Insights and Resources • Last Updated 9/11/2023

IoT glossary: 25 popular terms you need to know

Your quick reference for essential cellular IoT terms and definitions.


By Emily Bowen

IoT glossary related graphics

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing how we live and work. IoT is transforming numerous industries, from smart homes that automate daily tasks to industrial sensors improving manufacturing efficiency.

According to a report by TechJury, the number of IoT devices worldwide will exceed 75 billion by 2025. As the IoT landscape expands, you should familiarize yourself with the terminology. This glossary provides clear, concise definitions of 25 key cellular IoT terms.

What is IoT?

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the network of physical devices, vehicles, appliances, and other objects embedded with sensors, software, and network connectivity, which enables these objects to connect and exchange data.

SIM cards play a crucial role in IoT by providing the necessary connectivity for these devices to communicate and exchange data over cellular networks. They allow IoT devices to connect to the internet anywhere there's cellular coverage, making them essential for applications that require mobility or are located in remote areas.

IoT is transforming industries such as energy, infrastructure services, medicine, aviation, and government agencies by connecting billions of devices to the internet and creating a vast data-sharing and communication network. With its unique features, such as connectivity, sensor technology, machine learning, scale, and interoperability, IoT technology empowers businesses to optimize operations, reduce costs, and improve customer experiences.

By leveraging the power of IoT, businesses can unlock new growth opportunities, improve safety and security, and create a better future for all. However, as with any emerging technology, IoT comes with its own set of acronyms and jargon, which can confuse those new to the field.

IoT glossary: 25 terms you should know

We've compiled an IoT glossary to help you understand and engage with IoT. In this section, we'll define 25 essential IoT terms (arranged alphabetically) that every tech enthusiast, developer, or curious individual should know.

We’ve also included an example use case for each term to provide additional context. Note that the use cases are not exhaustive, and there can be many different applications across—or even within—industries.

Active steering

Active steering refers to controlling a SIM card's network preferences. It allows device owners to specify desired networks for connection and those to avoid.

​​Use case: In a scenario where a device travels internationally, active steering allows the device owner to specify which local networks the device should connect to, optimizing for cost or performance.

Core network

The core network is the backbone of a telecom system. It consists of high-functioning communication facilities that connect primary nodes. Users typically connect to the core network via sub-networks.

Use case: When you make a call or send a text, your data travels through the core network of your service provider before reaching the recipient, even if they're on a different sub-network or carrier.

Data aggregator

In the context of IoT, a data aggregator is a device or software that processes data from multiple sensors and provides a more meaningful output.

Use case: A smart home hub that collects data from various sensors (like temperature, humidity, or security sensors) and provides a unified view on a single platform is an example of a data aggregator.

Edge computing

Edge computing is a distributed computing paradigm that brings computation and data storage closer to where it’s needed to improve response times and save bandwidth.

Use case: In a smart factory, edge computing allows for real-time processing and data analysis from machinery on the shop floor, reducing latency and bandwidth usage.

Embedded Subscriber Identity Module (eSIM)

An eSIM is a SIM card integrated into a device's mainboard. It can be programmed to work with any carrier network, allowing cellular IoT devices to switch networks via software.

Use case: Smartwatches often use eSIMs to connect to cellular networks, allowing them to operate independently of a paired smartphone.

Evolved NodeB (eNB)

An eNB, or Evolved NodeB, is a component that manages radio network resources. It optimizes communication for devices connected to the LTE network.

Use case: In an LTE network, the eNB manages resources for connected devices, such as when your smartphone connects to a local cell tower.

Evolved Packet Core (EPC)

The EPC, or Evolved Packet Core, is a key part of the LTE network infrastructure. It comprises Serving Gateways (SGWs), Packet Gateways (PGWs), Mobile Management Entities (MMEs), Home Subscriber Servers (HSS), and Policy and Charging Rules Function Servers (PCRF).

Use case: When you use data on your smartphone, the information passes through the EPC of your service provider's LTE network.

Failover connectivity

Failover connectivity refers to backup connections that maintain communication access if the primary connection fails. Common choices include 3G, 4G, and LTE cellular networks.

Use case: If a retail store's primary internet connection fails, failover connectivity can switch the Point of Sale (PoS) system to a 4G network to maintain operations.

Home Subscriber Server (HSS)

The HSS database stores user identification numbers, addresses, and profile information. It also handles authentication and authorization processes, enabling secure access and connectivity for IoT devices within a network. It is essential for managing services, routing information, and controlling subscriber access in both 3G and 4G LTE networks.

Use case: When you connect to a new network, the HSS verifies your identity and profile information to authenticate your device.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

The IIoT comprises devices and sensors that enable industrial automation, improve quality control, and reduce maintenance resource strain. It's one of the largest IoT device markets.

Use case: In a manufacturing plant, IIoT devices can monitor equipment health in real time, improving maintenance and reducing downtime.

Local breakout

Local breakout is a roaming cellular traffic handling method. Instead of tunneling back to the home network, traffic is managed by a local operator.

Use case: When you use data on your phone while traveling abroad, local breakout allows your data to be handled by a local operator, reducing costs and improving speed.

Low Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN)

LPWAN is a wireless telecommunication wide-area network designed to allow long-range communications at a low bit rate among things (connected objects), such as sensors operated on a battery.

Use case: LPWAN is used in smart city applications, such as monitoring the fill level of public trash cans to optimize waste collection routes.

Machine-to-Machine (M2M)

M2M refers to direct communication between devices using any communications channel, including wired and wireless.

Use case: In a vending machine, M2M communication allows the machine to automatically notify the distributor when stock is low.

Mobile IP address (MIP)

A MIP protocol allows mobile devices to keep a permanent IP address when switching networks.

Use case: When you use your laptop at a coffee shop, then move to a library, your device maintains a consistent IP address through MIP.

Mobile Management Entity (MME)

An MME manages end-user connections to an LTE network. It handles user authentication, access requests, and security key information management.

Use case: When your smartphone connects to an LTE network, the MME manages your connection, including authentication and access requests.

Multi-International Mobile Subscriber Identity (Multi-IMSI)

Multi-IMSI refers to a SIM card's ability to store multiple IMSI profiles. This feature enables seamless switching between operator networks.

Use case: Like a tracking device, a global IoT device uses Multi-IMSI to switch between operator networks as it moves between countries.

Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT)

NB-IoT is a Low Power Wide-Area Network radio technology standard developed to enable a wide range of devices and services to be connected using cellular telecommunications bands.

Use case: NB-IoT is used in applications like smart meters, which send small amounts of data over long distances and have long battery lives.

Packet Gateway (PGW)

A PGW provides access to external packet data networks. It functions as an IP router and supports mobile-specific signaling protocols and tunneling.

Use case: When you browse the internet on your phone, your data passes through a PGW to reach the external data network.

Passive steering

Passive steering directs a SIM card to attach to wireless networks based on a priority list.

Use case: In a scenario where a device doesn't have a preferred network, passive steering directs the device to connect to networks based on a pre-set priority list.

Policy and Charging Rules Function Server (PCRF Server)

The PCRF server provides quality of service settings information for each user session.

Use case: When you stream a video on your phone, the PCRF server ensures your data session has the necessary quality of service.

Private LTE

Private LTE is a network designed for specific enterprise, government, or education operations. It can be optimized for particular applications and equipment.

Use case: A large factory might use a private LTE network to connect its machinery and devices, optimizing it for specific needs.

Radio Access Network (RAN)

A RAN is a radio antenna system that provides cellular connectivity within a specific area. It's typically used to connect cellular devices to a core network.

Use case: When you use your phone in a city, it connects to the internet through a RAN, which provides cellular connectivity within that area.

Roaming operator

A roaming operator is a carrier with its own network and roaming agreements with other carriers. These agreements allow customers to connect to other networks outside the home network's coverage area or if the home network fails.

Use case: When you travel abroad, a roaming operator allows your phone to connect to the local network so you can continue to use your phone as usual.

Serving Gateway (SGW)

An SGW manages user data packets and functions as an IP router.

Use case: When you use mobile data, the SGW manages your data packets, routing them through the network.

User equipment (UE)

UE refers to the device an end-user connects to an LTE network. Common examples include phones, cellular-capable tablets, and LTE-compliant USB dongles.

Use case: When you use a smartphone or a cellular-capable tablet to browse the internet, make calls, or send texts, these devices are considered user equipment.

The world of cellular IoT is filled with acronyms and technical terms. However, understanding the key terms we’ve covered in this post will help you grasp the core concepts and principles of cellular IoT. The IoT landscape is vast and rapidly evolving, and staying informed is crucial to leveraging its full potential.

Unlock the power of IoT with Telnyx SIM cards

A quality SIM card is a key component of any IoT device that relies on cellular connectivity. It's not just about maintaining a consistent connection to the internet, it's about enabling seamless communication between devices, facilitating data exchange, and ultimately, driving the functionality of the IoT system. With a reliable SIM card, your IoT devices can operate efficiently and effectively anywhere there is cellular coverage.

Secure global connectivity for your IoT devices with Telnyx IoT SIM Cards. Our SIM cards offer flexible data coverage in 180+ countries and an API to manage and configure SIMs over the air. Telnyx offers triple size (Mini, Micro and Nano) SIM cards, embedded MFF2, and over-the-air eSIMs.

Telnyx has global connectivity in over 180 countries, intelligent network switching, and pay-as-you-go pricing. Our SIM cards keep healthcare data safe with secure, remote patient monitoring, enhance security solutions by connecting devices to private networks, and streamline industrial processes with efficient data acquisition.

Contact a Telnyx expert today to learn how you can leverage IoT to experience seamless, secure, and cost-effective connectivity.

Looking for more information on IoT? Check out some of these other resources:

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