streaming) and data usage is generally low (~ 3 MB/month per SIM card) overall in 2G case.

Since 2G and 3G networks have been in commercial use for more than 25 years, the coverage area is generally larger than the LTE technology that has been in use for “only” 10 years. As a result, 2G and 3G have become common choices among customers, especially for IoT and M2M applications. 

In the IoT market, the majority of objects are with 2G and 3G. However, these days the smartphone market is pushing us more and more towards 4G/LTE network solutions and maintaining support for these old 2G and 3G networks is starting to cost operators money. Our customers need to be prepared for these changes and our role is to guide them in choosing the best network for their IOT needs.

Today, we propose to focus on a future alternative, the NB-IoT linked with the 5G deployment.

What is NB-IoT?

NB-IoT (NB for narrow band) is a cellular technology of LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) type. IP (Internet Protocol), it allows objects to connect to the Internet by connecting directly to the operators’ relay antennas, thus avoiding the installation of gateways that are often costly for the customer. NB-Iot uses a very narrow bandwidth of 200kHz, OFDM modulation for incoming communications and SC-FDMA for outgoing communications. Because of this narrow bandwidth, the theoretical data rates that can be achieved on this network are low and in the order of 20 to 250 kbit/s in half duplex (transmission and reception possible, but not at the same time).

Use of existing mobile networks

One of the many advantages of NB-Iot is the ease with which it can be deployed. It can be deployed on any available frequency spectrum as long as there is at least 200 kHz of available bandwidth. This advantage allows it to be easily used on the LTE network for example. Indeed, the LTE network has frequency spectrums that are not used and that allow operators to install or coexist the NB-Iot easily.

A network with an international dimension

NB-IoT is a network that has inherited many features and mechanisms from the networks we know today, including the option of roaming.

This possibility allows NB-IoT and operators to pool their networks and provide an international dimension to this network. The illustration below shows that NB-IoT is widely supported in Europe and the United States.

A low-cost technology

The simplicity of the NB-IoT protocol has allowed chip manufacturers to create low-cost radio chips. The NB-IoT allows access to the functionalities of cellular networks at very low prices.


The NB-IoT has proven to be an excellent alternative, because it has been able to gather all the advantages that we know with mobile networks while remaining a network adapted to the Internet of Things of tomorrow. In this sense, it is a network halfway between LPWAN and LTE.

  • Low power consumption (object on battery up to 10 years and more)
  • Suitable for high sensor densities (5G ready)
  • It falls into the LPWAN category with distances up to 50 km (rural environment)
  • It has an excellent penetration rate in buildings
  • Modules are low-cost (<10€) compared to 2G and 3G modem

The choice of 2G and 3G network is no longer an option that is considered viable, especially if your object is intended to have a life span beyond 10 years. NB-IoT clearly meets the needs of IoT. Where the 2G and 3G option was possible for your projects, the NB-IoT option is now a much cheaper and more suitable alternative. 

As always, the choice of network architecture must be established according to the use case. There are many other powerful networks such as SigFox and Lora that can sometimes be better suited. 

At DiproTech, our hardware and consulting team for IoT projects, as experts in the development of connected solutions in Spain, we have a thorough knowledge of these different networks and solutions. The choice of connectivity is a decisive step in the life of your object, and it is important to be accompanied. DiproTech and thethings.iO through their teams of experts are here to guide you and advise you on the best solutions.

You want to develop a connected object project? Let’s discuss it together!  

5 key criteria to choose your IoT platform

The Internet of Things is spreading at exponential speed in the corporate world and transforming not only the way they work but also the very nature of their business.

However, bringing an IoT project to life can be very complex, especially when the technology is not the core business of the company. 

Many companies would tend to rush into it without taking into account all the parameters involved.

In terms of IoT platforms in particular, many solutions exist, and it is sometimes difficult to find your way around.

What is an IoT platform?


The purpose of an IoT platform is to facilitate communication between objects and machines, to ensure the management of the various peripherals and communication protocols, to upload data flows, and to enable the creation of new value-added applications for companies.

It provides the link between the connected object, the communication gateway, the stored data and the software applications. It allows to manage on a single interface the sensors and connected objects scattered everywhere, the information feedback, and the redirection of these captured data to data management interfaces and other third party applications.

Find out in this article how an IoT platform can really help your business grow


5 Key criteria to consider when choosing an IoT platform


  1. Connectivity management

Technology agnosticity is a first essential element to consider! 

Today, communication protocols are evolving and multiplying.  In fact, it is imperative for an IoT platform to be able to manage all of these networks (3G/4G, LoRa, Sigfox, LTE-M, Narrow Band, etc.) and all of the solutions that enable objects to be connected. 

It is therefore essential today that an IoT platform supports a wide choice of communication standards.


2. Device management

Just as the number of communication protocols is constantly evolving, the models of sensors and connected objects are multiplying and diversifying too! 

The IoT platform must therefore allow to connect all these heterogeneous devices on a single interface.

The large volume of objects is also to be taken into account and it is then important to be able to create interactions between all these different objects without constraints. Interoperability is therefore an essential criterion when choosing a platform.


3. Data visualization

Another major point of IoT platforms is their ability to store, analyze and redirect data from objects to visualization interfaces. 

To do this, it is necessary to take into account the quality of the algorithms used to analyze the data, the different dashboards that can be created to visualize the information… 

Indeed, the platform allows to capture the raw data to restitute them in the form of intelligent information, it is therefore also important that it offers a personalized and optimized user experience to adapt to the needs of each of its customers.


4. Security of objects and data

Another essential criterion is of course the security and confidentiality of the data, and this from end to end: from the capture to the restitution of the data. 

Indeed, security is a major issue. It deals with various points such as the protection of sensitive data, preventing the hacking of information systems…


5. The degree of agility

As mentioned above, the continuous evolution of the different objects on the market is always faster. In fact, it is important that a platform allows to be agile, to work in iterative mode and to be scalable!

Thus, the platform must allow its customers to evolve quickly according to the growth of the market and their own growth.

Closed platform – ultra fast to use but with a certain rigidity – or open platform – which requires a complete customization and thus a certain time in its implementation… the solutions are numerous and it is important to test them to verify the best compatibility with your project. 

At thethings.iO, a hybrid platform at the crossroads between a closed platform, ready to use and an open platform, customizable according to the needs of our customers, the response to the need is precise and fast at the start!

Request a demo

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IoT platforms, what are they and why can they really help your business to grow?

An IoT platform is a set of services to collect, store, correlate, analyze and exploit data. A platform is therefore a set of APIs and communication drivers, databases, processing and calculation services and often a web service to generate visualization and exploitation dashboards.

As a result, an IoT platform is designed to reduce the development time of your IoT project by providing a ready-to-use and reusable technology stack.


Why you should use an IoT platform?

An IoT platform will get you started in terms of technology development. But the first goal of every IoT project is to determine if the business case holds. And so that’s where the first place an IoT platform helps.


1.It helps you to validate your business plan early

The very first objective of a project is to validate your business case and demonstrate it to your stakeholders.

Business case validation should be done as soon as possible, preferably before you begin extensive engineering efforts.

Many IoT platforms allow you to quickly create a proof-of-concept prototype, in weeks instead of months. Thus, getting the prototype into the hands of your target users allows you to quickly validate the business case and quickly leverage customer feedback.

2. It helps you get quickly to market

Once the business case is validated, you’ll want to get to market as quickly as possible. Your first customers are eager to start using your product and your competitors may be getting closer.

But sometimes, setting your product into production can poses technical and organizational challenges:

  • Device manufacturing,
  • Cloud scalability,
  • Software versioning and deployment,
  • Defect handling…

Since IoT platforms are used in multiple projects and products, most IoT platforms provide mechanisms and support during this process.

3. IoT Platforms can include ready-to-use software, tools, hardware that you can use…

IoT projects share many aspects with each other. Because of this, IoT platform providers often have ready-made and white-label hardware that you can use for your own project.

Examples include:

  • Web-based administration dashboard software
  • Smartphone applications for customers
  • Smartphone applications for installers
  • Training materials for installers
  • Ready-to-use marketing materials and videos
  • Customer’s FAQs with prepared answers

These materials both reduce your development time and help you sell your project to your customers. Customizing off-the-shelf materials to meet your own needs is faster than developing them from scratch!

4. IoT platforms help you avoid pitfalls… security, certifications, compliance

There are aspects of IoT systems that are necessary requirements, but don’t provide much perceived business value. Security, certifications and regulatory compliance are among them. Most IoT platforms offer relief on one or more of these levels.

Security is a must for every connected system. Security is not a one-time thing, but an ongoing process that requires keeping software versions up-to-date and being aware of the latest security threats. IoT platform vendors have expertise in this area that keeps them up to date on security.

Regulatory compliance and certifications are important at the wireless and hardware levels of the system. Many IoT platforms also cover these aspects.


5. It provides features that could be critical to your project

Every IoT platform has unique features and a number of features that are common to most platforms.

There are a lot of chances that your project will require many of these features.

Generally speaking, typical IoT platform features include:

  • Low power operation

Some IoT systems require battery-powered devices. The batteries require a special mechanism to ensure extremely low power consumption. This issue is supported by many IoT platforms.

  • Long-range unattended network

Large-scale IoT systems often need connectivity to function even if the devices are far from their users. Some IoT platforms specifically support such use cases.

  • Ease of installation

For many IoT systems, installation is the most labor-intensive activity. So having a good installation process pays off quickly. Many IoT platforms have built-in installation procedures and smartphone apps that use Bluetooth, NFC, or QR codes.

  • Integration with third-party software

Most IoT platforms have Javascript API to access backend data, and others have out-of-the-box integrations with third-party services such as Salesforce or Google Cloud.

  • Device management

IoT projects involve a large number of IoT devices. These devices can break or need to be replaced. This is where a device management feature comes in handy.

  • User management

IoT systems are used by many people… So having user management built into the system is essential to prevent unauthorized access and errors. Most, if not all, IoT platforms therefore include user management as an essential feature.

  • Software updates

IoT systems are software intensive and that software will need to be kept up to date. IoT platforms include mechanisms for updating software, even over the air for installed IoT devices.

  • Push notifications or email alerts

In many cases, you want to alert users or customer support personnel when things happen in your IoT system. Many IoT platforms provide built-in support for alerts and notifications that you can tailor to your specific use case.

  • Data analysis

Some IoT platforms focus heavily on data analytics, statistics, and pattern recognition mechanisms, as some IoT systems depend on them for their operation. And if the platform itself does not provide built-in analytics, most provide an API to which external analytics software can be attached.

  • Billing

For some projects, billing is an important part of the solution, and some IoT platforms support built-in or third-party billing solutions.


An IoT platform will not only reduce development time, but also help you get your product into the hands of your customers quickly. This reduces both direct and opportunity costs.

Many IoT platforms have features that can be critical to your project and will allow you to leverage out-of-the-box tools and materials for your users. Choosing the right platform for your project will be the first step in helping you succeed with your project.

In thethings.iO, our IoT platform is designed to help companies succeed with their IoT projects regardless of their industry or project size.


Contact us today to learn more!





Industrial IoT trends in 2022

The global Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market size was estimated at $216.14 billion in 2020. And by 2026, it is expected to reach $771.072 billion, according to Polaris Market Research projections.

The rapid digital transformations that have occurred during the pandemics are among the primary drivers of this aggressive growth rate. IIoT equipment manufacturers continue to find cheaper and more affordable ways to develop sensors and processors to meet the demand for increased automation.

Yet, despite favorable winds, lower computing power costs, and improvements in IIoT platform integration, connectivity, and management, few manufacturers have been able to scale their IIoT use cases in a way that yields significant operational or financial benefits. A combination of technical and organizational challenges are often cited as causes.

Find out below how companies can prepare for IIoT and how to turn challenges into opportunities using the top industrial IoT trends for 2022:

1. 5G Growth and private networks

The evolution of 5G and IoT are correlated. Indeed, the rapid adoption of 5G networks is accelerating the world of IoT… And IIoT as it offers enterprises significant advantages over 4G such as global internet coverage or much faster data transfers. 

In addition, many manufacturers are implementing private 5G networks in their smart factories to automate manufacturing processes by reducing workloads and error margins. 

2. Cloud and Edge Computing

One of the most important benefits of industrial IoT (IIoT) is the ability to create a common data model from any connected data source.

In short, Edge computing allows companies to process sensor and device data locally and in real time. Edge computing is evolving as a solution to latency issues common in cloud-based solutions. This allows companies to avoid lags and delays; that frequently  lead to production problems, security issues and open the door to security threats.

Find out more about the Cloud-Code solution offered by thethings.iO

3. Cybersecurity Concerns 

Like any new technology development, the growth of IoT devices will lead to new security vulnerabilities for businesses. Indeed, if one device is compromised, the other devices it communicates with could be just as vulnerable.

Currently, there are very few government standards at the European or global level requiring companies to stay on top of their cybersecurity. In most cases, investment in cybersecurity is a decision made voluntarily by the business owners themselves.

In fact, to keep up with the technological advances of 2022, it is important to monitor and grow cybersecurity tools. 

4. Bundled IoT for enterprises

While the IoT space is growing rapidly, there is an initial learning curve that could discourage companies and business leaders from adopting it.

Because bundled IoT solutions offer user-friendly features and integrated analytics, they are driving IoT adoption.

At thethings.iO, we leverage each new solution developed for a particular need by offering it to other similar applications where it can be useful.

DNA of Things

The amount of data grows exponentially and being able to manage and store it is a challenge.

The system called “DNA of things” designed by researchers Yaniv Erlich and Robert Grass allows large amounts of information to be stored in objects and faithfully reproduced in each copy.

The starting point has been a nanoscale 3D printing technology with microcrystals that allows the generation of small printable barcodes on any surface. This information, which is only a hundred-bit code, allows later access and is long-lived. Its applications include merchandise authentication or product tracking.

The researchers mention a host of possible applications for their technology. For now, some of the most relevant are the inclusion of data on drugs or construction materials. This would allow them to be safely identified and, at the same time, prevent them from being forged. Somehow it is as if each object includes its own identity card. However, one of the most curious applications would be in the field of a discipline called steganography. This term, from the Greek, means “occult writing.” That is, the ability to hide messages in objects.

The messages can be hidden in any object made of materials such as polyester, polyurethane or silicone as long as a certain temperature is not exceeded in its manufacture.

If applied to the manufacture of everyday objects, it could serve to incorporate information about their manufacture and composition, and it could also be the first step towards self-replication of machines.

The DNA of things would allow information to be transported inadvertently, housing it in almost any object.


The Origin of IoT

The concept of IoT is generally summarized in that it is about turning everyday objects into sources of information that are connected to the network. But how and when did the IoT really emerge?

The term has its origin at the end of the last century, specifically in 1999, when Kevin Ashton, director of Procter & Gamble, had the initiative to create a group of researchers called the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which They were dedicated to finding out information about Radio Frequency Identification Network (RFID) and sensor technologies.

This being the origin, we can specify the definition of the IoT concept in a collection of unlimited objects permanently connected in a digital setting that aspire to make everything intelligent by managing large amounts of information.

But if we want to fully understand the origin and scope of the IoT, it would be a mistake to focus solely on the activity of recent years. It is convenient to take a step back and take a look at the past, analyzing how the different technological evolutions have inevitably brought us to this point.

It dates back to the 19th century, in what are considered the first telemetry experiments in history. The first record was made in 1874 by French scientists. They installed meteorological and snow depth information devices on top of Mont Blanc.

The idea of ​​being able to connect objects and that they were intelligent was already reflected at that time in the thoughts and writings of such notable scientists as Nikola Tesla or Alan Turing. His words, read from a historical perspective, now make sense and show just how ahead of his time.

However, the advancement of this network of networks was slow during the 70s and 80s for several reasons, the main one being the lack of fast and low-cost communications over medium and long distances, which facilitated the creation of heterogeneous networks, totally incompatible with each other. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that the commercial and universal Internet began its ultimate expansion. Silos were interconnected using a communications protocol, the famous TCP / IP, the foundation of the Internet, and non-standard implementations began their decline. In this way, the military and academic network that was ARPANET became the INTERNET and with it the origin of countless new social and business models.

And it was before the popularization of this incipient Internet that the idea of ​​connecting objects through this network soon began to become popular. Back in 1990 John Romkey, at the Interop event in the United States, created the first object connected to the Internet: a toaster that could be turned on or off remotely. The connectivity was through the aforementioned TCP / IP protocol and the control was done through SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), a network management protocol, which was used to control the turning on and off of the device.

But the revolution came hand in hand with the popularization of wireless connectivity, whether cellular or WiFi, at the beginning of the 21st century. This finally allowed us to witness a first explosion in the growth of connected objects. And this growth has been seen especially in the last decade, where new concepts such as WSN (Wireless Sensor Networks) or M2M (Machine to Machine) have been produced, to finally give way to the IoT that we all know.

The IoT journey is still a long way to go, its applications are infinite and to be exploited for the benefit of the information that can be processed. With more interconnected objects, more information will be flowing from these simple systems to large databases, where correlations can be made and the right decisions can be made.


HTTP with Quectel

In this post we will explain how to connect via HTTP to the platform through the Quectel M95. A high-performance and economical GSM / GPRS module, with which the Chinese manufacturer, Quectel, reduces the TTM (time to market) in addition to providing other connectivity options for IoT products.

Step by Step tutorial

For this exercise it is necessary to have, in addition to the  QUEGSMEVB-KIT development board and the M95FATEA-03-STD module with its SIM card, the Docklight analysis and simulation tool. A software made exclusively for serial communication protocols. To download the latest version, click on the following link.


OPEN A PROJECT has created a small project (ttio_quectel_http_client) made up of the AT commands necessary to: first, configure the GPS module, and then connect it to the platform. Finally, a command will be executed each time you want to send a fictitious temperature sample, since the module does not have a temperature sensor. To download this file, click here


Once downloaded, power the development board and connect it through the RS232-USB converter cable to the terminal. Run the Docklight and select the start option “Start with a blank project / blank script“. Click on the tab “File” and select the option “Open Project ...”. A dialog box will appear asking us to select the file to open. Find the file named “ttio_quectel_http_client” and click the “Open” button. Automatically, within the “Send Sequences” box (right of the screen) a list of commands will appear in order of steps.


Next, configure the correct communication port by double click on the COM8 box (above the “Communication” box). Each terminal assigns it randomly, so the one that appears in the example does not have to be the same.

Finally, make sure that the “ASCII” tab of the “Communication” box (left of the screen) is selected, to have a better understanding of the steps we are about to take. And click the play icon to start communication with the Quectel N95.




The orderly execution (Q) of the AT commands and their response (A) are shown below to know that the sequence is performed correctly. To send / execute a command is as simple as pressing the arrow button located to the right of each one of them.

STEP 1: 




STEP 2: Write within the double quotes the identifier of the SIM card provider. In this example, a card from the old Airtel, today known as Vodafone, was used. To modify this command, double-click on it and a dialog box will open where you can enter the new name. It is updated once the “OK” button has been clicked.





STEP 3: Here it is important to put the exact number of characters of the following command, defined as step 4, and that represents the URL where the post will be made. In this example the result was 78. Therefore, if the result is different, this value will have to be modified.




STEP 4:  Write the token number that identifies the node to which you want to send the data. To know if the number of characters written in the previous command is correct, check the size of the sequence (red arrow). The part underlined in blue represents the token number to be replaced.




STEP 5: Here you also have to put the exact number of characters of the following command, defined as step 6, and that represents the data of the post. For this example the result was 47. Therefore, if the result is different, this value will have to be modified.




STEP 6: Write the data stream in JSON format that you want to send. To know if the number of characters written in the previous command is correct, check the size of the sequence. In this case, the fictitious temperature value can be modified or not, substituting the number between double quotes. But be careful, because if the total number of characters is modified, the previous step will have to be repeated.

Q: {“values”:[{“key”:”Temperature”,”value”:”25″}]}



STEP 7: This step is optional and is used to find out the response from the server. In this case, the post was a success.