IoT Device Implementation Guide

Soracom Device Implementation Guidelines

Last Updated: July 3rd, 2024

With the rising number of cellular-connected IoT devices, mobile network operators (MNOs) are paying greater attention to the performance of their mobile networks, on the lookout for devices that aggressively reconnect or exhibit erratic data transfer.

Devices with such behavior are not only inefficient for the device or application itself, but also place excessive stress on the cellular network, resulting in MNOs “blacklisting” or permanently blocking these problematic devices to prevent cellular service degradation for other devices on the network.

To avoid this, it is important for developers and fleet managers to follow best practices and design and implement cellular IoT devices that are efficient, secure, and do not harm the networks where they are used.

These guidelines describe the precautions and best practices for properly developing and implementing cellular-connected IoT devices. The details primarily refer to the content of the GSMA TS.34 IoT Device Connection Efficiency Guideline.

Overview of guidelines

In general, when designing a cellular-connected IoT device or application, you should take the following into account:

  • Use certified wireless equipment that complies with laws and regulations: Wireless devices must comply with the laws and regulations of each country in which they are connected. For example:
    • All communications modules implemented in devices should have PTCRB and GCF certification, which assures that the device meets basic requirements and will be interoperable with wireless networks worldwide. Non-certified modules are not allowed on most MNO networks.
    • The US FCC certification confirms that an electronic device is safe to use, and that it doesn’t emit excessive amounts of radio frequency (RF) radiation or cause electromagnetic interference (EMI).
    • IoT devices require CE and UKCA certification and marking when entering the European Union (EU) and UK markets, respectively, indicating that the product complies with all established EU and UK regulations regarding the safety of human health and the environment.
    • Furthermore, EMC certification and marking indicates a product’s compliance with electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) requirements in the EU, assuring that the product implements proper EMC measures to prevent electromagnetic interference.
    • If a device is deployed in Japan, it must comply with the technical standards based on the TELEC Radio Law and JATE Telecommunications Business Law.
    • Please confirm the details of each country’s laws and regulations.
  • Follow established standards: IoT devices should follow industry standard guidelines for cellular IoT connectivity, such as 3GPP and GSMA. This ensures that your device is compatible with the network infrastructure and reduces the risk of network outages or other disruptions.
  • Carrier (interoperability-test) verification: The cellular modules in IoT devices must be able to connect seamlessly to all carriers. Carrier certification is recommended if devices are mainly operating in specific MNO environments.
  • Use efficient application protocols: IoT devices should transmit data using efficient protocols such as MQTT, CoAP/LwM2M, or HTTP. These protocols are designed to minimize the amount of data transmitted, reduce network congestion, and minimize the risk of network overloading.
  • Manage data consumption: IoT devices should be designed to minimize data consumption. This can be achieved using low-power wireless technologies, data compression or encoding/decoding, and data throttling techniques to limit the amount of data transmitted and avoid bursts of high data usage.
  • Optimize power usage: Power optimization is key to extending the life of battery-powered IoT devices. Devices should be designed to use power efficiently, such as disconnecting from the network during longer periods when data transfer is unnecessary, minimizing the network’s impact, and reducing the need for frequent recharging.
  • Implement strong security measures: IoT devices should be designed with security in mind, to prevent unauthorized access or malicious attacks, which in turn can be used to exploit the network connection. This includes implementing strong authentication and encryption measures, and ensuring that devices are updated regularly with security patches and firmware updates.
  • Test and validate: IoT devices should be thoroughly tested and validated in various real-world conditions before deployment, to ensure that they comply with industry standards and do not cause any harm to the network no matter what situation they encounter. It is important that testing should cover a sufficient scope, including testing for interoperability, compatibility, and performance in both ideal and adverse conditions, and everything else in between.
  • Monitor network usage: IoT devices should be monitored to ensure that they are not causing any harm to the network. This can be achieved by monitoring network connection frequency, data usage, and other metrics, identifying anomalies or spikes, and taking appropriate action to prevent network disruptions.
  • Integrate FOTA capabilities: IoT devices should be designed such that they can be remotely updated using Firmware Over The Air (FOTA) mechanisms. No software is free from errors indefinitely, and cellular networks and standards are continuously evolving, so updating these components may be necessary to ensure security, correct functionality, and prevent disconnection. FOTA mechanisms should utilize data compression, incremental changes, resume/recovery and other techniques. When performing FOTA updates, updates should be staggered. In the best case, all components of a cellular-connected IoT device (the cellular module, the SIM, and the microcontroller running the application) should be able to receive a FOTA update.
    When performing FOTA updates to a large number of devices, the update should be announced to Soracom beforehand.

By following these best practices, you can develop cellular IoT devices that are efficient, secure, and do not harm the networks they use.

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IoT Device Architecture
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