Infineon introduces high-capacity security chips

A new series of contactless security chips will help boost the amount of data that can be stored and used for applications like access cards and smart labels. The RFID (radio frequency identification) chips can hold many times more data than similar products already on the market, said semiconductor maker Infineon Technologies AG in a statement Thursday.

Infineon's new enhanced-security "my-d" chips can store and protect confidential data for personal identification applications, or cash value amounts for prepaid payment applications, and feature additional cryptographic measures such as a mutual authentication algorithm based on 64-bit keys and secret key pairs.

The chips operate on the 13.56 MHz frequency and are compliant with the global standard for vicinity cards and smart label applications, ISO/IEC 15693, the company said. But because the chips are manufactured using a 0.25-micron chip process, they can hold up to 10K bits of data, or between five and 40 times more than other chips of the type, Infineon said. A 2.5K-bit version of the chip is also available, as well as plain-memory versions without the advanced security features.

The chips can operate at up to 70 centimeters for read-and-write functions, such as smart labels used to store data for tracking goods; or at up to 120 centimeters for gate configurations, such as door access systems.

Samples of the crypto version of the RFID chip are now available, starting at US$0.33 for the 2.5K-bit version, Infineon said. Commercial shipment is planned for the first quarter of next year.

Today's heightened security concerns open a broad range of new possible applications for smart card-type devices, said Thomas Raschke, a Copenhagen-based security analyst with International Data Corp. As an example, users could set the cards to protect access to personal electronic devices like mobile phones and laptop computers, he said.

Another potential application could come with national identity cards carrying encrypted data about individuals. The German government proposed the introduction of such cards as part of a package of antiterrorism security measures introduced last week.

"Especially in Germany, there's a lot of talk about biometrics and fingerprints, iris scans, those kinds of things," Raschke said. "If you want to store them it usually takes a little more space, so in that sense it makes sense that the chips get bigger and storage capacity higher."

Personal smart cards could also carry customer profiles for electronic transactions, such as online purchases, he said.

"Basically the sky's the limit."

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