“In 1991 Munich smart-card maker Giesecke & Devrient, sold the first 300 SIM cards to the Finnish wireless network operator Radiolinja”. That’s what it says on Wiki anyway and I have no reason to doubt it. In 2014 GSMA Intelligence said that the deployed SIM estate worldwide exceeded 7 billion. That’s 7 thousand million SIMs, or 699,999,999,700 more than that 1991 order. That’s a lot of SIMs. It’s also a lot of revenue for the mobile operators. It’s a lot of applications and it is this figure because a SIM card is a very useful item.
The mind-boggling thing is that GSMA also said that by 2020 uptake could be as high as 20 billion SIMs, which is 13,000,000,000,000 more in just 4 years. Thirteen billion SIMs in 48 months. That’s nearly 271 million new SIM activations per month worldwide. We connected over 30,000 SIMs last year and we are not a household name in the consumer market, but all of those SIMs are delivering services to consumers.
You could easily be forgiven for asking “why on Earth would that happen?” as the numbers are eye-wateringly high. Take a closer look and the case becomes compelling.
Why do Utilities companies want to send a man in a van to read your meter so they can end billing estimates when they can put a SIM in it and take accurate meter readings at will? Why does a leading pest control company want to send a man in a van to check if a rat trap needs resetting? They can, and now do, drop a SIM into it and tell the rat trap to alert base when it has been set off.
Ever followed a Heavy Goods Vehicle on the motorway? It probably has a SIM in it for its vehicle tracking, odometer readings, tachograph and even driver WIFI access point. Another SIM is attached to DashCam to record insurance / driver safety audio-visuals. Another SIM is maybe in the trailer checking ambient temperature of perishable goods, or soldered into each of the many containers on the load for asset tracking purposes. A further SIM may be attached to a sensor in the engine recording oil and fuel measurements and more.
Ever stood at a bus stop and the overhead display says your bus will arrive in 5…4…3…2 minutes, then says “due” and the bus comes round the corner right on cue? Yes, there is a SIM in the bus providing WIFI, CCTV, tracking and updates to the SIM in the bus stop making your life more predictable and easy via a back end public transport management system.
How do you think the motorway signs get updated to show alerts? Or electronic point of sale signs get their updates? Have you ever bought from Amazon and collected your package the following morning from your newsagent? The newsagent has a barcode scanner with a SIM in it which talks to the Amazon server farm. Amazon know the instant your package is ready to be collected. That's really clever.
All this mind-boggling stuff is making me hungry.
I might log on to a well-known website showing all of the takeaways in my locality and select a dish of culinary style, nationality, proximity and convenience and order something for tea. The website will take my order, my address, my payment and required time of delivery. It will then send those details to a SIM card plugged into a remote printer at Elif's takeaway pizza 3 miles down the road which will stream paper all over their counter to say “10 inch hot and spicy deep-pan, extra cheese and special garlic bread (no mushroom)”, all of my delivery details and confirm the order is paid in full.
Dinner has been ordered for 7.30pm.