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Sony, NXP team on contactless platform

Posted: 01 May 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:contactless smart card technology? contactless card for NFC? secure IC?

Buoyed by its success in Japan, Sony Corp. is looking to an upcoming joint venture with NXP Semiconductors as a way to expand the reach of its Felica contactless smart-card technology. The venture, scheduled for launch in the middle of the year, will develop a secure chip that will bridge Felica with NXP's competing Mifare technology.

When combined with an NFC chip, the secure IC will provide a universal platform for various consumer devices with contactless communication capability. Besides ensuring Mifare and Felica compatibility, the secure IC will support third-party OS and applications.

Sony hopes that the NFC venture will extend Felica's success beyond Japan. "It will give Felica a chance to penetrate into the global market," said Ted Osamura, general manager of business development at Sony's Felica division.

Sony said it shipped 200 million Felica chips between the technology's introduction in 1996 and March 1 this year. About 160 million were used in IC cards, while more than 40 million went into cellphones. A majority of those chips, however162 millionwere shipped to Japan. The remainder went to other Asian markets.

NXP, by contrast, has shipped 1.5 billion contactless chips worldwide since 1997, including Mifare chips with Type A communications and those supporting NFC's PHY communications.

212Kbps performance
Felica is a contactless IC card technology consisting of a chip and antenna. It operates at a frequency of 13.56MHz and has a data rate of 212Kbps. Felica has fast data-processing capabilities: polling, mutual authentication and read/write transactions can be completed in 0.1s, Sony said.

The communication format, once proposed to ISO as 14443 Type C, remains a proprietary Felica format. NXP's Mifare communication format, on the other hand, was standardized as 14443 Type A.

NFC wireless-connectivity technology, which defines the PHY of contactless communications at 13.56MHz, was jointly developed by Sony and NXP in 2002 to bridge the two communications formats. NFC, which was standardized as ISO 18092, has a data exchange rate of 424Kbps. NFC covers three modes: device-to-device, reader/writer and card-emulation communication.

Mifare and Felica are not compatible with each other, but devices with NFC chips can communicate with both of them. Mifare and Felica are widely implemented in cellphones. When people use them in various locales, this incompatibility could become a big problem.

Integrated structure
When Sony and NXP's secure chip becomes available in 2008, Felica and Mifare eventually will be integrated in the same structurethe NFC chip in the communication layer and the secure IC in the upper layers. The secure IC will support Felica, Mifare and third-party OS and applications.

"The new secure IC chip plus the NFC chip make a universal contactless IC platform, allowing users to enjoy multiple services from different providers on a single device," said Jeroen Keunen, a regional marketing director for NXP Semiconductors.

NXP has been offering its own NFC chips since 2005 with the Mifare OS.

This month, train ticket cards for almost all of Tokyo's metropolitan transportation systems will integrate Felica technology. Already in use in major cities such as Osaka, Felica will become a national platform for transportation systems and other services, Sony said.

- Yoshiko Hara
EE Times

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