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How Bayer is innovating its supply chain with Integrated SIM (iSIM)

02 Apr 2020
Erik Brenneis

Erik Brenneis

IoT Director, Vodafone Business

When we conducted our global IoT research last year, more than 79% of adopters said IoT helped them to achieve outcomes that wouldn’t have been otherwise possible. And achieving success in a more efficient, secure and effective way - a way that sets a business apart from the competition - is definitely the reason why many turn to IoT.

Having the best products is not necessarily enough to compete in today’s digital world. If connected products are now the norm, insight and data-driven thinking, from the initial design through to the complete customer experience, is critical to stay ahead of the competition.

The current Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the issues of both meeting demand of food and household supplies shortages and ensuring goods are legitimate, given the circulation of counterfeit testing kits and sanitisers.

We believe smart labels could play a part in helping mitigating challenges the supply chain might face: for example, by employing smart labels shipments will be traceable from leaving the factory to arriving at the destination and all points in between, with any tampering being immediately reported.

That’s why we are so excited about the latest game-changer: it’s called Integrated SIM (iSIM) and it makes it more secure, simpler and cheaper to manufacture, connect and manage products.

The next generation of SIM

Integrated SIM (iSIM) technology, specifically designed for low power IoT devices integrates the SIM functionality within the communications module, reducing cost, power requirements and increasing security.

As iSIMs are within a dedicated secure area of the chipset, they cannot be physically removed without affecting their functionality. This means they also offers more physical anti-tamper/anti-theft protection.

Given the potential of this new technology, it’s not surprising Bayer, a global leader in the Life Science fields of health care and agriculture, is already working with us on an iSIM project aimed at improving their customer experience.

Working with Vodafone Business, Arm, Altair Semiconductor and Murata, Bayer has been able to create a unique smart label. This label uses iSIM and low-power mobile connectivity to constantly monitor their products through the supply chain and allows them to take immediate action.

For instance, if there is a sudden change in temperature that would damage the goods, a notification is sent that triggers an action to resolve the situation.

iSIM technology meant Bayer could create exactly the product needed – small, cheap and simple - without compromise. The smart label gives a complete view of the supply chain, assuring the quality and traceability of their products.

It also offers automated, low-cost, global tracking of large quantities of goods, something that hasn’t been possible before. The smart label connects automatically using mobile networks and works continuously for up to three years.

iSIM smart label

Remarkably, it looks just like a stick-on postal label, but contains a battery, microprocessor, SIM, modem and antenna under its unassuming surface. This means it has connectivity built-in from the moment it’s manufactured, making it a truly future-ready product.

I think it’s really impressive that the Bayer smart label is not simply reliant on iSIM; it couldn’t exist without it, highlighting the true potential of this technology.

Christof Backhaus, Digital Lead for CropScience - Product Supply, told me:

“We had a vision of using connected smart label technology to ensure product quality while delivering a fantastic end-to-end customer experience. This was not possible until now due to the dimensions of, and cost associated with, traditional cellular IoT technology. Thanks to the iSIM solution from Arm, Vodafone, Murata and Altair, we were able to change the game with our "always connected" smart label technology.”

It has been great working with Bayer and our partners to make this smart label possible. Being able to trace and monitor products through the supply chain will help them simplify their operations and ensure the high quality of their products from factory to delivery. Ultimately, it will help them improve customer experience; arguably the core objective of every business.

When we launched Vodafone IoT, then named M2M, 10 years ago, we would make things smart by connecting them to the network and to each other using sensors. Our challenge has always been to make it cheaper, simpler and more secure to adopt IoT, so more customers could use this technology to help their business.

Now, with iSIM technology, our dream to connect anything, anywhere is a becoming a reality: assets and products will be made ready to connect, rather than having connectivity added later.

As we continue to develop iSIM with our partners, we can make it simple, secure and affordable for businesses to adopt IoT on a large scale and be a fundamental part of the digital society.

You can find out more about the integrated SIM (iSIM) ecosystem in this blog from Arm.

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