IoT Glossary

What is an M2M SIM Card?

M2M SIM cards enable devices to perform actions and exchange information without the need for human input.

What is an M2M SIM card?

M2M (machine-to-machine) refers to technology that enables devices to perform actions and exchange information without the need for human input. An M2M SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) is a small computer chip within an M2M device that enables it to connect to a cellular network and with other devices.

Discover more about M2M SIM technology, and how various SIM formats meet a wide range of business needs.


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What is M2M?

M2M describes the interaction of physical machines. In almost all M2M scenarios, the machines are equipped with sensors – i.e. devices that can collect some type of input from their physical environment. Having collected this information, those machines have the ability to respond to it in a specific way and communicate what’s happening to other devices.

Examples include predictive maintenance, whereby sensors on industrial equipment can identify and report faults. Depending on the capabilities of the device or cloud-based software application, a follow-up action, such as scheduling a repair or ordering a replacement component, can be taken.

Asset tracking is another popular use case. Armed with a combination of GPS and environmental sensors, you can use M2M tech to monitor both the exact location and the physical condition of items on the move.

For businesses, some of the biggest advantages of M2M include the ability to both measure and boost productivity, reduce inefficiency, and get an early ‘heads up’ on potential risks and problems.

M2M use cases

M2M SIM cards can be applied across multiple industry segments to solve specific business challenges. Below are some examples of sectors using M2M SIMs and the application they are enabling.

EnergyAgricultureIndustry & ManufacturingEnvironmentTransportTracking & LogisticsSecurity & SafetyRetailHealth & Life
Fossil Fuel ProductionAgricultural VehiclesB2C productsEnvironmental SensorsANPR (parking)Animal TrackingAccess ControlATMsCellular Enabled WIFI
Handheld TerminalsCattleB2B ProductsHVACAviationAsset Tracking & MonitoringAlarms & MonitoringAutomated CheckoutClinical Trials
Hydro PowerHandheld TerminalsControl SystemsEnergy ManagementAutonomous VehiclesLockersANPR (traffic enforcement)Cellular Network DeploymentConnected Lab Equipment
Nuclear PowerIrrigation Pumps/ValvesElevators & EscalatorsLightingCellular-Enabled WIFIPeople TrackingCash TransportCellular-Enabled WIFIDialysis
Smart GridMachinery & ToolsWaste DisposalDevice ChargingVehicle TrackingCCTV SurveillanceDigital Signage (buildings)Handheld Terminals
Elec/Gas MetersRobotics (industrial)Water MetersDigital Signage (transport)Cellular Network DeploymentHandheld TerminalsIndependent Living
SolarSurveyingDrones (delivery)Drones (surveillance)Point of Sale (POS) SystemsMedication Dispensers
Wind TurbinesWarehouse ManagementEV InfrastructureLone WorkerPeople CountingRemote Patient Monitoring
Handheld DevicesOccupancy ManagementVendingMRI/CT/X-ray Scans
Last Mile DeliveryRobotics (health)
Micro MobilityVital Signs
Parking Sensors
Traffic Management
Usage-Based Insurance
Vehicle Counters
Vehicle Telematics

M2M SIM form factors

Mini, micro and nano M2M SIMs
You can get M2M SIMs in all the form factors (i.e. shapes and sizes) that we’re used to seeing in mobile phones. These are mini (2FF), micro (3FF) and nano (4FF).

While there are no defined rules, the cost of connectors and space are the main considerations in selecting which form factor to use. For example, Mini SIMs are commonly used in larger, fixed-location equipment such as EV Charging, Vending, Digital Signage. Micro SIMs are fitted in a lot of portable equipment (e.g. vehicle trackers), while nano SIMS are often incorporated into smaller devices such as wearables.

Increasingly, eSIMs (MFF2 or sometimes just called chip SIM) are also a popular choice for M2M applications. With this, the ‘e’ stands for embedded, and instead of taking the familiar removable card format, the SIM is actually soldered into the circuitry of the device. This creates a more secure and electro-mechanically robust solution but also creates the need for remote SIM provisioning in many cases.

When required, eSIMs that conform to the GSMA Remote SIM Provisioning standard for eUICC should be used. This allows over-the-air profile changes which supports transitions from a provisioning stage (where an initial or bootstrap profile is used) to an operational stage (where for example a regional or local profile is downloaded). In practice, eSIM and Remote SIM Provisioning is used to provide a level of insurance against commercial or logistical challenges. See “What is eUICC?

Industrial and automotive M2M SIMs
The classic SIM card design remains so popular precisely because it is hard-wearing and practical. In certain applications, however (e.g. engine telematics and industrial machinery controls), an M2M SIM needs to withstand particularly harsh environments. This is why, for automotive and industrial use cases, specialist M2M SIMs are often the best option. These tend to have a very wide operating temperature range (-40C/+105C), compared to a range of -25C/+85C for standard SIMs.

SIMs vs M2M SIMs

M2M SIMs look exactly like SIMs for mobile phones. Both types of SIM enable devices to connect to a cellular network. However, they differ in terms of services.

The profile on a mobile phone SIM enables the device to handle internet access, voice calls and SMS texts. An M2M device doesn’t need calling voice capabilities except in a few cases. SMS is not uncommon in M2M use-cases but the primary service enabled by M2M SIMs is data and is usually provided as part of a managed service that provides privacy and security as opposed to regular internet access provided by mobile phone SIMs.

An example of a managed service is data aggregation across lots of SIMs. This allows data to be shared across all your M2M devices. So, in simple terms, if one device happens to be using a lot of data, while another one isn’t as active, they both use data from the same pot. This can go a long way in helping you control your data spend.

IoT vs M2M SIM cards: what’s the difference?

Strictly speaking, M2M refers to direct communication between devices. For businesses, this usually involves sensor-equipped machines collecting data to monitor specific factors (e.g. location, temperature or production output).

The Internet of Things (IoT) takes this M2M principle and builds on it. So it’s no longer about basic point-to-point connections between devices, but about creating an entire “cloud” network of devices, all communicating with each other, for even more sophisticated applications. For example, with an IoT solution, you might take those potentially vast quantities of data from your M2M devices (‘big data’), analyse it and find ways to drive efficiencies right across the business.

That said, whether your initiative is classed as an M2M or an IoT initiative, you still need a method for those devices to connect to each other. So you’ll often see the terms ‘IoT SIM’ and ‘M2M SIM’ used interchangeably. This is because they are essentially referring to the same SIM technology and product options.

Benefits of M2M SIMs

Easier device management
An M2M SIM solution allows you to keep a constant view of your device SIMs via a management platform. With the right solution in place, you can monitor data usage, device activity and location, as well as activating and deactivating SIMs remotely. All of this makes managing your M2M projects a lot easier.

Most regular mobile phone SIMs only enable a connection to a single home network. Even if they do provide an option of roaming (for devices on the move), they are always “steered” so that the phone will continually attempt to connect to the home network.  If you opt for “unsteered” multi-network M2M SIMs, it makes it much easier for devices to connect automatically to the strongest networks and remain on those networks long-term. It gives you greater flexibility over your connectivity options. It also helps ensure you always have a backup coverage option in place for ultra-reliable data transfer.

With M2M SIMs, you can usually share a bundle of data across all devices. This helps eliminate the risk of overspending in one area, while another data allowance is going unused. It ensures you only pay for the data you need.

Find out more

For an expert assessment of your connectivity needs and to discover the best fit M2M options for your business, speak to Wireless Logic today.

Learn more about our connectivity solutions for a wide range of use cases here.

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