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Intel signs NFC agreement with Inside

Posted: 16 Dec 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:NFC chip? MicroRead? SecuRead? Open NFC?

Intel Corp. and fabless NFC chip supplier Inside Secure SA have signed a technology transfer agreement. Based on the agreement, Inside will provide Intel with NFC designs and technologies.

The agreement has a five-year term and gives Intel access to Inside's software, firmware and core hardware technology for development of future Intel products. In addition, Inside will provide Intel's Mobile Wireless Group with access to scalable NFC solutions based on Inside's MicroRead, SecuRead and Open NFC products.

Intel recently upgraded its membership of the NFC Forum to take on a seat on its board of directors and now has the right to integrate Inside's technology within its SoCs.

Remy de Tonnac, CEO of Inside, said his company would make money out of the deal by way of licensing payments, royalties and development contracts with Intel but declined to say how much the deal might be worth to Inside. "It's no secret that it [NFC technology] will go into PCs and other mobile products such as smartphones and tablets."

While Intel will have the right to develop and integrate Inside's technology into its SoCs the deal is non-exclusive, allowing Inside to cut a similar deal with another company, and Inside will also continue to sell standalone NFC chips, de Tonnac said. "The industry has debated how and when NFC integration should happen, but both patterns will co-exist for some time."

"We are building a partnership with Intel," said de Tonnac.

NFC is a short-range communications channel that operates at 13.56MHz at data rates up to about 500kb/s. It can support passive tags with preset information that can be powered up by the NFC reader. But it is also expected to become widely used for making financial payments by smartphone. The range of applications include: access control, transportation, healthcare, information collection and exchange, loyalty coupons and payments.

At present Inside's chips include analog and RF circuitry as well as digital and are implemented in 130nm CMOS and Inside publicly endorses Globalfoundries as a foundry supplier.

Working at 45nm and below is of interest to work with Intel," said de Tonnac, although whether Intel will also operate as a foundry and supply chips back to Inside was not made clear. When asked if this was a possibility Inside Secure declined to comment.

When asked if the Intel deal was likely to replace the initial public offering (IPO) that Inside has planned, de Tonnac said: "We had the deal with Intel lined up prior to postponing our IPO. It does not replace the IPO. We still want to do that, hopefully in 2012."

"Working with an industry leader like Intel will play a significant role in the mainstream rollout of NFC," said Charles Walton, chief operating officer for Inside Secure, in a statement.

"NFC is gaining traction in many markets as one of the most convenient ways to use consumer electronic devices for payments and retail commerce transactions, for access to facilities and information and a host of other applications," said Aicha Evans, vice-president and general manager of Intel's mobile wireless group, in the same statement. "We look forward to working with Inside to develop and bring to market a range of exciting connectivity solutions for mainstream consumer products that incorporate NFC features."

- Peter Clarke
??EE Times

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