The Twilio SIM cards provide always-on cellular service in 120 countries -- and, more importantly, they connect to the vendor's well-documented APIs for voice communications, SMS messaging and machine-to-machine data transfers. More than 2 million developers are already using those same APIs to power cloud communications in enterprises and contact centers.
Twilio is aiming to simplify how businesses approach IoT connectivity with transparent, usage-based pricing; frictionless online ordering and shipping; and free customer support. Customers will be able to monitor the data consumption and connectivity of their IoT devices in a preconfigured console from Twilio.
Since the beta release of Twilio Programmable Wireless in July 2017, developers have used the platform to enable electronic watches to place 911 calls when they detect a heart attack, to design printers that make it easier for restaurants to process online orders and to install monitoring devices in empty apartments.
"In software, you can write [code] once and deploy globally. You can't do that in IoT today," said Chetan Chaudhary, general manager of IoT at Twilio, based in San Francisco. "It's really just about reducing that complexity for IoT deployments."
The Twilio approach to IoT connectivity
Twilio is not the first vendor to produce a product promising to accelerate IoT connectivity. The company will compete with carriers such as AT&T and Verizon, which also sell SIM cards, as well as major software vendors, such as Amazon, IBM and Microsoft, which all have cloud platforms for connecting and managing IoT devices.
"It's not like these services are not available," said Courtney Munroe, vice president of worldwide telecommunications research for IDC. "To me, the strength of Twilio is once they go into a market, they make it really easy for developers."
Because of Twilio's APIs, enterprises will be able to set up IoT workflows -- a vending machine that automatically sends an SMS message to a contact center when supplies are low, for example -- without spending a lot of time writing complicated code, Munroe said.
"It will be interesting to see how they do in this market," Munroe said. "There is a lot of competition out there from the carriers [and] from the big software companies, but I think that Twilio has shown they have a pretty good track record."
Even if successful, the new line of business will likely only account for a small portion of Twilio's overall revenue, said Tsahi Levent-Levi, an independent analyst. But Twilio wants to compete in all areas of communications, he said.
The SIM cards for IoT connectivity should appeal mostly to large enterprises, as well as some innovative startups in the agriculture, manufacturing, supply chain and automotive industries.
"Being able to give SIMs to customers that they can shove into devices is not something new," Levent-Levi said. "What Twilio is doing is simplifying things. You purchase SIM cards, and you have simple APIs to manage and onboard these SIM cards."