he Internet of Things (IoT) is big business. The global IoT industry is growing exponentially and is expected to be worth US $19 trillion by 2020. And no one is expecting it to stop there. With businesses large and small embracing these new technologies and using them to drive growth, one of the biggest challenges they face is rolling out IoT solutions that are effective globally.

At the heart of this challenge is the fact the every IoT device is, in its way, an extremely specialized cell phone. This means, of course, that every device needs a SIM card. Unfortunately, with SIM cards, crossing borders and networks isn't always easy. Even for devices that won't be traveling extensively once they're deployed, this can cause no end of headaches during development and manufacturing.

“Imagine a fleet management company offering telematics services in multiple countries,” explains Richie Gill, Product Manager, IoT Solutions at Rogers Communications. “Typically, this company would use one location to manufacture and test all their devices, and then they would require a connectivity arrangement with different mobile operators around the world to get connectivity and support for their products. This is when things can become very complicated. Where the device is going to end up isn’t often known at the time, so the company has to procure and manage different SIMs from different operators, which becomes a logistical challenge. Working with different operators further complicates things as they have to deal with multiple contracts and multiple operator portals in order to manage their connected devices”.

When you also factor in that IoT devices are often built to have an operating life measured in decades, rather than the two to three years common for cell phones, there’s a need for specialized SIM cards that can be remotely re-programmed during the entire device life cycle. This eliminates the need to recall the devices to replace a SIM card. In pursuit of a solution to this challenge, Rogers has partnered with other global mobile operators and formed the IoT World Alliance.

Other global telecommunications giants included in the IoT World Alliance are Telefonica, KPN, Etisalat, VimpelCom, Singtel, Telstra, Telenor and DOCOMO. With the IoT World Alliance, Rogers is now able to offer Canadian businesses an option for IoT connectivity that’s more flexible than what was available before. “We’re offering customers a solution where they can use a single SIM across their devices and a single agreement with one carrier for their global connectivity needs,” says Gill. “What we’ve done is take away the complexity that used to exist when a company was going to roll out an IoT solution in global markets."

This solution not only promises to simplify manufacturing and distribution, but also offers substantial benefits when it comes to managing a global network of devices. Under previous implementations such a network would necessarily be fragmented, but no longer. “Our SIM solution can be remotely configured and managed, no matter where the connected device is headed,” says Gill “This gives our enterprise customers full control over their global SIMs, all from a single portal.”

It's often been said that the Internet of Things is not an invention or even a technology. Instead, it is the natural evolution and convergence of a variety of previously independent technologies—cellular connectivity, cloud computing, sensors—growing cheaper, smaller, and more powerful. That's true, but we need to also remember that this evolution and convergence is far from finished. As the IoT industry continues to grow, it's the innovations like this one that will continue to widen the horizons and drive the value proposition for businesses ever upwards.