If you have ever been a resident of Hong Kong, you’d know what an e-passport looks like! You would have even used it! For example, if you were crossing over into Shenzhen, China, from Lo Wu, which is on the borders of Luohu district within Hong Kong and the city of Shenzhen in Guangdong province, China, [having reached there via the KCR (Kowloon-Canton Railway)] — you can easily use your Hong Kong e-passport to get past the immigration point and enter China!
It is really easy! Simply drop your e-passport into the e-passport reader slot and place your finger on the fingerprint reader for it to scan and read. Once your e-passport comes out, move over to the other side to another e-passport reader, repeat the same exercise, and you’re done! All it takes is less than a minute!
All Indians could soon have e-passports!
Well, such an e-passport can become a reality in India soon! If you haven’t heard it, Infineon Technologies recently supplied contactless security microcontrollers (MCUs) for India’s electronic passport (e-passport) program! The Indian e-passport rollout started with Indian diplomats and officials being issued e-passports — around 30,000 to be issued in phase one. It is likely that by September 2009, the e-passports will be extended to the general public.
The rollout has started with the issuance of electronic passports to Indian diplomats and officials. It is expected that in this first phase, up to 30,000 electronic passports shall be issued. By September 2009, the program is likely to be expanded to include passports used by the general public. Today, around 6 million passports are being annually issued in India. I believe, the government of India has invited a new tender for interested stakeholders to bid for 20 million e-passports.
So, being a Hong Kong e-passport holder, I was interested in knowing whether the Indian version is as smart as that particular one? By the way, Hong Kong’s e-passport also doubles up as your Hong Kong ID (HKID) card. If you don’t have one, you simply cannot do business in Hong Kong! Your HKID number is unique and remains unchanged!
Dr. Rajiv Jain, Vice President and Managing Director, Infineon Technologies India Pvt Ltd, said that both Hong Kong and India are using the same product family from Infineon. “The security levels of both e-passports are based on the Common Criteria EAL 5+, the highest possible security certification for MCUs. In addition, both comply to ICAO requirements, the international standard for e-passports.”
Infineon’s SLE 66CLX800PE security MCU provides advanced performance and high execution speeds, and was specifically designed for use in electronic passports, identity cards, e-government cards and payment cards. Sounds very interesting!
Highlights of Infineon’s security MCU
The security MCU features a crypto-coprocessor and can operate at very high transaction speeds of up to 848kbits/s even if the elevated encryption and decryption operations have to be calculated.
The SLE 66CLX800PE offers all contactless proximity interfaces on a single chip: the ISO/IEC 14443 type B interface and type A interface, and both used for communication between electronics passports and the respective readers; and the ISO/IEC 18092 passive mode interface, which is used in transport and banking applications. The SLE 66CLX800PE features 80 kilobytes (kb) of EEPROM, 240kb of ROM, and 6kb of RAM.
The SLE 66PE contactless controller family, which includes the SLE 66CLX800PE, is certified according to Common Criteria EAL 5+ high (BSI-PP-0002 protection profile) security certification. Infineon’s security in MCUs used in e-passports builds on the underlying hardware-based integral security, with data encryption, memory firewall system and other security mechanisms to safeguard the privacy of data.
The SLE 66PE product family comprises a whole product portfolio designed for use in basic-security to high-security smart card systems, with the EEPROM sizes ranging from 4kb to144kb, and covering different applications including government ID, transportation and payment.
Infineon’s perception of Indian semiconductor industry
So much about the e-passport! I can’t wait to get my hands on one! Since I was in a discussion with Infineon, it naturally turned toward the Indian semiconductor industry and what needs to be done!
Dr. Jain said: “The Indian semiconductor industry has seen its share of successes and misses. The in-depth technical talent required for design and development is omni-present (TI, Intel, Infineon, Wipro, etc., to name a few). For example, we are doing critical R&D in the areas of automotive electronics, broadband, mobile communications and secured ID solutions at Infineon India, and the fact that it is one of the largest centres in Infineon’s global R&D network, is a testimony to India’s importance as the destination for cutting edge research. This has also led to creation of home-grown design houses offering services to the larger companies.
“We are also seeing in some small, but growing numbers, products and ideas for local markets. As the local markets evolve, so will the ability of these companies to deliver innovation for these local markets, which can then be taken globally.”
He added that an area of debate has been the need for semiconductor manufacturing in India. For example, having fabs, test and packaging plants, and EMS. “There have been government initiatives with a few successes. However, financial, tax-related and custom-related investment in these areas needs to come together and be centrally driven from a long-term perspective, as these institutions, which can provide a stable manufacturing base, need larger efforts to be successful.”
Hopefully, we will finally get to see some action on all of these areas post the Indian general elections due shortly.
PS: Just to let all of my friends know, I am no longer associated with either CIOL or its semiconductors web site.
This title of this blog has actually been borrowed from a statement made by Gadi Singer, vice president of Intel’s Mobility Group and general manager of the company’s SOC Enabling Group, which I came across on SEMI’s site.
Is this a recent phenomena, or has the Apple iPhone led to a strong belief in this statement that the Internet is truly going mobile? And what was that craze for ‘WAP bashing’ some nine to ten years ago all about? Perhaps, it is a bit of both!
I was fortunate enough to use a WAP-enabled mobile phone back in Hong Kong, in 1999-2000, a Siemens model. I tried checking my Yahoo Mail on the phone with some success. Also, I found it very convenient to search for Indian restaurants in Tsim Sha Tsui. All of this, when the ‘WAP bashing’ was at its peak!
In 2001, at an event organized by Frost & Sullivan in Singapore, I was probably among the three people in a large audience found to be using the mobile phone for Internet access. This is so long back, that even I can’t recall for sure how many folks were really found to be using mobile Internet! Anyhow! Those were also the days when mobile Internet, as a theme, was quite popular at global telecom events, largely driven by the craze for NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode phones.
Well, no one really wanted to accept back then that the Internet was going mobile! Also, the flak that some of the European carriers had to take due to their obtaining various ‘quite expensive’ 3G licenses dimmed the concept of the mobile Internet.
We have come a long way since! While GPRS and 3G did bring some or quite large extent of the Internet to the mobile, possibly, the push really happened when this phenomena called social networking gathered steam.
The Apple iPhone, and now, the iPhone 3G, with its cool wireless social networking applications have truly ported the Internet to the mobile. The iPhone 3G is all the rage right now. Sales crossed the 1-million mark within three days, as per various reports on the Internet. That’s some speed! That’s also an outstanding indication of how people are making a dash for the phenomena called wireless social networking.
In the midst of all of this, 3G, and specifically, HSDPA (and W-CDMA), has come really come to stay. The telecom-media convergence has also happened very seamlessly in the background.
While the world’s leading semiconductor firms continue to churn out one excellent chip after another, especially for mobile phones/telecom, it is time to acknowledge the fact that the Internet has truly gone mobile!
One last word. Do find time to stand up and applaud the hard work put in by the semiconductor and software industry, who make all of this happen.
Right then! The D-day is today… the much awaited Apple iPhone 3G has been launched!
Buyers in New Zealand and Japan were among the earliest to get their hands on the new iPhone. Evidently, the Apple lovers are over the moon and can’t stop gushing about the great features that the new phone has!
All that’s fine!
How can the Apple iPhone 3G help boost data usage? How can it help operators raise the ARPUs? Or, will a high-end phone still be used for voice and data? Will it change the fortunes of the memory market? What impact will it have on the semiconductor market as a whole? We will have the answers to most of these questions by the end of this year, and in some cases, over the next year or two.
Will there be a shift in brand loyalty — for example, from say, Nokia to Apple — even that remains to be seen. Surely, the likes of Nokia, Samsung, SonyEricsson and LG would not be sitting quietly and see the thunder being stolen from them!
Will there be a surge of touchscreen phones all over the world? Probably yes. I’ve had a touchscreen MP4 player with camera since late 2005, but I never really liked that touchscreen, as it always dirties the nice little LCD. Anyhow!
Coming back to the iPhone 3G, I’ve had some interesting conversations with several of my friends across the globe, specifically, Asia.
From Hong Kong, a friend told me that the demand there can be reflected by the fact that there are over 60,000 registrations for buying the iPhone, with today being the official launch day!
However, another friend’s response, who’s actually not an admirer of Apple, simply said that he doesn’t even feel the slightest inclination to even check it out!
From Taipei, Taiwan, a good friend shared the thought that compared to the previous model, the 3G iPhone seems to be cheaper. However, people have been saying that the case is made of plastic and does not feel that good than the previous metal material.
Another friend is thinking of buying the iPhone HTC Diamond or 3G, as the iPhone will not be available in Taiwan till 3Q-08. However, this friend added that some Apple fans plan to buy it via bid Web sites.
A friend from the Philippines, who’s now relocated to Hong Kong, sent me a list of URLs where there are long discussions about the Apple iPhone. The comment — People are going nuts though… the demand is of 60,000 and only 500 units are available!
Yet another, who moved to Hong Kong from China, adds that iPhone 3G has been launched in Hong Kong bundled with ‘expensive’ mobile phone packages. Maybe, the fever is a bit lesser, for Apple fans.
Next, from Auckland, New Zealand, Romy Udanga, my friend and an ex-colleague from Global Sources, very kindly sent me a link titled: Who bought the World’s first iPhone 3G! Apparently, that honor goes to 24-year old Jonny Gladwell, who, at exactly one minute past midnight, walked into the Vodafone store on Queen Street in Auckland and bought the world’s first iPhone 3G, after spending over 50 hours on the street!
Wow! Talk about building up some demand!! It’s really good to see this global craze regarding a consumer electronics product! The buzz is surely back, for now!
My love affair with telecom began way back in the late 1980s, when C-DoT was just getting in prominence, and there were some talks about introducing mobile phones in the country. Telecom has come a long way since.
Not many large telecom shows were held at that time, and I certainly did not get a chance to attend a real ‘telecom’ show till I managed to participate at the ITU’s Telecom Asia in Hong Kong, only in 2000. Since then, it’s been fun attending the ITU Telecom shows, be it Hong Kong or Geneva. Of course, there was CommunicAsia in neighboring Singapore, but it was always my desire to be part of an ITU show.
This year’s ITU Telecom Asia will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, a really great place to visit. Here’s a picture with my colleagues from Global Sources — Alfred Cheng, John Ng and Maggie Luo — during ITU Telecom 2006, (on my birthday, actually) at Hong Kong’s sprawling AsiaWorld Expo — the last ITU Asia show that I had the privilege of attending that chilly December.
I will always remember my first ITU show simply for the WAP (wireless access protocol) phenomena. WAP was just coming into its own during those days, and had to take a lot of flak. There used to be headlines those days, reading, “WAP IS CRAP!” Well, how wrong this turned out to be!
It was also the first show, if I remember correctly, which highlighted mobile Internet for the first time. Satellite communications was still in vogue back in those days. Well, optical networking was also quite strong, with DWDM making the rounds. I remember interviewing Corning during the show!
The Hong Kong ITU show in 2000 was the first time I had a glimpse of Huawei and ZTE close-up, although I did visit the Huawei factory in the middle of 2000, and for the first time saw what 3G base stations looked like. In fact, W-CDMA was just starting to come up. NTT DoCoMo was the hotshot back in late 2000. Its FOMA (freedom of mobile ‘multimedia’ access) service was just starting to roll in. Of course, those were also the days of the i-mode phones and Takeshi Natsuno!
The Japanese have been the pioneers in mobile phones and mobile Internet, followed closely by Korea. I believe, the same year, DoCoMo had started trials with SK Telecom in Korea for W-CDMA, for the upcoming World Cup Soccer in Korea and Japan in 2002. Another delight at ITU Telecom Asia 2000 were the range of 3G phones on display, mostly by Japanese companies. Oh yes, broadband was the ‘rage’.
The previous ITU Telecom Asia in 2006, which I attended in Hong Kong, was vastly different. Alcatel-Lucent had a huge booth! CBoss was gaining ground as a leading billing solutions provider. Not to speak of the exquisite range of mobile phones from Japanese, Korean and Chinese vendors.
Huawei and ZTE had become really huge by the end of 2006, and had started to play a significantly major role in global telecom.
It was my pleasure to discuss the latest DECT standard with Infineon during ITU Telecom Asia 2006, I believe, it was CAT-iq (Cordless Advanced Technology – Internet and Quality). There were several GPS devices as well as booths with mobile payment solutions.
Yes, telecom has come along a very long way! This year’s theme — “New Generation, New Values,” aptly sets the theme for ITU Telecom Asia. Let’s see what this edition has in store!
This is an extension to an earlier piece on the subject. During my various meetings in Hong Kong, I found Johnny Keung, deputy general manager, Circuitone, as a very good resource for discussing PCB services.
He described that immersion tin was economical, complied with RoHS, could replace immersion gold, and go fine line width. Circuitone offers 4µx4µ line width. As for spacing, it can go down to 3µ spacing.
The board size can be limited by equipment. Circuitone has equipment that handles 24x24inch board sizes. It can also offer 0.003” line width (3µx3µ) for high-density PCBs in large volumes. It offers minimum hole-width of 0.2mm, and plans to offer 0.1mm hole-width by Q4-07. This is indeed significant.
There had been some reports in the trade press regarding some Mainland Chinese PCB fabricators offeing 20- and even 40-layer PCBs.
Keung said there were two benchmarks. One, switching from double-sided to four layers, and two, switching from four layers to six layers.
He pointed out that Circuitone could use technology from six layers up to 20 layers. If it went beyond 20 layers, for example, 22 layers, there may be difficulties with thermal distribution within the board.
As I understand from our discussions, for up to 20 layers or so, heat distribution was on the top layer of the PCB, while distribution across middle layer could be uneven. Layers at the bottom could experience higher heat transfer than those in the middle.
Even PCB pressing is done in two stages: one, increase heat so the bonding sheet started to melt, and two, if temperature kept increasing, the glue was transformed into solid. This was the final curing stage.
Commenting on 40-layer PCBs, Keung commented that those boards at the outer layer would likely start melting, and those at the core layer would be in solidstate. When heat was being transferred into core layer, the evenness of distribution changed. The outer layer would remain in solidstate as well. So, expansion/contraction could get uneven, and registration could be a big challenge.
Fabricators should definitely look into this aspect, before designing higher-layer PCBs. I believe, some research work has been done by PCB makers to develop higher-layer PCBs. We discussed the yield rate earlier. That has to rise.
Continuing from the previois blog, it’s a pleasure to introduce RCG, who I met with my ex-colleague Darius in Hong Kong, late 2006. We were very impressed with RCG’s capabilities. I’d like to put down here what I saw that day (and wish my friend to update me later).
Based in Hong Kong’s Cyberport, RC Group (Holdings) Ltd is developing, producing and distributing state-of-the-art biometrics and RFID software through hardware and system integration. A leader in Asia Pacific region, RCG has plans for aggressive global expansion with its all-in-one biometrics and RFID applications.
RCG is offering the i4+ time and attendance system with biometric access control. It uses an ARM processor, and features high-precision fingerprint sensor and high-speed authentication processing engine. RCG developed the hardware and software for the product. It uses 13.56GHz Mi-Fare card, and supports fingerprint access and password. Current memory is 256MB, which is flexible as more RAM can be added. It supports up to 10,000 users.
RCG is offering the M29 biometric fingerprint door lock that supports 100 fingerprint enrollments. It incorporates the latest fingerprint recognition technology into the zinc-alloy doorlock. The M29 combines advanced algorithm and advanced, precise semiconductor sensor to guarantee a fast, reliable performance and good image-capturing capability.
The S903 from RCG is a biometric fingerprint access control device featuring a state-of-the-art semiconductor fingerprint sensor. It features 64MB flash memory that is expandable. It can store up to 3,000 fingerprints. RCG was scheduled to add card support by Q4-2006.
RCG’s FX Guard Pro biometric access control with face-recognition technology. It has a built-in IR sensor and RFID reader is optional. It is the first facial recognition application that runs primarily on TCP/IP. It adopts RCG’s ultra-fast, highly accurate facial verification engine. RCG works with a partner in Germany for facial recognition. It also offers a Mi-Fare RFID card reader or EM card. Symbol is providing RCG the RFID tags, readers and antennae.
On the RFID side, RCG is offering mobility solutions, asset management and security control, and middleware. On the mobility side, it offers inventory database control and access device, and field service solution (using Symbol’s mobile PDA with GPRS).
RCG is also offering the asset monitoring system and control solution. It uses Symbol RFID tag and program readers, uses its own middleware and provides the solution, which is essentially aimed at the SMEs. It is a partner with EPCGlobal.
RCG has been included in the list of Hong Kong’s pilot projects. It also offers middleware and does the entire RFID software for the middleware in Hong Kong. It also adopts some SOA concepts.
Commenting on the outlook for 2007, Dr. Kam Hong Shum, CTO, said that one trend would be the convergence of RFID and biometrics. Next, there would be integration of devices into ERP, HR and payroll, etc. According to him, biometrics had huge potential. For RFID, there could be more of check-and-trace solutions, ported on devices such as Wi-Fi, GPS/GPRS terminals, besides using ZigBee for location tracking.
This was written a little while back, when I was in Hong Kong. I am reproducing it for the benefit of readers and friends, with hopes of receiving updates regarding access control, along with biometrics and RFID.
Hong Kong’s 303 Technology offers a range of products including fingerprint access control system, fingerprint attendance system, fingerprint recognition device and WebHR. These customized products find applications in offices, factories, academic and financial institutions, hospitals, and other industries.
Its VFinp is an intelligent biometric access control product that uses optical and CMOS sensors, the last one being optional. It supports multi-verification mode and allows high-speed fingerprint matching. One finger can be used to trigger off an alarm.
Suitable for time and attendance management, it has built-in 8MB memory or 2,000 fingerprint images capacity. The maximum number of event logs is 60,000. The FAR is 0.0001 percent when FRR is 1 percent. It has the TAS proprietary software built in, which has been developed and designed in Hong Kong. All coding is finished in the Shenzhen factory on the Mainland.
The company was focusing on a fingerprint scanner when I met them late 2006. It uses a multilayer PCB. 303 Technology plans to develop face-recognition technology in one to two years time. Options include proximity card module, ID card module and Mi-Fare card module, respectively. Fingerprint access will remain mainstream over the next six to 12 months.
In the non-biometric area, 303 Technology will develop a lock system for hotels. It will integrate with the hotel system for use during emergencies. The product would be launched by Q2-07. Key applications include time/attendance and access control.
It can be used in schools and libraries as well. VFinp can also be used for this application. The supplier only needs to modify software. 303 Technology is also offering the InstantPass LTP-II fingerprint and password access device. It has a bilingual LCD, and can store up to 750 fingerprint and 16,000 attendance records. It has 16 key buttons for password entry of administrator and other users.
Well, aluminum electrolytic capacitors may sound boring to many… but the level of expertise that goes into producing one, rather, developing a new technology, is fascinating. However, components as a subject is quite tough, and not many are willing to write on it, or even keen on doing interviews. Even I struggle at times, to be honest.
Some of the leading makers in Hong Kong, which is also home to Man Yue, the seventh largest maker in the world, are actually quite good at aluminum electrolytic capacitors, and now, the solid polymer capacitors.
Man Yue has been working jointly with one of Mainland China’s most prestigious universities, the Tsinghua University, Beijing, to set up a research institute in Shenzhen focusing on chemical technology and material science.
Man Yue is offering conductive polymer aluminum solid capacitors under X-Con brand name. These are suitable for computer motherboards and other high-end circuit boards. X-Con conductive polymer aluminum solid capacitors are suitable for all LCD/PDP control panel, high-end video card, sound card, peripherals, electronic devices in cars, etc. Man Yue launched the X-Con series in 2006, in partnership with Tsinghua University.
The X-Con comes in three series – general-type, low ESR and surface-mount. Man Yue expects demand to pick up, mainly for motherboards, graphic cards, high-end circuit boards, etc.
The best thing about conductive polymer aluminum solid capacitors is that the electrolyte would not leak out as it is solid and there will be no explosions. The characteristics of the conductive polymer aluminum solid capacitors include very low ESR and very high ripple current.
I remember Stanley Wong, business development director, Man Yue, mentioning that plasma TV makers were thinking of switching from electrolytic to solid capacitors. Prices of conductive polymer aluminum solid capacitors are said to be about five to 10 times higher than electrolytic type aluminum capacitors.
Man Yue is also working on the R&D for high-end capacitors, which are useful for alternate energy applications, called super capacitors. Some friends of mine from Taiwan and Korea would be more than willing to add their observations on super capacitors, I’m sure.
Man Yue has ISO9001:2000 and ISO14001 certifications. It would be certified ISO/TS16949 by Q2-07. It has been RoHS compliant since Q2-2004. Wong said it had placed orders for ICPE-9000 machine, which was scheduled for delivery by end of 2006.
“This machine grinds the capacitor into powder and checks for banned substances,” he added. “We have the RoHS lab as well.” Man Yue has four XRF machines. It is planning to purchase the GCMS-QP2010 Plus, another high-end testing machine, which checks for banned substances. It will purchase the UVmini-1240 machine as well. Goodness me! So much of sophistication is required, which makes me believe that not all folks would be able to offer such products. Would be interesting to see.
According to Raymond Lee, sales manager, Fujicon, another leading maker from Hong Kong, most customers request for RoHS products. Fujicon produces PET (6P) aluminum electrolytic capacitors. Some specific Japanese customers request these products.
Lee said: “For the RoHS requirements, we call it 3P. PET meets the 6P standard. This is currently applicable in Japan. Soon, it would become the requested standard globally.”
According to him, PVC was not environment friendly. Lee added that soon, all toy products would also require 6P products. Fujicon can offer both 3P and 6P aluminum electrolytic capacitors. It assigns testing of product samples to companies such as SGS in Hong Kong.
Fujicon has developed a new series of V-chip capacitors for high voltage. Regarding the use of electrolyte, Lee said, there had been several developments to improve the electrolyte that would make capacitors safer, with lower ESR.
Fujicon is collaborating with some other aluminum electrolytic capacitors to produce solid polymer capacitors. Lee said these capacitors can function better, having characteristics such as very low ESR and impedance, at high frequency.
Ok, over to my friends for more on this subject.