Secure contactless transactions in phones & wearables

26th February 2015
Nat Bowers

ams and STMicroelectronics have announced an NFC system reference design that ensures easy, reliable and secure contactless transactions while suiting the sleek form factor of mobile and wearable devices. On display at Mobile World Congress, the ams/ST design promises to transform and greatly enhance the usability of NFC technology.

The reference design's advanced analog circuitry delivers outstanding NFC performance even in devices with room for only a tiny antenna, that is typically adjacent to metal surfaces or shielded by the user's hand, and mounted in a location hostile to RF transmissions. By combining the AS39230 AFE with boostedNFC technology from ams, along with the ST21NFCC controller and ST33G1M2 Secure MCU from ST, the two partners promise to make the consumer's experience of contactless transactions easy, quick, and completely reliable, whether for payments in shops, ticketing in metro/urban mass transit infrastructure or access control. OEMs will also benefit from market-proven worldwide certification, including for Common Criteria, EMVCo, GlobalPlatform and Visa, Mastercard, Amex and PBOC (People's Bank of China).

"Through this partnership with ams, the undisputed leader in NFC booster technology, ST customers can enjoy complete NFC turnkey solutions with enhanced RF performance and reduced cost of integration and ownership," said Laurent Degauque, Embedded Security Marketing Director, Secure MCU Division, STMicroelectronics. "Our common reference design can be easily integrated into various devices including mobile phones, smart watches, wearables and secure connected devices, and will significantly improve consumer experiences with contactless transactions."

ams' AS39230 boosts the signal on the antenna, increasing the signal strength up to 10 times when compared with conventional passive load modulation methods of transmitting a signal from an NFC tag, card or card emulator to an NFC reader. In space-constrained designs, the size of the antenna can thus be reduced by as much as 20 times, to 100mm2 or less, while maintaining the same signal strength. The AS39230 even allows for the device's metal casing to be used as an antenna, reducing the board space required for the NFC antenna and its related costs to nothing.

Paired with ams' boostedNFC chip, ST's ST54E System-in-Package (SIP) contains the ST21NFCC controller and the ST33G1M2 32-bit secure MCU for niversal integrated circuit card, embedded Secure Element and microSD-card applications.

The ST33G1M2 Secure Element, which supports the latest Global Platform GP2.2 OS and the complete MIFARE portfolio including MIFAREClassic and MIFARE DESFire, offers market-proven best-in-class performance for banking and digital-access applications along with full compatibility with major worldwide transportation schemes. Based on the ARM SecurCore SC300 32-bit RISC core, the ST33G1M2 delivers Common Criteria-certified security features, together with a large and flexible embedded eFLASH, which allows OEMs and service providers to plan for future implementations with proven Trusted Service Management infrastructure compatibility.

The AS39230 and ST54E support all important NFC standards governing card emulation, including ISO14443 type A/B, FeliCa at data rates up to 424kb/s, active peer-to-peer bit rates of 212kb/s and ISO18092 communication at up to 424kb/s.

"Consumers will continue to use their phones or smart watches for mobile payments and contactless ticketing only if the technology works faultlessly every time, no matter how they present their device to the reader. By combining the world's best-performing active boost technology in the AS39230 with ST's advanced NFC SiP, OEMs ensure that they are not leaving their device's card emulation capability to chance," said Mark Dickson, Director, Marketing, Wireless Connectivity and Power Division, ams.

The AS39230 NFC AFE is available in production volumes now from ams and the ST54E is available for sampling from ST.

ams and ST will be exhibiting the reference design at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, 2nd to 5th March 2015). ams is in Hall 6, Stand 6E20; ST is in Hall 7, Stand 7B146.

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