LONDON – Three years on from an announcement that NXP would add hardware intrinsic security to its SmartMX range of secure microcontrollers the company has prepared a demonstration of the technology in a test chip. The company added that it will be the first company to bring to market smartcard and embedded secure element chips that integrate Intrinsic-ID's physically unclonable function (PUF) technology.
NXP (Eindoven, The Netherlands) has announced it will demonstrate the PUF security function in a SmartMX2 microcontroller test chip at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Feb. 25 to 28. The demo will include Intrinsic-ID's Saturnus secure-cloud application.
Intrinsic-ID's hardware intrinsic security (HIS) makes use of unique characteristics particular to each IC to derive encryption keys. This allows a device to generate a secret key only when needed and power down with no key present. It is available in all modern technology nodes and is scalable with silicon area, Intrinsic-ID said. Intrinsic-ID, like NXP, was formed as a spin-off from Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV (Amsterdam, The Netherlands).
A typical method of implementation might be a series of metastable SRAM bits that make up an ID word. Each bit is, in terms of design, equally likely to boot up as a 1 or a 0. But variations in silicon manufacture mean that the actual condition at startup is repeatable but specific to each die. As such, this content after start-up can serve as a unique fingerprint, which can then be used as a key to protect an encryption key or to protect a memory.
SmartMX microcontrollers are 8-bit 8051-based MCUs with numerous security features making the cards suitable for ID cards, secure access control, trusted platform modules, Pay-TV, travel ticketing. SmartMX2 microcontrollers extend the architecture up to 32-bits although it is not clear whether the instruction set is proprietary or based on a licensed architecture.
By integrating Intrinsic-ID's PUF technology into its secure microcontroller SmartMX2, NXP improves the chips security for such applications as NFC-enabled mobile payment, electronic ticketing, and eGovernment and cyber security services.
"Adding PUF technology to SmartMX2 chips helps to alleviate user doubts as we bring more security and trust to smart life solutions and provide our customers with a key competitive edge. As such, we’re very happy to have entered into this contract with Intrinsic-ID, the undisputed leader in PUF," said Ruediger Stroh, general manager of the identification business unit at NXP, in a statement.
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