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Oberthur paints go-faster stripes on SIMs

Shaking things up, Wii-mote stylee

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MWC In what much surely be the last push to get more functionality into a SIM card, Oberthur has managed to squeeze an accelerometer into SIM, with the claim of turning any phone into a Wii-like controller.

SIM chips are marvellous cryptographic authentication devices, but not much else despite repeated attempts to fit more functionality into the diminutive form factor. This time it's an accelerometer, dubbed the SIMSense and debuted here at MWC. The idea is to provide three-dimensional acceleration information for the multitude of SIM applications that could gain from such a thing.

Applications on the phone could, of course, also take advantage of the functionality - if the handset supports an API for SIM communication (such as JSR177) or is a smart phone. But most smartphones already have an accelerometer built in, since Apple made such things mandatory, so Oberthur's innovation would be useless there - and while JSR177 is a fine API, it is not widely deployed.

Applications running on the SIM itself could be motion-enabled, but navigating a cascade of text menus by shaking the phone is too strange even for us, which makes SIMSense seem little more than a gimmick with no practical application at all, but not for the first time.

The SIM business is big but competitive, and the industry has been trying hard to turn the little chip into a multi-function device for years. Plans have ranged from the technically stupid (GPS and Zigbee receivers sandwiched between a battery and a circuit board) through the possible-but-unwanted (high-speed interfaces and gigabyte capacities) to the standards-requiring (NFC, Single Wire Protocol and MegaSIMs).

Meanwhile, punters would like to be able to store proper address books on their SIM, along with their operator's network access settings and an MMS or two. But that's not going to make money for handset manufacturers, the network operators or the SIM industry, so everyone will just have to console themselves with the thought of Wii on a SIM. ®

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