World’s Smallest Modem: Intel Unveils New Penny-Sized 3G Technology

Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online
Intel has launched what it is calling the world’s smallest modem for the Internet of Things – a roughly 300 sq mm device that can connect to a cellular network and link to interconnected smart devices.
According to the company, the XMM 6255 is a 3G modem that was custom-designed to work with things like connected appliances, wearable technology, security devices and smart meters. The size makes it “perfect for devices with small, unconventional form factors,” they said, adding that the model is “an example” of the Santa Clara, California-based company’s “efforts to provide network connectivity for the billions of connected devices.”
As mentioned above, the XMM 6255 has an area of approximately 300 sq mm. To put that into perspective, BBC News said that is just slightly larger than a penny. While the modem might be small, it is also made to withstand harsh conditions and is built to protect against overheating.
In addition, VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi, reported the XMM 6255 chip includes a SMARTi UE2p transceiver component that uses only a tiny amount of electrical power (provided by an embedded source) to function. The modem also has the ability to transmit and receive and an integrated power amplifier, he added.
The smaller size of the chip and its components, as well as the reduced electrical power required to operate it will help the modem “survive in conditions where Internet of things sensors are deployed,” Takahashi explained. For example, he said that a farmer could deploy sensors to detect ground moisture in his or her fields. Those sensors would transmit data over the modem to a computer, which generates a report on which areas need to be watered.

Sergis Mushell, a research director at analytics firm Gartner, told BBC News that the product announcement was evidence Intel was looking to become a player in the mobile connectivity market. He also said that the connectivity of the XMM 6255, not just its size, shows that the company is “going after a significant stake in the Internet of Things market. Getting connectivity right is essential for their entire product portfolio.”
While 3G modems have been available since 2001, Takahashi explained that the chips have been consistently growing smaller as the market for them grows larger. He said that over one billion units have shipped over the past decade or so, and that by 2020, some analysts predict there will be as many as 50 billion Internet-connected devices in the world. Those devices, the VentureBeat writer points out, “will need a lot of modems.”
In a Tuesday blog post, Stefan Wolff, Intel’s vice president of the Mobile and Communications Group and general manager of Multicommunications, said the XMM 6255 is currently available in the u-blox SARA-U2 module, and that the company expected to have “updates on additional partnerships in the coming months.”
He also said the tiny new modem “provides reliable communication when it comes to transmitting information in low signal zones like a parking garage or a home basement,” and that the “integration of the power amplifier and transceiver” features in the XMM 6255 “simplifies the design and minimizes device development costs, which means developers can launch more products, more quickly, and in a more cost-effective manner.”
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