MADISON, Wis. — Expect droves of Android phones featuring secure NFC mobile transactions a la Apple Pay to hit the global market soon.
NXP Semiconductors N.V., who worked with Apple on Apple Pay, has just picked up Qualcomm as its mobile chip partner. The two companies announced Tuesday (May 5) they will work together to bring NXP’s market-proven NFC and secure element technology onto Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform.
The collaboration between the two will go beyond mobile payment applications for smartphones. They plan to develop new reference designs to expand the reach of NFC into other applications — including “Wearables, Internet of Things/Everything, automotive,” explained Jeff Fonseca, regional sales director, Americas NXP.
The partnership deal is not exclusive to Qualcomm, according to NXP. The two companies, however, declined to elaborate on the deal — including its financial terms.
Asked why Qualcomm decided to partner with NXP, instead of developing its own NFC and secure element solutions, Neeraj Bhatia, director of product management, Qualcomm, cited NXP’s clear leadership position on the NFC market and the influence it has over the mobile-device and infrastructure side of the payment business. “We’ve been looking for a secure element partner for a while.”
The Qualcomm executive also added, “By joining our hands, we think we can pull together the ecosystem [for NFC and mobile payments] much faster.”
As NXP’s Fonseca noted, the biggest advantage NXP brings is its “pre-validated and integrated” secure solution — already broadly used in the commercial market, including mobile payment and transit card apps. “Hardware is done, software is completely tested and validated,” said Fonseca. “This is a turn-key solution.”
That’s precisely why NXP-Qualcomm solutions are expected to excite a global base of Android phone designers. These vendors have been, reportedly, eager to add mobile payment features, but they have neither time nor resources to develop their own, let alone undertake the elaborate validation process, a prerequisite to ensure that their mobile devices work properly with the payment infrastructure.
Just last week, during the earning’s call, NXP CEO Richard Clemmer discussed with analysts Apple Pay’s potentially huge impact, “especially in China.” Clemmer predicted that “just how successful Apple Pay is in China” will set the tone, because “all the other smartphone companies have to be in a position to offer the same capability.”
The new offering will include the NQ220 module. This was derived from the recently launched NXP PN66T module. It is a “stack system in a package,” with an NFC die on the bottom and secure element on the top, explained Qualcomm’s Bhatia.
The companies will offer two versions — NQ210 an NFC module without secure element, and NQ220, a SIP module with both NFC and secure element stacked.
The NQ220 reference design is available now through the NXP website.
The goal for Qualcomm isn’t about integrating NFC into its apps processor, according to Bahita. Rather, it will put the NQ220 in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform.
Snapdragon processors already come with security features that include authentication and Digital Rights Management, said Bahita, as opposed to NXP’s module whose secure element is certified to run on the existing payment infrastructure and in tamper-resistant execution environment.
“We are developing a roadmap together so that the two companies; security features can converge in mobile and wearable devices,” said Fonseca.
NXP’s PN66T, on which NQ220 is based, is Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMVCo) certified, and also supports American Express ExpressPay.
Considering the scheduled merger with Freescale Semiconductor, isn’t NXP concerned at all if their partnership with Qualcomm might steal from a potential automotive infotainment platform — based on Freescale’s i.MX processor combined with NXP’s car radio and hardware-based security?
Fonseca said, “I wouldn’t comment [on the planned merger].”
Qualcomm, eager to get into the automotive market, is adapting its Snapdragon platform for car connectivity and infotainment.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times
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