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Small is Mighty: Miniature Modules open up new markets

by Andrew Brown | 11月 16, 2011

It?s been a busy week for miniaturization in the in the world of SIM cards and M2M modules. M2M module makers and SIM card players are either joining forces (Gemalto and Cinterion) or in competition, to go after lucrative new markets.

  • At the CARTES & IDentification 2011 trade show in Paris, Giesecke & Devrient (G&D) announced the smallest SIM card: the nano-SIM. A third smaller than the micro-SIM, the nano-SIM is only 12mm x 9mm and about 30 percent smaller than the micro-SIM and while it still needs to be tested with mobile operators and approved by ETSI, it could be finding its way into the first mobile devices as early as next year
  • In addition, Sierra Wireless also broke new ground this week by announcing the new AirPrime WS6318 which provides M2M connectivity in a module just 15mmx18 mm, roughly half the size of most M2M modules currently. This new module is among the first cellular modules in the industry to use conformal coating technology. Instead of relying on metal shielding to protect chip sets and circuit boards, the module is coated with a protective chemical barrier. By removing metal enclosures it is possible to deliver a much smaller wireless module while fully protecting sensitive electrical components

Even though these are impressive technological breakthroughs, given our knowledge of Moore?s law, this isn?t perhaps so surprising. So the question is, why should you care?

  • Miniaturization is a catalyst for the connected world. Previously, bold design ideas have continued to bump up against the size limitations of cellular modules which has been a barrier to applications, especially in the M2M world. With the growth in M2M service platforms that enable provisioning and management of devices, it is now in the hands of SIM card makers and module vendors to enable the last mile connectivity in as small a package as possible.
  • Most mobile carriers are reluctant to pursue the soft-SIM approach, given that the SIM card is the MNO network presence in the device. There is a strong feeling that this function should be preserved, even if it is made interoperable with other carriers (for example Deutsche Telekom, Telef?nica O2 UK, Vodafone and Giesecke & Devrient  (G&D) have worked together to prepare for the standardization of a trusted and flexible solution for the remote management of embedded SIMs
  • Miniaturization opens up new markets. Irrespective of whether version 5 or 6 of the next gen iPhone has a nano-SIM, or even the fact that there are already cellular watches, the broader issue is how miniaturization opens up new markets. Examples include enabling healthcare by embedding health monitoring and wireless communication capabilities into a small watch or wristband, a health application provider could extend its service to customers that would be unwilling to wear a bulky monitoring device. It may also create impetus in the sport and fitness equipment market, even to the extent of embedding into clothing or footwear. Payment (POS) terminals can be reduced in size in tandem with a growth in NFC services. The potential reach for miniature modules and SIMs is vast.
  • As miniaturization enables new markets, it will drive economies of scale, driving down the price and truly enabling a world of connected objects even in relatively low cost equipment.

Although the initial growth will be limited to certain markets given the need for a small form factor and higher costs, the longer term possibilities are broad and limited only by the the imagination of solutions architects.

Andrew Brown

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